Software

Make money on Twitter

We've invited some of the ruthlessly money-minded mavens from the CNET Accountancy and Assassinations Department to give us tips on making dough through Twitter

Crave may be a team of dedicated tech journalists with a peerless collective expertise on just about every gadget going, but frankly we have the financial nous of a houseplant. Fortunately we have a team of mercenary cut-throats upstairs taking care of the coffers, so we invited them to take a break from holding schoolkids upside down by their ankles to nick their lunch money, and offer some suggestions on how to monetise your Twitter experience.

If you're setting up a Twitter feed for your company, band, charity or organisation, or if you want your personal feed to start paying its way, here's how to get exposure, build your brand and get yourself minted.

Play the name game

People can't fork over their readies if they can't find you. So choose a good user name, ideally one people can guess and definitely one people can find in a search engine. The name of your company, organisation or band is ideal, preferably without any fiddly underscores or symbols.

It is possible to change later without losing any followers: we started off as cnetcouk, but we realised that looked daft, so we changed to the much more sensible cnetuk. Be warned that changing your user name changes your Twitter URL and will break any links to your profile from elsewhere on the Web. So choose wisely.

Sell yourself

Once you've chosen a good user name, get your profile looking spiffy and in line with your brand. Use a background image that grabs people and highlights your business, or set your profile colours to match your logo or mimic your Web site. Add an enticing bio and a link to your site. Twitter is not naturally an ideal venue for making money, but has lots of potential for driving traffic to your site, where you can set up an online shop and really start taking those users for everything they've got.

How to get ahead in advertising

Nobody likes adverts. But everybody recognises they're a necessary evil to keep quality content like this 'ere Crave free of charge, and this feature is about making money, so we'll tell you how.

Twitter's simplicity has so far kept adverts out, but there are at least two potential ways to sneak them in there. Firstly, you can pimp your profile picture or background, following the steps above to put an advert next to your feed. This will create a nice big advert, but you can't put links in there so it'll be impossible to know how many people are clicking through to the advertised Web site. That makes it difficult to put a price on your advertising space, because the success of Web ads is usually measured by the number of people that click on them. That said, a higher follower count will be able to command more cash from the adman -- as long as the presence of ads doesn't send your followers scrabbling for the unfollow button.

You can put links in your tweets, however. So you could rent out a tweet as text-only advertising space. Renowned tech blogger Robert Scoble occasionally does this for Seagate hard drives.

One way of advertising is to sign up to Magpie, which inserts ads in between your normal updates. Ads are targeted to your subjects of interest, and you have the option to set the ratio of advertising to real tweets. You earn money based on the number of followers and how hot the subject is, decided by an auction system among the advertisers. If you do sign up, you'll lose followers, but that's their lookout.

Be interesting

Should go without saying, really. But a feed full of dull tweets or links isn't going to be very interesting, so you need to give people a reason to click. That's why we altered our RSS feed to clearly show which bit of the site each link points to, and we break up the links with tweets about what the team is up to. Non-linking tweets should give an insight into the way your organisation works. Twitter users prefer the less-is-more approach, so don't tweet unless you have something genuinely interesting to say.

Build a buzz

Twitter is great for spreading information by word of mouth -- word of tweet? -- among users. So if you have an announcement, like a new product or a new single, tease tweeters with vague hints and get people speculating. They love that crap.

Talk it out

Twitter is a level playing field, where CEOs can be taken to task by the everyday man in the street -- or should that be man in the tweet? Plenty of venting gets done on Twitter, but a bad experience with your brand can be turned into a good one if you keep an eye out for gripes and respond quickly. And be professional; remember tweeters are your customers, gullible sheep just asking to be milked for every shekel that they have.

Right, now you have no excuse for not being a millionaire by Tuesday. If you're already earning cash from Twitter, or if you have any other ideas, whack them in the comments.

Oh, and that'll be £2,000 in consultancy fees, please. Thanks very much.