Twitter launches latest monetization plan

Twitter has taken a tentative step into the online shopping business with the launch of a new service pointing users to deals at online and mainstream retailers.

The idea parallels sites such as Woot and Gilt, which offer one-time limited deals. As the name – @earlybird – implies, the Twitter offerings will always be time-sensitive, and will generally have limited availability.

“Twitter @earlybird Exclusive Offers are special time-bound deals, sneak-peeks, and events that are promoted by the official Twitter @earlybird account,” says the company.

“We partner with select advertisers and retweet offers that they have crafted only for the Twitter community. Our advertising partners determine the terms of the offer, including availability, amount, and price.”

The service will display the ads like any other tweet in a user’s stream – users can unfollow it if they wish.

Twitter says it’s making money from @earlybird, but doesn’t say on what terms the advertisers will be paying – whether through a fixed fee per deal or with a percentage. The advertisers themselves will  carry out the transaction.

To start with, the ads will tend to come from large international brands or US-wide offers. But Twitter says that, in time, local advertisers will be added. It says it’s also considering tailoring the offerings, for example by filtering deals to include only fashion or music.

It’s the latest move by Twitter to monetize its service. Previous introductions have inclded Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, and deals with Microsoft and Google for real-time data access.