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A Twitter PR agency: Just what the world needs now

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Social networking micro-blog site Twitter is the platform for start-up Twitter Partners to market twitterising services to businesses and celebrities.

Twitter is a micro-blogging site where users can issue statements - so-called tweets - of up to 140 letters, saying what they are doing and thinking. It has become a platform for thousands of mini-groups interested in particular topics and for celebrities to issue (often ghost-written) tweets to other Twitter users who follow them.

Twitter Partners has been started up by angel investor Peter Read with advisers including Lastminute.com founders Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman, plus others. There is no business relationship with Twitter itself, and Twitter Partners will offer, it says: "a suite of apps, tools and services to help brands, media companies, and celebrities harness the power of the Twitter ecosystem."

This harnessing is quite vague, including buzz monitoring (what's topical on Twitter now), corporate reputation management, customer insights and feedback, virtual focus groups, social marketing, ecommerce offers, crisis management and issue advocacy. In other words, it's a Twitter-focussed PR agency offering to monitor tweets for clients and send them out to create favourable publicity in the tweet-sphere.

Initial clients for Twitter Partners include Universal, Warner Music, Virgin Media, Lionsgate and Paramount. There are no Twitter Partners products or services yet, and there looks to be an excess of advisors and consultancy partners. Their own celebrity in IT and media circles should help Twitter Partners gather an early impetus.

Twitter was founded by Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, who were involved in developments leading to Twitter's incorporation in March, 2006. Dorsey calls himself the "Inventor, Founder, and Chairman of Twitter." In summer 2007 it raised $5m in a Series C funding round implying a $20m valuation. It received more funding in June 2008, with Amazon's Jeff Bezos involved. At that time, Biz Stone blogged: "Twitter will become a sustainable business supported by a revenue model. However, our biggest opportunities will be worth pursuing only when we achieve our vision of Twitter as a global communication utility."

It's recently been rumoured that Google is interested in buying Twitter. With no revenue model whatsoever, valuing Twitter is in the realms of economic fantasy. Competing social networking site Facebook also allows its users to offer instant status, with no letter count limitations, and updates and say what they are thinking. Facebook has 200 million users and puts adverts on its web pages, which Twitter does not.

Twitter filed to register Twitter as a trademark in 2007 (see UK registration here.) Blackberry supplier RIM was contesting the US registration last year but its status now is that a final review by the US trademark office has been completed and registration will follow in due course.

So how can Twitter Partners use the Twitter name? It has been queried about this, as has Twitter, but neither have been able to respond yet.

It's reported that there were 10m visits to Twitter's website in February, 700 per cent more than in February 2008. There has been speculation about how Twitter can monetise its fast-growing user base, with paid-for services as an add-on to the free basic service being mooted.

Some organisations and celebrities have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and they avidly follow tweets issued by their favourite twitterer. Britney Spears has 778,866 followers and she may even write her tweets herself. CNN Breaking News has 839,245. With it being easy to re-post tweets, the potential for news and views, both good and bad, to spread like wildfire amongst Twitter users is obvious. It is this potential that Twitter Partners aims, somehow, to capitalise on. Tweet tweet. ®

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