Twitter starts experimenting with its first real business feature

On the cusp of launching commercial accounts, Twitter is giving business users a small extra — it is letting professional accounts give bylines for individual tweets. That way if several employees handle a single account for a big brand, it will be easier to tell who did what and provide more of a personal touch to interaction with customers.

A few business-oriented Twitter clients like CoTweet and HootSuite already let multiple users manage a single account and assign tasks. Twitter says the new feature, which is still in testing, will be supported by its application programming interface.

Here’s how Twitter explains the new feature:

The feature we are beta testing is called ‘Contributors’ – it enables users to engage in more authentic conversations with businesses by allowing those organizations to manage multiple contributors to their account. The feature appends the contributor’s username to the tweet byline, making the business to consumer communication more personal; e.g. if @Twitter invites @Biz to tweet on its behalf, then a tweet from @Twitter would include @Biz in the byline so that users know more about the real people behind organizations.

There are a couple implications to this: expect business-oriented apps around Twitter to get much better metrics for customer service. For example, who is the fastest at answering customer queries? How many customers does an employee handle an hour through Twitter? And what can be done to optimize this?

This also dovetails with plans for forthcoming commercial accounts, which should provide detailed analytics for business users. The company says its on track to launch them by around year-end, which should be — oh, in about two weeks.

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