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As Twitter’s president of global revenue, Adam Bain is the guy who has to deal with the persistent questions about the company’s business model. Or its lack of one, according to critics.
It’s something he’s heard since he joined the company four years ago after leaving his role as chief technology officer at Fox Interactive. And it’s something he continues to hear now amid worries that Twitter’s user growth is slowing.
But in a conversation on stage today at the Web Summit in Dublin, Bain expressed enthusiasm for the growth prospects for each of its three lines of revenue: advertising, data, and commerce.
While advertising gets the most public attention, Bain seemed particularly excited about Twitter’s ability to grow the revenue it gets from licensing data generated by the 500 million tweets people generate every day. He noted that revenue from data licensing grew 171 percent year-over-year.
And he reminded the audience of Twitter’s recent partnership with IBM in which an army of consultants will now be tasked to help businesses around the world figure out how data from tweets can be used to enhance their operations.
To illustrate the potential of this data for businesses, Bain told a story about being contacted by a company that makes industrial fryers, the big contraptions that restaurants use to cook french fries. The company said it wanted to license Twitter’s data, and Bain couldn’t imagine why. The company (which he declined to name) explained that when the fryers malfunction, or need repair, the fries they cook turn out soggy. So the company wanted to monitor Twitter for anyone tweeting about “soggy fries” so it could then contact the restaurant and sell new equipment or services.
“We think there’s a massive set of insights for businesses in the data,” Bain said. “What’s unique about this corpus of data is that we think it’s the largest set of public conversations out there. And there’s lots of businesses using this in interesting ways.”
On the commerce side, he said the new tweet-to-buy button is still in a kind of incubation period as Twitter works with a limited number of partners.
“It’s early days,” he said. “We’re experimenting with different price points and different products. And more importantly, we’re trying to understand what emotions you need to generate to get people to buy right now, in the moment. What we do in the monetization business is monetize emotions.”
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