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After close to five months of beta testing, Twitter is preparing to launch a suite of business features tied to a central Twitter Business Center. Right now they are only available for a small number of accounts, but they will be rolled out gradually soon, according to the company.

“We have been testing commercial accounts since December with a number of brands and will launch the service later in the year,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

The Business Center Toolkit will let companies using the micro-blogging site for marketing purposes turn on and off different options and functionality. For example, they can choose to receive direct messages from any Twitter members, not just the ones they know. This could really open up the way particularly small companies conduct customer service.

Other new capabilities include customization of business profile pages, verified account badges for corporations and organizations (not just people), new methods of reaching customers, and the option to have several company representatives tweet from a single account.

Twitter has been talking about the need for commercial accounts for a while now. Last August, VentureBeat’s Kim-Mai Cutler interviewed co-founder Biz Stone, and he was talking about business options way back then.

CoTweet, a startup that made a  business front-end for Twitter, accomplished the tasks in an incredibly short period of time and sold to marketing software provider ExactTarget just a year later. It’s surprising that it took Twitter itself, with all its manpower and resources, so long.

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