Forget Facebook and Google, Microsoft should be all a-Twitter

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While Google and Facebook are allegedly courting Twitter with a view to taking over the company, it is Microsoft that should look at hooking up with the micro-blogging phenomenon.

Just last year co-founder Evan Williams said Twitter would never be for sale, but yesterday (10 February) he was reportedly in talks with Google and Facebook over a potential sale that values the site at $10bn.

Just like the baffling world of football finance, analysts are perplexed as to how a loss-making company could possibly be worthy of a Premier League price-tag.

Twitter has long been criticised for being a tool that, despite its ubiquity, makes the least money-per-user compared to its close competitors.

However, last year, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo said the company will start making millions in ad revenue.

The introduction of Promoted Tweets, which sell for upwards of $100,000, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts are proof that Twitter is finally grasping a monetisation model.

And with “social” branded on every marketers’ to-do list for 2011, Twitter’s cash register is likely to let out an incessant ring for the next year, which explains yesterday’s interest from the big boys of the internet.

But reportedly Facebook and Google have both separately tried to purchase Twitter in the past and failed – what could have possibly changed a year or so on? This is Microsoft’s chance to make a bid; it has different skills to offer than Twitter’s current suitors.

Twitter would benefit from a more disciplined and structured linear search on its website, which currently can be slow and produce irrelevant results

Recently @vintagejohnny tweeted a fabulous analogy to explain the difference between the main social networks: “LinkedIn: I pee well. Twitter: I need to pee. Facebook: I peed! Foursquare: I’m peeing here. Quora: Why am I peeing?”

A tad facetious perhaps, but useful in explaining that the social networks are each unique and not used by the same people for the same end results.

Twitter is about the “now” and has earned its name as a leader in breaking news and bringing users closer to the newsmakers.

Nobody can overtake that title. Not even Facebook, which introduced a Twitter-influenced update box and news feed two years ago. Facebook owns the “I peed” space with 600 million users worldwide, does it really need a “need to pee” too?

And is Google a suitable match? The search giant has already proved how unsuccessful it is at managing a social network with Wave and Buzz (nicknamed Bust) which both failed to wow users. But Twitter would have a reason to sell to Microsoft, home of search engine Bing: both sites have two heavyweight competitors in their markets they are struggling to budge (Facebook and Google, funnily enough). But their powers combined could equal out the share.

By investing in Twitter, Bing, which partnered with Yahoo! last year to form a search alliance in a bid to steal market share from Google, could place its search on the map in terms of social media. Bing could also take advantage of the hoards of data Twitter owns – a goldmine for advertisers.

Microsoft also has the trump card of already owning a successful social network, in Live and MSN Messenger, and has a partnership with Facebook to include friends’ recommended links in search results.

A Twitter takeover would present users with a real reason to use Bing over Google: quality real-time and retrospective social search from multiple sources.

Twitter would benefit from a more disciplined and structured linear search on its website, which currently can be slow and produce irrelevant results. Microsoft’s 36 years of experience could also be a useful resource when it comes to making future commercial decisions.

While its hardcore fans may gasp at the thought of corporate occupation, Twitter needs a big-name and deep-pocketed partner if it is to start moving into the black and retain its place at the top of the “now” pile before a new exciting social network overtakes.

Twitter is no longer a start-up, despite launching just six years ago; it is a social empire and needs to operate as one. Rather than being gobbled up by the current behemoths of the internet, an alliance with Microsoft could make it a giant in every respect.

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