Massucci's Take: Twitter CEO needs to strike while iron is hot

In the opening scene of "Iron Man," Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark character is riding in a tank with members of the U.S. military. One guy asks if he can take his picture with Stark, who says sure and jokingly warns that he doesn't want to see the photo on the guy's MySpace page.

The movie was released 10 months ago and obviously filmed prior to May, but already MySpace has moved down the list of relevancy. Today, Stark would more likely warn the soldier not to Twitter about his Iron Man encounter.

A mere month ago it might have been Facebook that made the cut. Facebook jetted to the top of Google's most searched terms last year in the U.K. and was No. 2 to Obama in the U.S., according to the Google Zeitgeist 2008 site.

Now Twitter has become this year's Facebook or MySpace. It's scorching hot. Searching Google Trends, the search chart for Twitter looks like a dollar-stock chart for a biotech company rumored to have the next Viagra pill.

Twitter is getting noticed more with each passing moment. Last month, 10 million people visited, almost double the number who visited in January.

The issue: Twitter has yet to turn any of that attention into money. It has no revenue or profit.

Twitter Chief Executive Evan Williams told CNBC yesterday that he sees huge value for his company in two areas. Searching real-time Twitter updates and charging companies that use Twitter to target customers.

If you're a Twitter member, you already know there are plenty of small companies using Twitter to target folks.

Larger companies using Twitter include The New York Times (NYT), Microsoft (MSFT), Zappos and Starbucks (SBUX), among others. Companies and users can send out and read short text messages (140 or fewer characters), called Tweets.

"We're going to work with the companies themselves to figure out how we can make it more valuable for them in a way that also benefits users,'' Twitter co-founder Williams said in the interview.

He pointed to the value of Twitter saying, "most of the time, content on the Internet is after the fact. You search and you can find information on Twitter about virtually any topic that's going on in the world as it's happening."

The San Francisco-based company, which has 30 employees, had a recent cash investment that values it at $255 million, said CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin, who interviewed Williams. The recession and ad demand are pushing the company to generate revenue earlier than planned, Boorstin said after the Williams interview.

Companies such as ExecTweets are posting ads on tweets or putting display ads on posts to business executives, which is generating money for Twitter. Meanwhile, Twitter plans to launch its own ads by end this year's second quarter.

Hurry. Launch ads, sell ads, capitalize on the value before, shudder the thought, Twitter cools like MySpace or, heaven forbid, CompuServe or AltaVista.

Just after Stark delivers the line about MySpace in the movie, his tank gets bombed. Go ahead and Tweet about how that will never happen to Twitter. Twitter is cool. Let's see if it's still a hoot when "Iron Man 2" comes out next May.

Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. He covered technology companies for Bloomberg News. And, yes, he has a Twitter page.
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