Twitter triples office space: It might want to use that room for a sales force

The Twitter microblogging revolution is about to get bigger -- or at least get bigger offices. The red-hot start-up just signed a deal to sublease roughly 31,000 square feet near the Yerba Buena Gardens park in Downtown San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Business Times.
That's a big move up from Twitter's current digs, and it will give the company room to grow to as many as 200 employees. And it's very gutsy, considering Twitter's growth has slowed down considerably in recent months. At present, it only has 30 employees and is looking to roughly double that number.

Curiously, though, none of those current job listings are for sales positions. Twitter just sucked in $100 million in venture capital funding, so it can afford to wait a bit, given the breathing room this new investment gives it. But creating a way to generate revenue would seem to be a major priority. That would especially seem to be the case since documents leaked to TechCrunch -- in an episode dubbed Twittergate -- stated that the social networking site has an ambitious goal of reaching $1 billion in revenue within the next two years. That implies that sales will start climbing pronto.

The extra office space is likely to eventually become a cube farm for sales reps hawking Twitter ads, Twitter data or all sorts of other Twitter things that can be sold. It's generally accepted that successful technology companies with mature products have a ratio of sales staff to engineering staff of roughly two-to-one. While Google (GOOG) won't release those sorts of ratios, I'd wager that it's true for the search giant as well.

So, Twitter is likely to start selling something very soon. I'd even say that a sales strategy will emerge within the next quarter. You can't take in $155 million in venture funding so far and get to a D-round without pressure starting to build to post some sort of revenue numbers.

Besides, lots of other companies are making money on Twitter. A whole ecosystem of social media consultants has grown up around building successful Twitter campaigns. StockTwits launched an investor microblogging community targeting active traders as a Twitter overlay. And there's growing evidence that Twitter is becoming a valued business tool as well as a mainstay for both conversing with a potential customer base and spreading information. Witness the Skittles gambit that converted the stranded candy brand's website into a Twitter feed and sparked huge interest and publicity.

How can Twitter start to make some money? Selling ads is the easiest answer. Twitter could easily set up a text-ad bidding system much like Google AdWords, but with bidders buying slots that are pegged to specific keywords in tweets. The limited real estate of the Twitter stream, however, could make it harder to turn this into real revenue.

Other options could include Twitter selling information on trending topics or selling business accounts with enhanced features. But it's going to have to first start growing again. According to the latest ComScore numbers, in September 2009, Twitter was stalled at 20.8 million users in the U.S. This was actually down slightly from the previous month. In contrast, top competitor Facebook posted respectable growth numbers, going from 92.2 million unique users to 95.5 million. So, the new office space is either a sign of big things to come or aspirational hubris.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at
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