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Five ways to make money from Twitter

July 21, 2009 |  9:50 am
Kogi BBQ Taco Truck / @kogibbq on Twitter
Hundreds of people line up at the Kogi BBQ Korean Taco Truck in Los Angeles after they get its whereabouts on Twitter. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Despite the tempest in the teapot brewing over what Twitter itself may or may not be making according to stolen internal documents that were leaked to various blogs last week, there are a handful of companies that have already found ways to make a buck from using the micro-blogging service.

As with two of our previous posts on Twitter, this one leans on the experience of our social media producer, Andrew Nystrom (@latimesnystrom). (You can read the earlier post about how to get followers on Twitter here, and one on finding engaging people to follow here.)

Without further delay, here are five quick examples of businesses that have made money using Twitter, beyond the usual driving traffic and building brand, whatever that means:

1. The Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck: Hundreds of people line up to get food from this L.A.-based truck, sometimes even before the truck shows up. How do they know where to go? Twitter. The family-owned company Tweets its schedule on a daily basis to more than 36,770 followers of @KogiBBQ. Of course, just because you Tweet your whereabouts doesn't mean people will show up. You also have to have the goods -- and Kogi's tacos seem to do the trick.

2. Threadless Twitter T-shirts: Threadless, an online T-Shirt store operated by skinnyCorp, has contests in which people can submit a T-shirt slogan (140 characters or less, please). The submissions are voted on by the site's visitors. Winners get to have a shirt designed around their slogan, along with a spot of cash ($500). A few of our favorite slogans: "You autocomplete me." and "Sadly, my day requires pants."

3.'s Deal of the Day:
The Dallas company -- whose motto is "One day. One deal" -- sends out its daily specials via Twitter. Who cares? More than 995,000 people apparently do, subscribing to @woot for notices of a pastiche of products that go on sale, including $12 kitchen choppers, $300 queen-sized memory foam mattresses and $15 power adapters. Much of the merchandise, however, consists of gizmos that fit well with Twitter's techie audience.

4. United Airlines Twitter-only deals: United, along with JetBlue and Virgin America, get rid of empty seats on their planes by offering last-minute deals that are available only via @UnitedAirlines. "These fares fly off the shelves," Nystrom said. (You think he intended that pun?) United calls these Twitter-only airfares "Twares," but it also uses Twitter to broadcast other messages as a way to polish its brand and build connections to its customers.

5. Dell's Outlet on Twitter: Dell raised eyebrows in June when the Texas computer maker said it tallied $3 million in sales of its desktops, laptops and monitors from Twitter since starting its @DellOutlet account in June 2007. Of course, that's a drop in the bucket for Dell, which took in more than $61 billion in sales last fiscal year alone. Still, it's proven to be a good way to move refurbished items or excess inventory, which appears to be the theme of our last three examples.

"Twitter is a good environment for promoting these impulsive, last-minute purchases," Nystrom said.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.