t.co: Will Twitter charge for statistics?

Every link shared via Twitter will start with http://t.co by the end of this year. That was the gist of one part of an email from Twitter last night. The most important thing for businesses to note is that, with that change, Twitter will start tracking every time a tweeted link is clicked — no matter what shortener, web site, app or client is used to write or read the tweet. Twitter will finally have an accurate way to measure …

  • CLICKS: Using a traditional web analytics program to count the number of times Twitter.com sends traffic to a site, is a gross underestimate of Twitter referrals, because so many people click on tweeted links from applications and web sites other than the official Twitter site. Twitter will process and wrap every link — even links that have already been shortened — within it’s t.co shortener, so they can count every time a link is clicked.
  • IMPRESSIONS: All Twitter applications use the Twitter API, so Twitter knows every time a tweet (and the links within a tweet) is requested. They can’t verify that each request  ends up in the tweet being displayed, but this is the best estimation of impressions, the number of times a tweet is shown.
  • CTR! Since Twitter will have a the number of impressions and the number clicks, they can dived and deliver a fairly accurate clickthrough rate. CTR is used to measure the success of many online ad campaigns.

That kind of information can help shape and measure the return on investment for companies using social media to drive traffic. This is unique information that, if used wisely, can boost an organization’s bottom line. That sounds like the kind of online content for which the Wall Street Journal is able to charge.

What do you think?

Will Twitter start providing these numbers for free, or are they creating the foundation for a new stream of revenue?