Friday, March 16, 2012

5 of the Most Profitable Tweets Ever

Smart Money - Twitter famously posed the question: “What are you doing now?” For an increasing number of its users, the answer is: “Earning big bucks.”

Celebrities, multinationals and anonymous jokesters keep finding new ways to spin tweets into gold. Now investors are rushing to get in on the action in the run-up to the social media giant’s highly anticipated initial public offering. In fact, the desire to buy shares of Twitter on the secondary market ahead of the IPO is so strong it’s getting the attention of federal regulators.

On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two money managers it alleged had overcharged and misled investors on funds formed to buy shares of Twitter and other social-media companies.

But without owning a single share of the company, some Twitter users have managed to make small fortunes off the site. And one doesn’t have to be Lady Gaga — who this month reached 20 million followers — to earn a living 140 characters at a time. Humor accounts, in particular, do a bumper business. Branden Hampton, who founded @notebook or “Notebook of Love” in February 2011, has 2.5 million followers and claims to earn a “six-figure income.” The Twitterati also work together to build a following: @menshumor, which started in August 2011, traded free Tweets with @notebook. Jonathan Standefer, co-founder of @menshumor, says he charges $350 per sponsored tweet or four for $1,000.

Of course, not everyone who achieves fame through Twitter manages the fortune part. Last May, freelance IT consultant Sohaib Athar noticed helicopters circling a house in his neighborhood in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He tweeted about it without realizing he was witnessing a defining moment in history: the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Athar — who this month accepted travel and lodging expenses to give a talk for the Poynter Institute in Austin, Texas — says he turned down money for exclusive interviews after Bin Laden’s death. “I did not earn a single penny from the incident,” he says. “I try to keep that separate from my offline life or my real life.” Athar also says he has the same half-dozen IT clients he had before May 2, 2011.

Last week, we highlighted the financial pitfalls of making mistakes on the Twitter (5 of the Costliest Tweets Ever). Here are micro-blogging’s biggest winners — the most profitable tweets.