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Get ready for the professional Twitterer. A third-party advertising platform is opening the door to individual social network sponsorship — and, in doing so, signaling the start of the user-based monetization of Twitter.

TwittAd lets you implement “product placement and web site promotion” on your profile page. Once you sign up for the service, you set the price you want and the duration of the ad. From the looks of it, you get paid a flat fee — not a traffic- or click-based rate. TwittAd says it pays you for “every hour you serve the ad.”

Tweet For Profit

So will we really see the profit-savvy Twitterer? As of now, TwittAd’s ads go only on your Twitter home page, meaning users who receive your feed through any other medium (including their own Twitter pages) won’t see the spots. The limited scope may make it tough to pull in a whole lot of dough at the start, but once the technology expands and ads start being attached to every Tweet (which is, in all likelihood, just a matter of time), the potential will definitely be there.

A Growing Commodity

On the whole, the past calls of “Twitter is dead” couldn’t be further from the truth at the moment. Check out Australia this month: Usage of the site down under has shot up an unbelievable 512 percent over the past year, according to numbers released by HitWise this morning.

It only makes sense, then, that more marketing and advertising are on the horizon, and not just with TwittAd, either. Researchers are already matching up particular businesses that might be a strong fit with the Twitter crowd, so don’t be surprised to see more and more targeted Tweets coming your way over the coming months.

Interactive Action

The other, less invasive trend is the use of Twitter to gauge reader perception and reaction to a brand or product — basically, observing and interacting rather than force feeding. Some forward-thinking companies have already explored this path and with some success, too — including one airline that seems to suck a bit less than the others. Then there’s Zappos, a company quickly becoming as known for its Twitter use as for its products.

Evolutionary Challenge

The question, then, is how long it’ll take for the rest of the mainstream herd to catch on and start turning to Twitter for marketing and money-making purposes. My prediction: Don’t hold your breath. The old media-new media evolutionary challenge — the same one we’re seeing traditional media outlets slowly struggling to overcome — is far from over. Whether it’s in the media world or the general corporate world, there are still too many people high-up who either don’t get it, or who just choose not to acknowledge it (“it” being both the importance and the process of intelligently investing time and capital in interactive resources).

Think how long blogging was around before it became a corporate and money-making concept. Odds are, more execs and entrepreneurs will eventually learn to embrace the profit potential of Twitter — but whether it’s placing ads, placing purpose-driven users, or just placing themselves in a position to watch and learn, the revolution won’t be an instant one. Time will change things, of course…but nothing’s happening overnight.

In the meantime, though, get ready to see dollar signs lighting up in the eyes of hardcore users. Someone’s going to be trying to turn a quick buck or two — and it can’t be long before Twitter itself introduces its own user-oriented monetization options to claim its piece of the pie.

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