Making money online has been one of the holy grails of passive income. Since the late 1990s, pay-per-click programs and online advertising have been successful at helping some individuals realize this dream. However, monetary success at these programs depends heavily on web traffic and popularity, and requires extremely heavy traffic just to make a few hundred dollars in monthly revenue. These programs today have been replaced by the eerily intelligent Google AdSense program, which has been widely adopted by companies and individuals alike.
But let's look at a more modern alternative - Twitter, the number one micro-blogging site on the Internet that made status updates popular before Facebook took control of our lives. Most people use Twitter as a news feed to follow online magazines, celebrities and friends, and its fast moving news feed often informs its users of world events in seconds, long before official news outlets such as the Associated Press can report them. Twitter popularized the use of IRC terms such as "@", which sends messages to other users, and "#", which trends topics to spread among other users. Its limit of 140 characters, which can be distributed to traditional cell phones, smart phones and computers, keeps status updates simple and its servers unclogged. How can entrepreneurs tap Twitter's viral marketing abilities to their own advantage? Here are three examples illustrating three very different lessons.

Tweet Deals to Faithful Customers

Woot, an online retailer based in Carrollton, Texas, used a simple approach. The company opened several "Woot" shops on Twitter - for example, wine would be sold on offer a single deep discount product at midnight every night to Twitter followers, who could purchase the product immediately. Woot's 1.5 million users would then re-tweet the message to their friends, which would have a cascading viral effect, increasing sales volume drastically. Woot's success illustrates a key lesson for Twitter success - daily updates and the use of re-tweeting to general exponential followers.

Tweet Your Location

Kogi Korean BBQ, a small business of four roving food carts, teaches another valuable Twitter lesson - that size doesn't matter when you have followers. Roving food trucks might generate regular sales, but once they change locations, regular customers might never find you again. Ever since co-founder Alice Shin started informing customers of its Twitter feed, the food carts have gone viral, attracting over 50,000 followers that follow Shin's updates for the latest location of Kogi's food carts. As followers re-tweet Kogi's feed, the company's popularity grows exponentially. Since using Twitter, Kogi went from using 30 pounds of meat daily to over 1,000!

Find New Customers with Twitter's Search Engine

Rose Associates, a real-estate marketing and management company in New York City, found another use for Twitter - as a replacement for Google. Since the entire micro-blogosphere of Twitter can be searched from its search box, Rose Associates decided to get proactive, looking for apartment hunters rather than wait to be contacted. The company uses ten primary search terms, such as "New York apartments" or "no fee rentals" to filter out possible candidates looking for an apartment. The company then contacts the Twitter user with a reply (using the @ feature) in an attempt to land a rental. Although only half of these unsolicited ads lead to real rentals, the company saves the money it would otherwise spend on online and physical advertising by using Twitter's free search service. The lesson here - don't underestimate the power of Twitter's search box and its ability to invade people's lives (sometimes in creepy ways) for your benefit.

These are just some ways to make money with Twitter. Viral marketing campaigns often require creativity far outside the traditional box. However, once you find a plan that works, a solid Twitter marketing plan can save your company lots of advertising expenses.