Twitter adds ads
You can stop complaining that Twitter doesn't have a business model: The San Francisco-based microblogging service announced today that it's selling ads on its site.
These new "Promoted Tweets," as a blog post explains, can show up when you search for something at Twitter's site. You'll see only one per result page, which will appear at the top of the page and be "clearly labeled" as a sponsored update. But it will look and work like a regular update that can be replied to, retweeted or marked as a favorite.
In other words, Twitter has adopted the same tactic that some ad agencies already employ on Twitter. Seems fair enough to me, and other observers think it's a workable business proposition. ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick called it "delightfully boring"--that is, nothing too invasive, creepy or annoying--and Mashable's Ben Parr favorably compared it to the ad strategy successfully used at the social-news site Digg.
Twitter has signed up only six advertisers, all active users of the site: Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America. It will track how many users interact with each promoted tweet and remove those that don't "resonate" with people. (I can only hope this measure will ensure we never see the irritatingly ubiquitous teeth-whitening and belly-flattening ads that infest too many sites, this one included.)
I've yet to see any of these tweets after running a round of sample searches, even ones that you'd think would be total ad bait (e.g., "virgin america or united" or "what's on bravo"). This program's limited scope may explain that: A Reuters story reports that only "two to 10 percent" of Twitter users will see these ads.
They may not be so hard to find later on. The blog post goes on to explain that if this test works, Twitter will display promoted tweets on other parts of its site:
Before we roll out more phases, we want to get a better understanding of the resonance of Promoted Tweets, user experience and advertiser value. Once this is done, we plan to allow Promoted Tweets to be shown by Twitter clients and other ecosystem partners and to expand beyond Twitter search, including displaying relevant Promoted Tweets in your timelines in a way that is useful to you.
If the venture flops completely, Twitter's not out of options to make money: The real-time search deals it set up with Google and Microsoft helped it turn a small profit last year, according to BusinessWeek.
So that's the plan. How does it sound to you? Let me know in the comments.
April 13, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories: Social media
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