Twitter Dips Its Toe in the Ad Water

Twitter announced this morning the launch of “Promoted Tweets” because it’s nice for a company to make revenue. Promoted Tweets are described in the blog post like this: “You will start to see Tweets promoted by our partner advertisers called out at the top of some search results pages…. Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as ‘promoted’ when an advertiser is paying… Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page.”

The site also notes that all Promoted Tweets will be “organic,” that is, they will first exist as regular Tweets. I’m not sure why this is such a big deal; all a company would have to do is tweet something, then promote it.

The Twitter announcement promised “Promoted Tweets must meet a higher bar—they must resonate with users. That means if users don’t interact with a Promoted Tweet to allow us to know that the Promoted Tweet is resonating with them, such as replying to it, favoriting it, or Retweeting it, the Promoted Tweet will disappear.” When I read this I immediately thought, “Doesn’t Google down-position ads that have an extremely low CTR?” It sounded like the same sentiment, dressed up a bit.

These Promoted Tweets will start appearing on the search results page, though I ran a bunch of searches for search terms I thought might be relevant to Twitter’s launch partners (Sony Pictures, Bravo, Red Bull, Starbucks, etc) and didn’t have any luck.

I trust that Twitter will delineate a Promoted Tweet clearly from a regular tweet, and I like the idea of this kind of thing much better than a more heavily-sponsored structure like yesterday’s announced TweetUp (though Bill Gross will always hold a special place in my heart for the suit against Disney — which was settled in favor of GoTo, by the way.)

But I have lots of questions, mostly about the back end. How does the bidding work? Will the advertising be just keyword or also location specific (if it’s location specific I think that’s potentially much better for the advertiser AND the ad viewer.) How often will the ads change? What’s being tracked? How will Twitter handle trademark issues or tweets that are clearly spam? (Or worse, deceptive spam that gets enough clickthroughs to stay in the ad stream?) Will the ads show up in RSS feeds of results or just on the Web site?

Evan Williams and Dick Costolo will be discussing this further at Chirp, so I may do a followup. I’ll also grab a screenshot as soon as one of these ads turns up in a search.