Twitter to launch 'promoted tweets' in a bid to make money
Twitter is launching "promoted tweets" this evening, which will eventually see branded messages appear in user’s feeds from the likes of Virgin and Starbucks and marks the first official commercialisation of the site.
The site, with a valuation of approximately one billion dollars, according to technology analyst firm Ovum, has resisted any move towards traditional advertising in the four years since its launch – raising many questions about how it will eventually turn a profit and what business model it will adopt.
However, this evening, Twitter launches ‘promoted tweets’ which Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, summarises as “ordinary tweets that businesses and organisations want to highlight to a wider group of users”.
Initially these branded tweets will only appear at the top of some of theTwitter.com search results pages, in a similar style to Google’s advertising model.
The second phase of the roll out will see ‘promoted tweets’ expand beyond Twitter search and ‘relevant’ ones appear clearly marked in user’s timelines.
Stone said in his blog post: “Twitter ranks as one of the most popular sites on the internet. Over the years, we've resisted introducing a traditional web advertising model because we wanted to optimise for value before profit.
"The open exchange of information creates opportunities for individuals, organisations, and businesses alike. We recognized value in this exchange and planned to amplify it in a meaningful and relevant manner…We hope you'll share in our enthusiasm as today we unveil a simple service we're calling 'Promoted Tweets'. It's non-traditional, it's easy, and it makes a ton of sense for Twitter.”
Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America will be the first brands to post branded tweets and it remains to be seen how quickly other firms will get on board.
However, Twitter executives are insisting that a ‘promoted tweet’ must “resonate with users”- meaning if users do not interact with the message – such as replying to it or re-tweeting it, it will disappear.
The reaction to the news has been mixed. Martin McNulty, general manager at Forward3D, a search marketing specialist, thinks that brands “need to act with caution and guard against the inevitable hype surrounding this release” as he is unsure of how valuable Twitter will be as a sales tool.
“Why do consumers engage with twitter? Do they login when they're in buying mode or do they do so in complaining mode? From experience, I’d say the latter,” he said.
“Many brands have used Twitter as customer service tool responding directly to customer problems to good effect; however as a sales tool I'm less sure of its value.
"If a consumer is in a buying mode they'll start their journey on a search engine which more than likely will already be pulling in tweets to ensure up to the minute comment, should it be needed.”
Eden Zoller, Ovum’s principal analyst thinks ‘promoted tweets’ has great potential but could irritate users. He added: “What Twitter does not have, and what it badly is needs, is a viable business model that will make it profitable.
"Twitter has great potential as a marketing and advertising channel with opportunities to create viral buzz around a product or service, encourage customer interaction, and respond more quickly to customers and issues.
“This can all be done in real time, which is clearly very powerful…But the Promoted Tweets are more overt and sit squarely in the service and as such could irritate users. The flip side of Twitter’s immediacy is that if advertising messages are not very carefully positioned users can hit back at brands and in real time, and brands will have little control over this.”