Twitter's ad model: Are Promoted Tweets the way to go?

Twitter is slowly unveiling an advertising business model, one that involves "Promoted Tweets." Can it work?
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Twitter teased us this morning with a semi-announcement of Promoted Tweets, the first phase of a what is apparently a multi-layer approach toward an advertising business model. There aren't a lot of details yet - the company is saving that for more formal unveilings at the AdAge Digital conference today and at Chirp, the Twitter Developer conference tomorrow.

From what I can tell, "innovative advertising partners" - initially Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Picture, Starbucks and Virgina America - will sent out promoted tweets that appear in Twitter search results. They'll be labeled "Promoted" but will retain the functionality of a regular tweet, which means users can reply or retweet. And there will only be one promoted tweet per search results page. They'll be held to a higher bar and must resonate with users. The goal here, of course, is for then to not look like ads.

So can this work?

That depends on the users and whether they'll interact with them. The tweets would have to be compelling enough for a user like me to engage with them. I sift through hundreds - thousands? - of tweets per day and I honestly just skim past a lot of them. But when I do come across something interesting, I click links and retweet just like everyone else.

So, maybe. Yeah, maybe this could work.

I've been one of those critics who's been calling on Twitter to announce a monetization plan of some sort. And, again, while I don't have all of the details of what this larger business model entails, I think it's a good first step. Here's why:

  • Twitter has momentum right now and the timing feels right for it to jump into the mix - especially now that the economy seems to be rebounding and ad dollars may be freeing up soon.
  • The company is taking a slow, phase-by-phase approach. That's smart. Take things one step at a time and see how everyone - whether that's users, advertisers or partners - react and interact. Based on that data, phase two may actually need some tweaking before it's rolled out.
  • It's a non-traditional approach. Twitter is a unique platform, one that involves limited messaging space and users with short attention span. It had to do something non-traditional.

I'm anxious to hear more details from Twitter. As much as I was anxious for Twitter to announce some sort of business plan, I'm glad that they took a slow approach and are rolling out something in phases. It may take some time for everyone - users and advertisers alike - to climb on board and get used to this.

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