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The Conversation: Promoted Tweets


“Why am I getting Tweets about the weekly blend at Starbucks? I don’t follow them!” Twitter announced a new ad revenue-generating model on Tuesday called Promoted Tweets, where 140-character messages from advertisers will appear on users’ Twitter pages. Is this a sign Twitter is here to stay, or a sure-fire backlash in the making? Here to discuss are Press Editor and Web columnist Brad Pareso (@bradpareso), Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson (@sonicbum) and Director of Interactive Strategy Joe Garraffo (@joegarraffo).

Brad


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Well look at that! Twitter is experimenting with a plan to make money! I wonder if one of their venture capitalists sent a Direct Message along the lines of, “Waitin on reimbrsment, xpect knock on ur office door soon.”

Michael

You know, over the last year, I’ve gone from being essentially unaware of Twitter to relying on it as the basis of my media interaction. As a news platform, to me, it feels almost as revolutionary as the Web itself. That’s not to say Twitter is “here to stay,” because something equally revolutionary and doubly efficient could come in its wake (I’m cautious to appoint any individual platform “the one,” as I recall my own enthusiasm for Friendster circa 2002), but I don’t believe this revenue model will do anything to derail it. Will it actually bring in revenue? That’s another story.

Brad

I think it has massive potential, not necessarily because it will successfully influence users but because companies love social networking. “Whatever FaceSpaceWeb those youngsters are using,” is what I imagine every CFO in America telling their ad team. And it makes perfect sense, but whereas Facebook has struggled for years attempting to successfully monetize the eyes it gets every day, Twitter’s idea to use tweets already being sent out by companies and integrate them when relevant sounds more seamless, a la Google’s Sponsored Links.

Joe

It was inevitable Twitter would go this route. Companies like Sponsored Tweets have been doing this, except there you can have celebs like Kendra Wilkinson, Kim Kardashian or Bob Vila tweet your advertisement. It’s a natural fit and opens a unique way to target: Starbucks can display ads to coffee drinkers, Dunkin’ Donuts fans or whatever other keyword their marketing department wants. Welcome to the next level of behavioral targeting. I think this is a natural evolution for Twitter. I am eager to see how it plays out, especially with the big names they’ve chosen to test the waters with: Best Buy, Virgin America, Starbucks and Bravo.

Michael

I wonder, though, to what extent it will be effective for the advertiser. As a user, I’ve developed an ability to scan many tweets at once, immediately filter out those that do not interest me and focus in on those that do. And that’s people and organizations I follow voluntarily, so I have to imagine I’ll do the same with sponsored tweets from people and organizations I don’t follow. Will I subconsciously process and react positively to those Starbucks tweets? Or will I skip over them without a second thought?

Joe

That’s why makes their model stand out. Twitter has this setup so if a tweet isn’t tracking well in terms of replies, clicks, and a number of other metrics Twitter is calling “resonance,” it will be pulled, and the advertiser won’t pay. It’s a win-win at that point.

Brad

Well, as you said Mike, you’re using Twitter for media interaction, so I’d say you aren’t the user advertisers are after. It’s the ones on Twitter to tell people they just got a great parking spot at the Walt Whitman Mall; the types that aren’t mentally filtering or omitting any Tweets and want to read every last word.

Michael

But that conclusion operates on an inaccurate premise. I’m not only following NPR and The New York Times; I follow my friends, too—and I want to read about people’s parking spaces. That’s part of the experience as a whole; that’s an essential part of interacting with the community. Sponsored tweets, though, seem like unwanted interlopers, and they’re pretty easy to ignore, so who wouldn’t do just that?

Joe

I agree Mike, but realize we’ve been seeing this behavioral marketing-type approach for some time now. On Facebook, the more you share (in your profile), the more things you become a fan of, the more times you update your status, the easier you make it to be marketed to. For example, I’m an avid Mets fan and a die-hard cyclist who listens to Pink Floyd. Each and every time I go to my Facebook account I see an ad for either Mets tickets/swag, a charity bike ride/new energy drink or a Pink Floyd cover band playing near me. They’ve targeted me based on (relevant) keyword and area.

Brad

And here’s an added bonus for advertisers: The Library of Congress is digitally archiving every tweet made since Twitter was born in March ’06. Talk about ad impressions!

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