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This Tweet’s For You: unveiled, Twitter to make money

17 Jan

Originally posted 14 April 2010 @ Foviance.com

For a long time now, fans and foes of Twitter have speculated on how the site will make money. Well, for those of you who haven’t yet heard, you might want to brace yourself as Twitter has finally unveiled its plan to make money, and it will be through (drum roll please) advertising!

Wow. Anyone else underwhelmed? Who didn’t see that coming? Not that there’s anything wrong with the advertising model, it’s just that personally, for all the hype surrounding Twitter I was expecting something a little more innovative. Particularly when Twitter founder Biz Stone himself labelled it “non-traditional.”

The way it will work is that companies pay for “promoted tweets” which will allow sponsored messages to appear at the top of search results pages when users search for keywords the companies have bought. Twitter claim they “only want to show tweets that help the user experience” and if promoted tweets don’t have enough “resonance”, if not enough users forward or favourite them, then the promoted tweet supposedly will disappear. Initially marketers will be charged per thousand impressions of their ad but eventually it will evolve to charge based on how users interact with the messages, appearing in a user’s stream even if they didn’t search for it or are following that particular brand.

It is this last part that bothers me most. I can all too easily envisage succumbing to the issues plaguing existing social networks of spamming and marketers posing as customers to plug their own product. But then I’m a cynic. In practice I anticipate it will work in much the same way as either product placement or the contextual Google ads which appear in the sidebar of the Gmail inbox. And how many people click on those? Do you? Yeah, I thought not…me neither.

Typically, the big boys are the early adopters: Starbucks, Sony Pictures, Red Bull, Virgin America and Best Buy, with many more sure to follow. So to all your Twits out there, gird your loins and prepare yourselves for the inevitable onslaught of advertising for stuff you’re already seeing far too much of. Presumably if you’re already following these brands then you’ll welcome the extra sales pitch. Which probably means you’re either not getting enough ads thrown at you via traditional channels or you’re chronically starved of any genuine human contact and crave the crushing embrace of marketers.

Either way, I feel for you…