Twitter’s business model has emerged. Ironically, yesterday, Bill Gross of IdeaLab (and founder of Overture) announced TweetUp, a keyword-based search marketplace built on a proposed better search engine for Twitter and a group of syndication partners. Last night Twitter announced its own, very similar idea with Promoted Tweets:
Q: What are you launching? What are Promoted Tweets?
A: We are launching the first phase of our Promoted Tweets platform with a handful of innovative advertising partners that include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America — with more to come. Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets that businesses and organizations want to highlight to a wider group of users.
Q. What will users see?
A. You will start to see Tweets promoted by our partner advertisers called out at the top of some Twitter.com search results pages. We strongly believe that Promoted Tweets should be useful to you. We’ll attempt to measure whether the Tweets resonate with users and stop showing Promoted Tweets that don’t resonate. Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as “promoted” when an advertiser is paying, but in every other respect they will first exist as regular Tweets and will be organically sent to the timelines of those who follow a brand. Promoted Tweets will also retain all the functionality of a regular Tweet including replying, Retweeting, and favoriting. Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page.
Image source: AdAge
The NY Times echoes how this will work:
When a Twitter user searches for a word an advertiser bought, the promoted message will show up at the top of the results, even if it was written much earlier. The posts say they are promoted by the company in small type, and when someone rolls over a promoted post with a cursor, it turns yellow.
This is paid-search advertising around keywords (though pricing is apparently CPM to start). Ads will also appear in third-party clients and syndicated streams.
This is all very familiar, well established, no big deal. That’s the “pull” dimension. But there’s another “push” (AdSense-like) dimension to all this (per the NY Times):
In the next phase of Twitter’s revenue plan, it will show promoted posts in a user’s Twitter stream, even if a user did not perform a search and does not follow the advertiser.
For example, if someone has been following people who write about travel, they could see a promoted post from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts.
Anyone who uses Google has grown accustomed to seeing ads alongside their search results, but Twitter users could resent seeing promoted posts in their personal content stream.
Twitter is aware of that risk. It is still figuring out how to determine which promoted posts should appear. It could be based on topics they are writing about, geographic location or shared interests of people they follow.
This second, “involuntary” dimension of the program will apparently roll out later and very carefully. Though all the ads are substantially text-based, what you’ve got in the two components is direct response and awareness ads.
Predictably there’s positive and negative reaction to the second part, which is premature. We can’t begrudge Twitter a way to make a living.
It’s worth revisiting the Twitter “business model contest” that happened a little over a year ago. Search and contextual advertising are of course among the many suggestions in the submissions.