Twitter’s popularity, in part, over the years has been its prioritization of users. It’s always been all about the people and the content they decide to distribute. Twitter, unlike other popular sites, has never been riddled with advertisements or annoying pop-ups, and many wondered how Twitter would make money once its $55 million venture capital ran out. The Twitter team even remarked that they “resisted introducing a traditional Web advertising model because [they] wanted to optimize for value before profit.”
Well, it appears as though Twitter’s ad-free time is up, as they’ve recently announced that they’ll be introducing “Promoted Tweets.” But, never fear, it won’t be like promotions or ads you’ve seen before. No flashing banners or audio clips on the side bars. This new approach will apparently integrate seamlessly with the Twitter interface while still putting users first and amplifying existing value, and, of course, now also generating profit.
Promoted Tweets will be shown at the top of relevant searches, just one at a time, like the Red Bull one pictured above. They’re clearly marked with a highlighted yellow bar below the tweet saying who it’s promoted by. You can also see that the Promoted Tweets keep track of the number of retweets, like the one shown from Red Bull, which was already retweeted twelve times when I did a search. This is important because Twitter is only allowing Promoted Tweets that resonate with users. So, if users don’t interact with the Promoted Tweets by replying, retweeting, or making them a favorite, they will be taken down.
This seems like a reasonable strategy to keep the power of Twitter with the users. If you don’t like the idea of Promoted Tweets, just don’t interact with them and they’ll disappear. But as they’re designed to be useful to users, I don’t see them getting in people’s way too much… at least for now. As this is just the first phase of Promoted Tweets, with restrictions such as placement only in searches, and a limited number of partners, such as Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America, we may see more as the program is stepped up.
As Twitter is, always has been, and most likely always will be, a voice for the people and a free form of expression, I feel confident that Twitter will listen to its users should these Promoted Tweets not sit well or interfere with users’ experience. But it seems like it will be fairly profitable for Twitter as they’ll get half of the ad revenues, with the rest going to its partners.
What do you think? Is this unique monetization of Twitter a good strategy?