Promoted Tweets: AKA Twitter AdWords?

After years of speculation on how it will make money, Twitter has finally answered with a new ad program called “Promoted Tweets.”  Announced today by COO Dick Costolo at the AdAge Digital Conference, Promoted Tweets is Twitter’s version of keyword-based ad programs like Google AdWords, although they make the distinction that these aren’t ads at all.  They are simply organic Tweets that an advertiser has paid to have shuffled to the top of the search results page.  Initial advertisers include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America.

Initially the program will only include placements on the Twitter site, but eventually it will extend to a host of other 3rd-party clients like TweetDeck, TwitterBerry (aka OpenBeak) and Tweetie (which Twitter bought last week).

Realizing its continued success lies heavily in the user experience, Promoted Tweets will be limited to one per search results page and will be clearly marked as promotional.  Twitter will also test how each “ad” resonates with users in terms of replies, Retweets, etc.  Promoted Tweets that fall flat will be removed.

We’re still awaiting further word on pricing and how the program will roll-out to other advertisers, including B2B marketers.  Initially at least, the ad model will be impressions based, but will this provide the tangible ROI business marketers are demanding, particularly since so many of them are still fairly skeptical of the relative merits of social media to begin with?  We’ll keep you posted!


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