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Promoted Tweets to Enter Twitter User Streams?

Twitter may start putting ads in user streams, according to a report from the Financial Times. “Promoted tweets” would appear in the main flow of tweets on the Twitter homepage, likely as an extension of the company’s current “Promoted Products” format – trends and accounts.

Reporting from advertising conference Cannes Lions in France, The Financial Times says that Twitter executives have been meeting with ad executives “on the fringes” of the event this week. Other reported options Twitter could use to help monetize the service are Groupon-syle daily deals as well as instituting some type of “QuickBar” on its home page, much like the one that caused an uproar when the company put it in its mobile applications.

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What will tweets within users streams look like? Twitter needs to find a balance between allowing tweets in the main fire hose of user updates and not overwhelming the stream with what basically become officially sanction Twitter spam. A couple possibilities: Twitter could allow one or two companies a day to place ads into users’ streams on a scheduled basis. For instance, Twitter could allow two “promoted tweets” into the stream per hour. A company could buy inventory for every hour of a particular day, or every other hour etc. For users that follow a lot of accounts, two tweets advertising related tweets per hour would not be too painful in a river of other updates.

In terms of deals, Twitter has tried that route before and it did not go well. @EarlyBird sputtered out almost as soon as it got off the ground. One of the problems with @EarlyBird is that it was not targeted well enough to users who actually cared about the deals. A similar false start for Twitter was the “QuickBar,” better known as the #DickBar. Users found it to be so irritating and obtrusive that it quickly became a Twitter meme and the company was forced to take it out of the companies official mobile applications.

Twitter can take two tracks when it comes to advertising – blunt volume in in all users’ streams or targeted or specialized, targeted ads aimed at interested consumers. Promoted tweets placed directly in the timeline would be a volume play, aimed at getting as many “impressions” as possible. Specialized promoted tweets would be harder to pull off and require Twitter to analyze user accounts to determine what kind of accounts they follow. As such, Twitter could create an internal classification of users and sell ads against categories like “book lovers,” “tech enthusiasts” or “sports fans.”

According to an anonymous advertising executive in the Financial Times report, Twitter is “going to get much more commercial.” It looks like the first steps are currently being taken.

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