On the Internet, launching a successful viral video or popular website certainly has its own merit. But gaining brand recognition and traffic may only be part of a complete business model. Once a presence is established, the fastest way to generate revenue is through advertising. Selling valuable advertising space (much like real estate) allows businesses to capitalize on their traffic by receiving payments per thousand visits or per click. Whether the end goal of online efforts is a high conversion rate or new customer acquisition, it never hurts to make some extra proceeds, even if advertising only pays for domain hosting, website management and overall marketing campaign costs.
After originating in 2006, and becoming a household name by 2008, Twitter is only just looking to cash in on its increasingly valuable social interface real estate. Previously known for its lack of ads, Twitter aims to start small by sending out targeted sponsored messages—dubbed Promoted Tweets. This announcement came in April 2010, when the company was rumored to be pairing up with major players such as Sony and Starbucks.
One reason that many booming websites hesitate to launch full-fledged advertising campaigns is that ubiquitous advertisements can be perceived to cheapen overall look and experience. No forum wants visitors to feel used for their contribution to an outstanding CPM. But reluctance to plan for advertising from the ground floor of a burgeoning online operation may be a detriment. For Twitter, users may express distaste and disdain once they see advertising appear where there previously was none. Whereas on Facebook, advertisements have been seamlessly—albeit sparingly—integrated for years so that they don’t interrupt the layout or feel of the site, and visitors are accustomed to their presence. When questioned on their timing, Twitter expressed that it has only been analyzing and determining the best way to introduce effective advertising for both buyers and users.
Currently, Twitter is often accessed through third-party services and interfaces (rather than through Twitter.com); in fact, it was created for its SMS remote-access appeal. That’s why posting standard banner ads on the website alone is not necessarily going to do as much for the company as it might for more stationary social media platforms, such as Facebook. Instead, the plan for Promoted Tweets is to send out sponsored messages that relate to key words that users enter into a search field. That way, ads are more likely to reach their intended audiences. To keep these expensive ads from getting lost in the noise of incoming tweets, they will always be queued to the top of lists (instead of ranked by their timestamp). Over time, Twitter may begin to show Promoted Tweets at the top of all feeds, whether users searched for any terms or not.
One way that Twitter assures quality control for both the user and advertiser is by taking down any Promoted Tweets that don’t have ‘resonance.’ For the advertiser, this means that if their ads aren’t doing well—as gauged by a nine-point system that includes visibility and interactivity—it will be taken down and they won’t have to pay for it. On the user end, they won’t have to encounter ads that aren’t relevant to them. Ostensibly, this process will only become smarter and more accurate—and more profitable—as time and trials progress. Though slow to start, there’s no going back on advertising on Twitter.