Twitter Announces Promoted Tweets

At 12:01 AM on April 13th, Biz Stone posted that Twitter Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo will be announcing "Promoted Tweets" at the Ad Age Digital Conference today. In short, Promoted Tweets is a new advertising platform that allows brands to pay for premium placement (via keyword phrases) of selected tweets within Twitter search results. When the program first launches, it looks like it will be offered to selected brands such as Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America. Other than being labeled as a "Promoted Tweet," the posts will look as any other tweet would appear within search results. In a somewhat similar fashion to traditional paid search advertising, Promoted Tweets must resonate with users in order to maintain their placement. In other words, if users don’t interact with a Promoted Tweet, such as replying to it, favoriting it, or Retweeting it, the Promoted Tweet will disappear. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Promoted Tweets will roll out to 2 to 10 percent of Twitter users. While Promoted Tweets will initially only be offered via Twitter search, Twitter says they also plan on offering the advertising service to outside Twitter client applications such as TweetDeck. Relatedly, San Francisco-based Twitter advertising service TweetUp started up and Twitter purchased Atebits, LLC, makers of the popular Twitter client for the iPhone. Take that, Stephen Colbert. Looks like "Biz Stone" does stand for "business model."

Later in the afternoon at the Ad Age Digital Conference, Dick Costolo unveiled more specifics regarding the new Promoted Tweets advertising platform. This presentation definitely generated the most buzz among the audience. Here's a summary of what I learned about Promoted Tweets:

  • Promoted Tweets is all about enhancing the communications companies are already having with customers.
  • Promoted Tweets combine earned media and paid media. RT's, @replies, favorite functionality available.
  • Originally rolling out Promoted Tweets on Twitter search. Then syndication (e.g., TweetDeck, Tweetie). Then partnership expansions beyond Twitter client applications.
  • Twitter didn't want to have one variable of measurement, therefore they'll be focusing on a "resonance score" that is a combination of metrics such as RT's, @replies, favoriting, etc.
  • Promoted Tweets will originally be priced on a CPM basis, then priced on resonance score for more of a return-on-engagement based model.
  • Virgin Airlines launching a market solely on Promoted Tweets in the next few days. Find a Promoted Tweet & get 2-for-1 tickets.
  • For Bravo TV, Promoted Tweets will identify a lucky Twitter user who will get their tweet broadcasted on live TV.

As I mentioned previously, this platform is currently only available to selected brands. Additionally, Twitter has rolled this feature out to only 5-10% of their user base (approximately 3.5-7MM users). Twitter wants to take a "less is more approach" at the beginning to maintain their user-centric development strategy. This will also allow them to measure the impact of Promoted Tweets closely and map out how they'll charge brands moving forward based on the calculated resonance score.

After the presentation, conversations continued about Promoted Tweets. I overheard someone sitting next to me say, "but is it really an ad? The examples didn't look like ads and they don't 'work' like ads." Technically, of course, Promoted Tweets are ads. It's a paid way for marketers to get a specific message in front of a massive audience on Twitter. However, the fact that the idea of Promoted Tweets has 700+ digitally-savvy advertising peeps scratching their heads, it brings up an interesting point. Once Twitter begins to dictate Promoted Tweet placement based on resonance score (user-initiated behavior such as RT's and @replies), the power of the people control whether or not the tweet is relevant to them. If not, the Promoted Tweet may be removed from the premium placement within Twitter search results. This is similar to the way paid search works (placement based on relevancy, CTR and CPC) and I'd say paid search has turned out just fine (SEM spend forecasted to be $11.5 BILLION in 2010 according to eMarketer). Overall. I'm excited about what this will bring for Twitter, marketers and users. I'm also curious to see how marketers will be using Promoted Tweets. Seems like a great way to extend a very specific message not only for "advertising" purposes (e.g., and exclusive promotion), but also for more utility-driven communications such as crisis management and customer service.