Twitter Monetizes Using Promoted Tweets

Twitter is finally monetizing. The company will sell keywords to advertisers. When Twitter users search those keywords, an ad will appear at the top of the search results page. Fast Company has the lowdown:

Twitter calls (its new ad program) Promoted Tweets. Advertisers, which at launch will include Best Buy, Virgin America, Bravo, and Starbucks, can buy keywords used by Twitterers in search. When a user searches for one of an advertiser’s purchased keywords, an ad will appear at the top of that user’s Twitter feed. The Promoted Tweets will be in smaller than usual type, and will turn yellow when the cursor is passed over them.

At first, these Promoted Tweets will only be seen on Twitter’s site, not through any client (including mobile clients like Twidroid and Tweetie as well as desktop clients like TweetDeck), and they’ll only be linked to search keywords. Use a mobile app, or use the Twitter site without searching, and you won’t see any ads–for now. But even in this early stage, businesses have more control over Twitter ads than over ads in pretty much any other medium.

When a Twitter user searches for a word an advertiser bought, the promoted message will show up at the top of the results, even if it was written much earlier. The posts say they are promoted by the company in small type, and when someone rolls over a promoted post with a cursor, it turns yellow.

The ads will also be a way for companies to enter the conversation when it turns negative. Several companies have created tools to measure sentiment on Twitter, but until now, businesses can do little with that information. Even if they write a post in response, it also quickly gets lost in a sea of complaints. If a new movie is getting negative reaction, the studio could use the ads to link to a positive review, for example.

Despite the low odds of anyone coming up with a new kind of online monetization model, I was hoping that Twitter would figure out something more original than contextual ads. While such ads monetize, they’re annoying for users, especially when you get them on your feeds or mobile device. I do understand, however, that the company can’t wait forever to implement some kind of monetization plan. Users are used to seeing ads; Twitter is just one more place they’ll appear now.

I’m curious to see how much money promoted tweets will actually make the company.