Twitter recently announced it’s first monetization strategy, an advertising platform that they’re calling Promoted Tweets. Similar to Google’s AdWords, Promoted Tweets are clearly labeled PPC tweets that are displayed to users based on contextual relevance of their searches. For instance, search for “Starbucks” and you may see as the first result something like:
Over time, it’s widely expected that the Promoted Tweets will also show up in the average users’ tweet stream, both on Twitter.com as well as third party applications.
What’s immediately clear is that users are not thrilled. According to Techcrunch and Twitter Sentiment promoted tweets are not resonating well with Twitter’s users. The negative sentiment is over 70% which, while I’m sure anticipated, is still discouraging for Twitter’s executives. Users never like change (as Facebook can attest) but adding advertising into a platform that hasn’t had it before is a particularly strong turnoff to many user – even if it is a necessity to the site.
What’s still unclear is what Twitter believes the benefit is to brands to actually buy into Promoted Tweets advertising format. Is there any real value to a brand like Starbucks to pay for a PPC ad on Twitter rather than driving traffic through organic awareness? Especially as the quality and relevance of the Promoted Tweet may affect on how it’s presented as an ad?
The core challenge for Twitter in monetizing their service based on advertising is that advertising represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of social networks and platforms. Advertising is a rented platform that allows brands to speak to a group of existing or potential customers for a limited period of time. Social networks and media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook, allow a brand to develop an audience that continually returns to them. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in PPC advertising on Twitter when you can take that same money and hire a person, or agency, that will build an audience that willingly returns to you every day?
I suppose the answer is that adding value to the communications process is difficult and that it’s much easier for lazy brands to throw money at advertising. At least Apple’s iAd format allows for enhanced creative with mobile advertising. Promoted Tweets is simply paying for wider exposure of your already existing tweets.
Only time will tell if promoted tweets is a winning formula, but for now I’m not impressed.