Last week Mediapost reported that Twitter will be unleashing a medium for advertisements on the micro-blogging site in the near future. In a panel on interactive advertising, Twitter’s head of product management, Anamitra Banerji, said that the company has a function in the works which is being tested. He went on to say that the ad functionality would be implemented within the next few months. Because the site has been free from traditional advertising since it began, news of the “imminent” change has sparked some debate amongst users. But though Twitter has avoided standard advertisements, third-party companies have taken advantage of the site’s audience by allowing users to opt-in to their service and get paid to post ads.
And the offer can seem pretty rewarding. Kim Kardashian was supposedly paid $10,000 per ad on her Twitter feed. Last month Read Write Web wrote about the current state of Twitter advertising and if it’s actually possible for normal people to make money. They looked at services like Twittad, Magpie, Sponsored Tweets, and Ad.ly to determine whether the process could be lucrative for non-celebs. As it turns out, there’s not much to be gained, since most of the services are based on click-through rates. The article quotes one user who said, “Twittad estimates my ad value as around ~$471/month. However, the few offers I get average $8-12/week. And even those are scarce.”
While Twitter ad services claim to have super high click-through rates, ads are generally disliked in any medium. It seems like current ad services on Twitter rely heavily on the fact that they’re not extremely common. Users are probably more likely to click on an ad if it’s something they’ve never seen before, which I assume is why they can make those claims. The more familiar Twitter users become with the in-stream ads, the less they’re going to click on them. Having said that, it’s pretty genius to have ads linked with accounts, especially when the user has a fan-base or focused group of followers. I saw this ad in my stream and I had to consciously stop myself from clicking on it; with so much link-sharing on Twitter and the web in general, having no description for an ad (beyond a link) can be very enticing. But if Twitter rolls out their new advertising function soon, many of these third-party services could fall by the wayside. Right now though, there’s no official word on what the ads will look like or how users will be able to interact with them.
All Things Digital believes that Twitter’s strategy is to copy Google’s ad format by incorporating ads into searches. They also said that the site will work with existing third-party ad services to let the user benefit from ad revenue for in-stream ads. TechCrunch speculated that once they launch the feature, there will be no way to opt-out of viewing ads, even within the steam. With so many useless tweets being pumped out by the minute, it’s understandable that users are upset with the idea of having more spam filling up their streams.
Two years ago a blogger compared seeing ads in the stream to seeing ads in his email, saying that he would boycott Twitter if it ever happened. Obviously, ads are present on the site and he is still on Twitter; clearly, it’s not as big of a fuss as he made it out to be. On the other hand, one blogger welcomed the idea of ads using hashtags. His theory was that, incorporated into searches, advertisements could actually be helpful for the consumer. “If I’m getting excited about #susanboyle, an iTunes link to her (possible) duet with Elaine Paige would actually be a help,” he said.
Another issue altogether is content-relevant advertising. Google does it with Adsense and Adwords, placing relevant ads alongside searches and websites. Skynews said that it would not be unexpected if Twitter used “deep packet inspection” for their ad placement. “DPI works by scanning searches for key words and delivering related advertisements.” Though the information is already available to the company, people are still rattled by the fact that search engines can sort through their posts and determine their interests. At this point, it’s a bit surprising that people aren’t aware of such technology, especially since so many other sites and companies use it.
Regardless, ads on Twitter have the potential to change the way ads are viewed online and how customers interact with a product or business. Do you think the change is for the better or worse? Would you pay to have ads removed from the site or are they not an issue for you? Do you think there are any other benefits for businesses and customers using Twitter as a medium for advertising?