The danger of giving away an online service in order build a valuable user base often occurs when you start attaching strings.
So when Twitter introduced its most prominent advertising feature to date last week, adding “Promoted Tweets” to users’ main timelines, the gambit aimed at generating greater revenues risked provoking members’ anger and stirring up a good deal of skepticism.
Users will now see tweets from companies and organizations that they follow appear near the top of the central stream of 140-character messages when they log in, regardless of when the ads are posted.
Now we know Twitter's business plan but will it work? How these Promoted Tweets play to its base is only one part of the equation. Users get used to certain levels of ads, just asked Mark Zuckerberg. The big question is this: Will Promoted Tweets be effective enough for agencies to consider making it part of there marketing mix?
Five positives and potential pitfalls
1. Advantage: If you follow even a modest 50 Twitterers it becomes near impossible to keep up with the crowded stream that continually pushes content down. The postings are listed by the most recent first, so Twitter is betting it can sell these timely tweets to companies to increase the chances their marketing messages are seen by followers.
Possible issue: If ads appear only to a user following a brand that is participating in this advertising program, than there is a pretty good chance brands are going to alienate and lose some followers. The whole idea behind Twitter-based marketing is to engage your audience. Participating in Twitter's ad program with the "promoted ad" label under the tweet might actually disengage a segment of their hard-earned audience.
2. Advantage: This could actually be quite useful to Twitter users who use the micro-blogging site for finding out about deals like lower airfares, sales at particular stores and new products.
Possible issue: Mixing controlled messages (ad content) alongside uncontrolled content (The airline advertising $59 fares has me hostage on tarmac for 8 hours! ) could become problematic for planning campaigns.
3. Advantage: Just like Facebook, the demographic is appealing. Estimates suggest between 20 and 40 percent of Twitter users follow at least one brand. With 200 million + users, that’s a lot of available eyeballs and will be tempting to move Twitter into your marketing mix with its hyper-focused targeted audience.
Possible issue: As of now users only see these promoted tweets if they are on Twitter.com. They aren't seen in popular third-party Twitter clients like Tweetbot or Tweetdeck. Users will also only see the ads if they follow the brand that has purchased a Promoted Tweet. There may not be so many eyeballs available after all.
4. Advantage: Much is made in social media about swimming in the stream with a like-minded audience. Obviously businesses using Promoted Tweets for advertising have a better shot of getting there, especially now that their message will float in place until their audience arrives one by one.
Possible issue: It is unknown if users will be tempted to engage Promoted Tweets. The only way anyone is going to make money is if links are clicked and ads retweeted.
5. Advantage: Dedicated Twitter users have followers in the thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands. There appears to be plenty of landscape on which to serve these ads.
Possible issue: The problem here is two-fold. First, Twitter can’t show too many promos each time someone logs on. If there are 15 ads up top, users are going to become annoyed. Second, the company could have other concerns regarding competitors and space limitations.
This isn’t’ the first time around the advertising block for Twitter. The company rolled out another version of "promoted tweets" last year that allows marketers to bid on ads delivered in searches.In addition, Twitter launched "promoted trends.” They cost $120,000 a day and appear alongside each user's account and on Twitter.com's home page.