First off, Twitter is a business. Those of us who use the channel understand that they need to monetize the platform, and advertising revenue is the most likely route. We understand that Twitter provide an excellent free channel, and the price we are going to pay for this is increased promoted tweets in the timeline. I love twitter, ad’s are a small price to pay, but I’m feeling a bit deceived by the good guys at twitter right now.

On May 20′th the twitter blog published the following comment: “The idea of taking money to run traditional banner ads on has always been low on our list of interesting ways to generate revenue. However, facilitating connections between businesses and individuals in meaningful and relevant ways is compelling.”

The explanation given was that promoted tweets would appear at the top of your timeline until they had been read or hidden by the user. This started out as only being tweets from brands you have chosen to follow. There was further coverage that Twitter were not looking to create banner advertising because this would spoil the user experience, and the user experience was most important.

In September, promoted tweets were expanded to reach all users rather than exclusively to those who followed the brand. You see a promoted tweet in your timeline where twitter determines that you may already have an interest in the promotion based on your followers and interactions on twitter. (No doubt there is a complicated algorithm to determine likely interest.) Previously you had the option to dismiss a promoted tweet, although this option has quietly disappeared.

The promoted tweets F.A.Q. answers the question “How often will people see Promoted Tweets in their timeline?” as follows:

“We’re focused on providing a great user experience, first and foremost. As a result, we’re being thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets in users’ timelines.
During this initial rollout, we will be conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.
Any Promoted Tweet people see in their timeline will appear just once, at or near the top of their timeline. Then, the Promoted Tweet will scroll through the timeline like any other Tweet.”

And to the question; “Where in the user timeline will Promoted Tweets appear?”

“Any Promoted Tweet people see in their timeline will appear just once, at or near the top of their timeline. Then, the Promoted Tweet will scroll through the timeline like any other Tweet.
Once a user has seen a Promoted Tweet in their timeline, they will never see that Promoted Tweet again.”

This is all fair enough and not too intrusive, but then came the second coming of Twitter ad’s in September:

The role out of promoted tweets from being exclusively on Twitter.Com,to other app’s like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.
This is where promoted tweets move from being in the timeline to becoming banner ads. 13% of tweets are sent from Tweetdeck. Twitter acquired Tweetdeck.At the time of the acquisition Tweetdeck founder Ian Dodsworth commented:

” By becoming part of the official platform, TweetDeck will now fill that role for brands, influencers, the highly active and anyone that just needs “more power”.”

Tweetdeck is not really about the timeline, although it features. Users create columns around keywords, hashtags, lists or specific groupings. Most of my columns are set to follow either conference/event streams or twitter chats. The columns are populated by a continuous search against the target, and this is where I have a real problem with promoted tweets. Because they are always returned first in a search, they are always top of the stream and I can’t block them.

When I follow an event or a tweetchat I expect the tweet at the top to be the most current. What I get in effect is a banner ad, and that is what Twitter have stated on many occasions they were not looking to create or monetize.
This situation gets even more irritating when you attend a live event featuring a twitter stream. The promoted tweet is back,permanently at the top of the stream with no way of removing it. It’s a big distraction in the stream, and a permanent billboard for the advertiser. As an event promoter, I don’t want a back door to promote companies to the attendees other than the sponsors. I have to consider whether a twitter stream can be displayed at the event, and how does this impact on the event?
I see advertising on Twitter as being different to Facebook Ad’s or Google promoted searches. Facebook ads appear in the right hand column out of my timeline. Google searches are static, I can scroll down quickly and usually do. I want my Tweetdeck columns to be current, free from banner advertising. I don’t blame the advertisers, it could be considered smart marketing, but if other users feel the same way I do, there could be a negative impact on brand perception.
The good people at Twitter have asked for user feedback, and this is mine. The fix is quite easy and would keep users happy. Either don’t allow hashtags as keyword searches, fix promoted tweets so that they don’t appear permanently at the top of the column in tweetdeck, (I have no problem with every 50 tweets or so). You should also make this option available to other third-party apps as well as your own. The other alternative is to reinstate the dismiss button!

Just my thoughts.What do you think?


Twitter Blog: Does Twitter Hate Advertising? - May 2009

Mashable: More Promoted Tweets

Twitter Support: What Are Promoted Tweets?