Well, that sure took long enough -- Twitter finally has an ad model.
Fellow Social Media Insiders, you must have heard about it by now; if not, I must rechristen you a Social Media Outsider. But, to reiterate, yesterday morning, as the sun rose in the east, Twitter announced that its ad platform would be something called "Promoted Tweets." That collective sigh you heard was from everyone else in social media, who finally had something big to get their head around in terms of Twitter and monetization. Now we can finally get on with our lives.
But for all of its Google-like components, including the fact that, at first, the Promoted Tweets will show up only in search results, the thing that got me most excited were the Promoted Tweets that might go "Poof!" Yes, it's true. If no one cares enough about a paid tweet (which will be measured using what Twitter execs are calling resonance, using things like retweets, bit.ly and so forth), then it simply disappears as though it never existed at all.
And here you thought writing ads that no one clicks on for AdWords was the ultimate in nihilistic careers.
While taking such a concept to the broader industry leads me to endless fantasizing about those Cisco ads featuring Ellen Page self-destructing in mid-tagline, let's talk about what Promoted Tweets mean for advertising.
Although Twitter's initial plan for Promoted Tweets is Google-like, as these ads eventually get rolled out within the tweetstream, they present a new spin on the old problem of putting the right message in a context that will get it noticed by consumers.
That you might be interested in an ad that appears with a search term has been understood since about two minutes after Google first launched its ad program. But now we're talking about something different: asking ads to resonate in a context where people aren't looking for advertising, even, much of the time, from advertisers that they actually follow on Twitter. While all advertising has given lip-service to the idea that ads have to resonate, there's never been a threat ads would entirely disappear automatically because of their ineffectiveness. Traditionally, the marketing director waited for the results of a campaign to roll in before shifting gears if things didn't work out; it was up to him to push the "Poof!" button. In Promoted Tweets, it's the users, aided and abetted by Twitter's resonance-o-meter, who, effectively, destroy the ad.
This leads me to believe that the uses for Twitter ads will come to be fairly narrow. Ask yourself: What kinds of tweets from advertisers would be the kinds you would pass on to others? Big sales? Yes. Couponing? Yes. Geo-location ads? Yes, if they have a promotional context. Corporate philanthropy? Possibly.
But, ads that are attempting to be viral? Limited, unless it's a controversial ad like Nike's for Tiger Woods --. those are the kinds of things we are more likely to pass on if they're from friends. Tag lines? Never. Tweets that tell me about a new product or service? Only in limited cases. New flavors of toothpaste don't exactly incite me to much of anything.
Therefore, I think that Twitter, as the name Promoted Tweets implies, is going to become a huge promotional platform for advertisers, and by promotional, I mean offers, mostly in real time. No run-of-the-mill ad messages need apply.
That sounds like the Twitter experience will come to resemble an overcrowded bazaar with advertisers relentlessly hawking their wares. But I doubt that; the company is promising to limit Promotional Tweets to one per page. Rather, I think the game is significantly altered for advertisers who now have to fear the specter of their ads simply going "Poof!"