No One's Noticing Twitter's New Ad Experiment, Which Is a Good Thing

The Atlantic
No One's Noticing Twitter's New Ad Experiment, Which Is a Good Thing
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No One's Noticing Twitter's New Ad Experiment, Which Is a Good Thing

Just over two weeks after announcing its intentions, Twitter is starting to drop ads — ahem, "promoted tweets" — into users' timelines. Despite months of hemming and hawing over the danger of polluting the sacred Twitter feed, the few people that have taken notice seem reasonably pleased by the hands-off approach. Faced with mounting concerns about their lack of a revenue model, Twitter really needs their promoted tweet strategy to work and has promised big things. CEO Dick Costolo told TechCrunch back in 2009 when the company was building the strategy, "[Our advertising strategy] will be fascinating, non-traditional, and people will love it." 

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So Twitter is proceeding very very cautiously, and only a very select group of users are actually seeing the promoted tweets showing up in their stream. The in-stream promoted tweets look the same as the promoted tweets that have been showing up in Twitter searches for a while: they look like regular tweets except for a line at the bottom that reads "Promoted by _____" next to a little orange icon. (See the example at the bottom of this post.) One of those users, Ellis Hamburger at Business Insider thinks the approach is awesome:

I realized that Promoted Tweets really aren't that much different from TV commercials—brief interruptions from your content.

Except they're not very annoying. …

Twitter's commercials are different and have a leg up because they will be intermixed with incredibly time-sensitive content. They're also brief, which helps. And a lot of of the time, Promoted Tweets are from celebrities who tweet their thoughts in their own voice.

Of course, there is a small but vocal group of naysayers that's been spending time disagreeing with Twitter's strategy in a comments thread on a help center post explaining how promoted tweets work. "I hate promoted tweets. If I wanted to see ads I'd turn on the tv," said @estrones. "This is driving me nuts!!!!!!!!!! Instead of Twitter it's becoming Crapper!!!" exclaimed @bayourat. But for every few expletive laden complaints, Twitter users defend the new strategy kind of passionately. @samruffles wrote,"I'm just happy that Twitter isn't forcing yearly (or monthly) fees. When is anything ever created without the hopes in earning profit? Stop complaining and continue dismissing the Promoted Tweets, it only takes about one second of your day to do so anyway."

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Twitter purists pushed back so hard against the announcememnt of promoted tweets, that it's a big victory for Twitter that they haven't been met by a user revolt once they went live. Facebook provides us with many examples of what this looks like. Twitter really wants people to love the ads, and even though some people hate them, the fact that Twitter users are defending the strategy so eloquently seems like a good sign. Plus, who could say no to Nas?

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