Surprise! Twitter Users Don't Hate the New Ad Plan

Twitter and Twitter users
Twitter and Twitter users

In the four years since it launched, Twitter has built up a lot of goodwill with its fans by proceeding ever so cautiously toward monetization. It has played nice with outside developers and generally done whatever was required to safeguard the purity of its user experience. That goodwill is paying dividends now that the short-form blogging and social networking platform has finally revealed a plan to make money through the sale of advertising.

Called Promoted Tweets, the new plan allows marketers to buy placement on search pages for their posts, which must originate as ordinary messages (ie. tweets) from their own Twitter accounts. In a very Web 2.0 twist, only the messages that "resonate" with users -- meaning they get clicked on, replied to or retweeted -- will persist; others will disappear.

That's phase one. In phase two, which is some ways off, Promoted Tweets will show up in users' own streams, even if the users don't "follow" the sponsor (ie. subscribe to his Twitter feed).

A Quick and Dirty Survey Shows...

That sort of unsolicited interaction is exactly the kind of thing whose absence has, until now, made Twitter such a popular alternative to Facebook. When the latter tried to exploit its users' deep engagement and wealth of personal information with a "relevant" ad program called Beacon, the result was open rebellion and a hasty climbdown.

Remarkably though, Twitter users are reserving judgment, judging from a quick-and-dirty survey of what they're tweeting. I searched "Promoted Tweets" and perused the results. Although totally unscientific, my conclusion agrees with that of Sysomos MAP, an analytical tool that studies social media feedback. It reports that the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive or neutral. Only 6% of responses have been markedly negative.

Many Twitter devotees, in fact, seem happy that the company is throwing itself a lifeline, and they seem convinced that it won't do anything overly invasive. "I like that Twitter only plans on using Promoted Tweets that are effective & add to the convo," writes one user. "Anything else defeats the purpose of Twitter."

"Sounds like an ideal system to me," tweets another user (who, however, doesn't seem to realize that Promoted Tweets will eventually turn up in his own stream and not just in search results).

Even the skeptics seem to regard the new program as a necessary evil, one that's inevitable if Twitter is going to hang around. Writes editor Danny Sullivan: "This is kind of the day the pure stream died, huh?"

Originally published