This week Twitter has started experimenting with targeted advertising tweets. According to early reports, only 10% of users will be impacted by these non-requested messages that will show up in the newsfeed. But if the model takes off, Twitter users around the world could begin to see paid-for messages popping up on their own feeds.
The tweets will be target specific to the types of topics a person tweets about. For instance, if you tweet about your much-needed morning coffee you could see advertising tweets from Starbucks, Folgers or McDonalds. Mention your upcoming movie date-night and you could see unsolicited tweets about films currently in theaters or coming out on DVD.
Some users are furious about this move. Some have threatened to stop tweeting should these ads become common (although I think that is unnecessarily dramatic). But to look at it from the business side... the people at Twitter have to come up with some way to make money off this project; if only just to pay their employees. While the site is estimated to be worth $1 billion, it is still devoid of a built-in income. Users do not pay for the privilege of using the site. There are no banner or sidebar ads to bring in revenue. In 2009, Twitter earned enough to cover its operating costs through a couple strategic deals with companies like Google, but those aren't going to be sufficient forever.
At the same time, users like the ability to pick who they will follow. They can block someone or unfollow at will. They chose whose tweets to read and whose tweets to ignore. So seeing an un-requested tweet in the mix will have some people upset at the invasion.
To me, though... the bigger question is how effective will this paid advertising be over a company's basic Twitter account that is likely to already have thousands of followers?
What do you think? Will paid tweets be obtrusive to your newsfeed? Would you stop tweeting as a result?
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