Will Twitter ads tweak tweeters?

Now that Twitter has begun display ads in users' search results, the big question is how will Twitter fans will respond.

Now that Twitter has begun to display ads--pardon me, Promoted Tweets--in users' search results, the big question is how millions of loyal Twitter fans will respond. Reaction on the micro-blogging site has been muted thus far--more questions than commentary, actually--and it's apparent that most users haven't seen the new ads yet.

According to a blog post by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, the ad program will be rolled out gradually, with Promoted Tweets (such as the Starbucks example below) appearing atop some Twitter.com search result pages.

Of course, the very idea of product-pitching tweets won't sit well with a good number of Twitter users, who've grown accustomed to the ad-free (and unprofitable) service.

First, the Jeers

Vladimir Garza, who tweets as "vladgarza," griped: "I can't believe Twitter is introducing ads in feeds based on their relevance to users. Unemployed? Alcoholic? Eating a sandwich? CLICK HERE"

And "okSteph" in San Francisco wrote: "I am very annoyed @Twitter will now have ads. Way to sell out."

The new ad model shouldn't come as a surprise. Twitter officials may have taken their sweet time in devising a revenue-generating model--the company is four years old, after all--but they've always made it clear that one was in the works.

"Over the years, we've resisted introducing a traditional Web advertising model because we wanted to optimize for value before profit," writes Stone in his Tuesday blog post.

And the Cheers

Most tweeters, however, have either been inquisitive--as in "what does this all mean?"--or even supportive of the new ad model. Chimnoy Mandal ("Chinmoy") wrote: "I am ok with occasional ads in my stream. Go for it Twitter!!!"

And C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman) of Boston tweeted: "This talk of people leaving Twitter because of ads makes me laugh. Ads are part of our lives. We adapt and ignore unless they add something."

Twitter plans to measure which Promoted Tweets "resonate" with its users, who'll be able to re-tweet and reply to the sponsored ads. It will also stop showing paid tweets that users ignore. Advertisers will have to work hard to engage their audience, a factor that may force companies to get more creative in their tweets. (Or maybe they'll just offer free stuff, like a cup of Starbucks coffee, to users who follow them.)

Will Promoted Tweets make Twitter profitable? And will users click the paid tweets? We'll soon find out.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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