Paid Twitter Ads, Spice, and Real Time Search

He who controls the spice, controls the universe!                                                                                           –Baron Vladamir Harkonen, Dune

In the classic science fiction novel, Dune by Frank Herbert there is one substance more valuable than anything else. (please forgive the nerdiness of the analogy) The spice on the planet Arrakis, which prolongs life and makes space travel possible.  Is there anything on Earth as valuable?  The only thing that comes close is INFORMATION- and time and time again over the last year Twitter has proven to be the best source of real time information.  Whether it is breaking news of Micheal Jackson’s death, an earthquake in Haiti, or gossip about Justin Bieber- Twitter is scooping all of the major news stations in real time.  This is an impressive feat by Twitter, but how does controlling all of this information make money?

After years and years of not making a single dollar, Twitter announced last week that they were in fact interested in cash.  This entrepreneurial endeavor is taking the form of paid ads- of which there are two types.  First, paid ads that will be shown on the top of the organic results through searches (like those that can be seen on http:// and second, embedded within conversations.  Think about this second one as an interruption of your Twitter conversations with an advertisement.  All of these paid tweets will be marked clearly as ADVERTISEMENTS.

Advertising tweets will have far less credibility and will be much more likely to be ignored, and here’s why.  Any company can currently use any number of free apps to search conversations and reply to them in real time (join the conversation) without having their tweet marked ADVERTISEMENT.  This could even be automated by the companies, for free, with the right applications.

One thing that people on Twitter hate is SPAM.  Ads for teeth whitening, FOREX automation, get rich quick schemes, and the new Donald Trump MLM (which apparently will create a larger GDP than the People’s Republic of China).  These advertisements are not only annoying, but they lose all credibility in the minds of readers because they are so obviously SPAM.  Why will these automated Twitter advertisements have any more credibility?  They won’t.

In addition, why does Twitter have to mark them as advertisements?  As long as the the tweets are being created in a way that follows the terms and conditions of Twitter (which Twitter could adjust in any way they like), they shouldn’t have to be marked that way.  The fact that they are advertisements will be obvious to anybody that clicks on the profile of the individual or company sending the message.

I’m really not bugged by the Twitter advertisements at all.  In fact I don’t even notice them. That is exactly the problem, if we never see them, and nobody ever clicks on them, how is this business model going to sustain a company that believes itself to be worth $1 Billion?  Paid ads won’t begin to get them there.

As Google has proven already to those who doubted them, he who controls the information, controls the world.  Remember when Google had their IPO?  Everybody said, how can a company go public, if all they do is offer free searches?  It is all about the value of the right information- and how that information is organized.  Twitter controls a massive amount of real time information, superior in many ways to the info that Google handles- there have got to be some powerful ways to monetize that.  Time for Twitter to be a little more ambitious.  If they want to take over the world- it will take more than just a few Twitter ads to do it.


13 Responses to “Paid Twitter Ads, Spice, and Real Time Search”

  1. @mckra1g says:

    Information is so valuable that the US security strategy via NORAD is called “full spectrum dominance.” Information is what drives behavior. It’s people math (although I would posit that people constitute a PITA variable most days).

    As to the viability of paid advertisements on twitter, I agree with you, Adrian: I don’t see them. Besides, the true power, the fulcrum upon which WOM rests via any social media channel is the power of referral. If you, as an individual tweep, respond to my request for information (ie. “I’m wondering: Droid, BB or iPhone? What do you think?”), your individual T2T connection is more powerful than any sponsored tweet.

    1. I’ve sought it.
    2. I’m weighing it against your credibility.
    3. You’ve solved a problem for me.

    Twitter’s power is its volunteered, searchable, never-ending, real-time data. I’m sure that TPTB can figure out a way to package and monetize the bytes that stream through twitter without compromising the service.

    • Absolutely, it seems like what Twitter has done is take the most annoying part of Twitter- and tried to charge for it.

      You are absolutely right about how credibility is weighed. ADVERTISEMENT automatically puts a flag on information “Not to be trusted”

  2. Well, I would agree except for one thing – sometimes I like ads. I like being told a special is happening right now…and if I click I can participate. I like the idea of it happening in a twitter stream. As you say, we can ignore the ones we don’t want. I happen to have won a $100 gift card to a store I adore, via Twitter and while it wasn’t a “true” ad, as you’re talking here, it was an ad. Marking the tweets with “advertisement” is just a legal thing and all the people who sue without cause are the reason we have to do that.

    A year ago I spoke to a marketing class at the University of Rochester and I asked them (they were primarily girls, btw) what they thought of advertising on Facebook. I was prepared for a lot of negativity – what I got was, “If it’s relevant to me, I’m all for it.” There you have it – IF companies are following the right peeps, their twitter ads will be welcomed. If they are not, those ads will be ignored.

    Remember – just because YOU or I don’t like something or want it, doesn’t mean the whole world feels that way. Just saying…

    • That is a great point, but like you said- the ads you enjoyed in the past were relevant- and came through normal channels. How is Twitter adding value by doing the same thing and tagging them “advertisements”

  3. @mckra1g says:

    >Remember – just because YOU or I don’t like something or want it, doesn’t mean the whole world feels that way. Just saying…

    Absolutely. My point is that a “tacked on” interruption-style of paid content is overlaying a traditional broadcast media matrix over an entirely new model of media.

    If I follow a blogger and (s)he puts into their stream a link to a product they’ve reviewed, or a special they’re offering, then yeah, I’m in.

    1. It’s relevant
    2. The blogger has disclosed his/her relationship to the tweet
    3. the company has solved a problem for a client/customer

    Unsolicited sponsored tweets is, IMO, a less efficient way of monetizing twitter as a platform.

  4. Vidocq says:

    Good post, Adrian.

    As much as I get tired of these DMs promising white teeth (note that none are ever for dentures) I skip and delete without giving it one thought. However, there are companies that actively join the conversation, tweet about specials or reduced airfares (twares from a variety or airliners are available on twitter), and some encourage customers to evaluate their products on their company’s blog.

    What I’d like to know is what stops a company from assigning an employee to their Twitter account. Is it costs? Is advertising so much cheaper and effective? Or do the initially higher costs pay off later when the company gains a following from interactive customers who also have a Twitter account?

    Just wondering, remember, this is not my area! Thanks, Adrian!

    • Vidocq,

      Thanks for the comment. Does it make sense from a cost perspective to have a Twitter employee? I guess it depends on the product being sold. For high ticket items perhaps it is. I know that AT&T has a huge staff of Twitter monitors and they get a ton of value from it.

      But I guess my point is, if you want to have automated tweets, you have always been able to do that- without Twitter charging anything. You just need to use or create the right application.

  5. Sim, em termos concordo com você.
    Não somente os anunciantes do twitter usufruem dos merchandisings, mas os usuários de sites de relacionamentos como ORKUT que é muito usado na América Latina e América do Sul,
    E Facebook também utilizam estas páginas para anunciar.
    Acho bacana a publicidade, pois valoriza o que a de bom no mercado.
    E impulsiona grandes empresas inovar, transformar faz que o produto tenha uma qualidade melhor no ponto de vista do consumidor e também ajuda os empresários a ter espírito competitivo.
    Aliás, são eles que pagam mais 30% da renda de um veículo de comunicação.
    Embora exagerem em seus comerciais.
    Agora o que o twitter pretende fazer eu nãos sei o certo, mas seria viável neste momento?
    Há tantos meios de anunciar sem pagar pelo espaço!

    Yes, in terms agree with you.
    Not only do advertisers benefit from merchandising twitter, but users of networking sites like Orkut that is widely used in Latin America and South America,
    And Facebook also use these pages to advertise.
    I think cool advertising, because that values the good in the market.
    And boosts large companies innovate, transform it as the product has better quality on the viewpoint of the consumer and also help the entrepreneurs to have a competitive spirit.
    Moreover, they are paying 30% more income than a vehicle of communication.
    Although exaggerate in their commercials.
    Now what twitter want to make sure I know what nots, but it would be feasible at the moment?
    There are many ways to advertise without paying for the space!

    • You may have missed the news last week, but Twitter is now offering paid advertisements- so that is what I was commenting on.

      I agree with you though, there are many ways to advertise (that are much more credible) than paid ads.

  6. Always love your posts, but pulling out the Dune reference rocks!

  7. Tim,

    thanks- I have been searching for an excuse to quote Dune for a LONG time.

  8. Tom Larsen says:

    I think this will turn off the “casual” twitter user and may cost them some credibility. Twitter has always been about the people, the followers and the tweets, now that will be interrupted. Not a good idea.

    Tom Larsen


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