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Promoted Tweets in the Timeline: A User’s Perspective

The blogosphere has been abuzz with debate over the recent expansion of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets and Trends into users’ timelines. Is it a slick marketing move? Too intrusive? Ineffective? The jury’s still out on whether this form of advertising will bring in the revenue that Twitter is looking for, but from a user’s perspective, these tweets aren’t all that bad, as far as advertising goes. Here’s why.

Promoted Tweets are Targeted

Both Twitter and HootSuite, the third-party application that is first to display Promoted Tweets in timelines, say that only relevant tweets will be displayed to users. Announced earlier this month in the Twitter Blog, Promoted Tweets are only supposed to show up in a user’s timeline if they are relevant to the user:

“As with Promoted Tweets in search, we will display Promoted Tweets in the timeline when they are relevant. Similar to our Promoted Account recommendations, we use several signals to determine a Promoted Tweet’s relevance to a user, including the public list of whom they follow.”

This is good news for many, as it means a more targeted approach to advertising. A 55 year old woman following only journalists and newscasters won’t get a Promoted Tweet about a fire sale on Jimmy Choo stilettos, if all goes well.

Promoted Tweets are Clearly Marked

Just like the earlier Promoted Tweets in search results, Promoted Tweets in the timeline are clearly marked. Take a look at the image below – it’s pretty obvious which tweet is promoted and which ones appear in the timeline organically:

The TeamCoco Promoted Tweet has a yellow bar underneath it with “Promoted by…” inside, clearly indicating that the tweet is an advertisement.

This is refreshing for users, as it is easy to skip over the Promoted Tweets while scanning for interesting items in your timeline. And because they stand out, Promoted Tweets are not likely to be confused with the regular timeline.

Promoted Tweets are Integrated

While the point above emphasizes the fact that Promoted Tweets are clearly marked, it is also worth pointing out that they’re organic in their own way – they are part of the timeline of the user sponsoring the tweet (TeamCoco in the example above).

TeamCoco had posted that tweet to Twitter, so all of the regular followers would have seen it. By promoting it, they effectively reach a wider audience. However, what they are not doing is writing promotional copy to get users to click on a link or follow their account. This would quickly alienate their current followers, and would likely turn off anyone considering following them in the future.

By using regular Tweets and transforming them into Promoted Tweets, advertisers must conform to the etiquette of Twitter or else be shunned. This is a great boon for users, who won’t have to face sales-y copy or pushy advertising in the majority of their Promoted Tweets.

Promoted Tweets are Not Intrusive

Tied to the idea that Promoted Tweets are part of the organic Twitter universe in tone is also the fact that they are in-line with other Tweets in style.

Promoted Tweets aren’t bright red, they don’t flash, and they’re not over-sized. They look just like any other Tweet in the timeline, except for that yellow label underneath. There is enough of a design difference so that users can tell they’re promoted, but not so much that they stand out like a sore thumb.

Have you seen Promoted Tweets in your HootSuit timeline yet? What do you think about their content, design, and placement?

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