Like it or not, advertisements are coming to Twitter, and they’re coming soon.
“Twitter will have an advertising business, ready in the near future, and available to partners.” ~ Dick Costolo, Twitter COO.
The company has to make money. Nobody knows how or even where Twitter is going to implement this business model – Robert Scoble speculates it might come in the form of a supertweet – but this was always something of an inevitability. It’s also a bit of a no-brainer – Twitter is becoming so huge, ignoring this opportunity would be more than a little foolish.
But here’s the thing: they have to get it right. This is art as much as it is science or technical wizardry, trying to balance an online advertising model that is effective inasmuch as people see and click on the ads, but not at the expense of millions of others who categorise it as little more than spam. (And Twitter already has some pretty major issues there.)
Google is the benchmark for this, and Facebook has modelled their own advertising system after the Mountain View giant. But both of these have the luxury of the full screen to play with (they’re not limited to 140 characters), and the knowledge that their visitors are coming directly to them, and not viewing a version of their site through any number of external software clients. Whatever ads Twitter supports need to also go out to Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck, Tweetie, HootSuite et al, otherwise around three-quarters of the user-base will be completely untapped.
And what about disclosure? Does an ad have to clearly be labelled as such? And if so, what does that mean for the tens of thousands of Twitter accounts now that do nothing but link to affiliate schemes and ‘power systems’? Aren’t they ads, too? Or do only official Twitter ads count?
It will also be interesting to see if Twitter allows its users to participate in the revenue stream, like with Google’s Adsense program. After all – if they’re going to be making money off my tweets, shouldn’t I be entitled to a little of that myself? If not, then don’t be surprised to see a Firefox-style AdBlock bolt-on being made available to Twitter users shortly after ads are turned on.
Right, on to the poll. Let’s assume ads are a given – that sooner rather than later, we’ll start to see ads show up somewhere when we use Twitter. I want to hear how you feel about that. Please complete the poll below, and hit the comments to flesh out your thoughts.