A promoted tweet as seen in the main feed of the HootSuite App.
A promoted tweet as seen in the main feed of the HootSuite App.

An article that was recently posted on AdvertisingAge announced the expansion of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets into the main-stream. Until now, the feed of tweets found on Twitter.com and in third-party applications has remained wholly untouched by anything but user-to-user tweets.

How Promoted Tweets Is Expanding and Targeting Twitter Users

It used to be that short, 140 character advertisements from a select group of advertisers (Starbucks, Red Bull and Virgin to name a few) only appeared at the top search results on Twitter.com. Now, users will start to see targeted “tweets” appearing in their streams, not only on Twitter.com, but across popular Twitter desktop/mobile applications like HootSuite and TweetDeck.

How This Advances the Digital Advertising Game

Online advertisers are always looking for a way to fight “advertisement blindness.” This has resulted in the implementation of some pretty disruptive tactics: pop-up windows, animations, pre-roll video commercials and the like. With Promoted Tweets, not only will the advertising be placed in the same space as content, but Twitter will be attempting to pass the ads themselves, as content. They will be “tweets” that Twitter thinks you should be reading and “retweeting.”

Much in the style of Facebook’s highly targeted sidebar display advertising, Twitter will be using algorithms to analyze the tweets and “following” lists of users to determine who the Promoted Tweets will be served to.

How Effective Will Promoted Tweets Be?

Promoted Tweets will only be as effective as the targeting mechanism will let them be. If Twitter is able to successfully pick out coffee fanatics from the crowd and serve Starbucks tweets to them, they’ve done their job. People who are big fans of coffee will be more likely to click on an ad about the latest caffeinated deal.

However, if these Promoted Tweets turn into a veritable “carpet bombing” of the Twitterverse, we’ll surely see ad performance suffer. While a person who’s so-so on coffee might still click on a Promoted Tweet from Starbucks, they’re going to be less likely to take action in any way that will bring value to the advertiser (making a purchase or downloading a coupon).

This is all without mentioning the fact that Promoted Tweets will only be as rich and effective as the community in which they exist. Some tech pundits are making noise about Promoted Tweets detracting so much from the whole Twitter experience that the ineffable micro-blogging social network will inadvertently drive away its user base (and therefore its income potential).