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Political advertising coming to Twitter

Twitter to launch political ad services: sponsored tweets will be check-marked in purple

Technology trends and news by Ane Howard
September 21, 2011
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/1f50

Putting to rest some doubts that it will never monetize, Twitter is positioning itself for the 2012 elections.

The San Francisco-based company said it's launching a new advertising program specifically targeting politicians, working closely with campaign promoters, in an interview with POLITICO.

A top Twitter executive told a reporter that the company will begin to sell political advertising, just in time for the 2012 national campaign. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are among the early advertisers.

Twitter was not immediately available for comment.

Politics and Twitter

Hints of this new direction were given a while back, when Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey hosted the first-of-its-kind Twitter Town Hall back in July. He had read questions submitted as tweets for President Obama to answer.

Dorsey’s enthusiasm for politics was revealed when he tweeted after the town hall, “How can we make Twitter @TownHall better in the future?”, suggesting more to come. “And not just for the U.S. government, but any government.”

But are politicians ready?

Twitter’s huge impact on political careers and outcomes is undeniable. Since the beginning of the year, the number of members of Congress active on Twitter has doubled.

However, much training in Twitter’s best practices should be required for members of the Congress, as demonstrated by various controversies of the past year. Think: Anthony Weiner. But there was also Pete Hoekstra, the former Michigan congressman who filed real-time reports on Twitter during a 2009 congressional trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then there's Mark Kirk, the Illinois senator and Navy reservist who came under fire in 2009 for tweeting about his duty at the National Military Command Center, disclosing location.

The list goes on: Meghan McCain posted a revealing photo of herself. Sarah Palin marked as a "favorite" a photo posted by Ann Coulter, showing a church sign calling President Obama a "Taliban Muslim."

In spite of all that, Twitter’s president of global revenue, Adam Bain, thinks they are ready.

“We’ve had five years to watch and observe how people are using the platform organically and we know politicians are active on the platform, and we know that consumers enjoy the messages from those politicians,” he said. “We’re excited about the election cycle, and we think that ads both in the timeline and in search are a huge opportunity.”


How will it work?

For one thing, tweeters will have to be vigilant to recognize a free to a paid political post or trend.

Twitter currently offers three paid advertising products to be used by politicians and their team.

Promoted political tweets will appear when users type certain terms and hashtag # and aside for a small logo and disclaimer appear to be a non-paid-for-tweet. 

Promoted trends, which allow an advertiser to be prominently featured on popular lists of “trending topics” such as #election2012 or the candidates they are following.

Promoted accounts, in which the campaign’s account is suggested to Twitter users who appear to have similar interests. Promoted accounts will appear unde the Who to Follow tab on an user’s profile. For instance, if you are openly a democrat or a republican, or ano other parties, your candidate or other person of interest will be suggested.