Twitter adds Promoted Accounts to search results

Slowing user growth means Twitter has to monetize each user as much as it can

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
February 25, 2014
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(Updated with comment from Twitter)

It's no secret that Twitter relies almost completely on advertising to stay afloat. In its first-ever earnings report as a public company earlier this month, advertising accounted for $220 million of its $243 million revenue.

At the same time, the company has run into a little trouble with slowing user growth, and no matter what CEO Dick Costolo says about turning that around in the long term, in the short term Twitter has to do whatever it can to make as much money from each of its users as possible. That means, ultimately, putting ads and promotions everywhere it possibly can.

So, Twitter will now be showing Promoted Accounts in search results, it was announced on Tuesday. As the name suggests, Promoted Accounts are accounts that businesses pay Twitter to advertise to other users.

Twitter uses an algorithm, which looks at what each user is following, and determines other accounts that those users tend to follow. If a user follows some of those accounts, but not the advertiser’s account, then Twitter may recommend the advertiser’s Promoted Account to that user.

For example, one person might follow a lot of education-related accounts. If Teach For America has a Promoted Account, and that person isn't following @teachforamerica, they will probably have that account recommended to them.

Prior to this news, Promoted Account recommendations only appeared in a user's main timeline. Now users will get the same result if they search for new education accounts to follow. 

Accounts are only charged when people follow them, so putting will be a big win for Twitter if putting them in search results results in a big boom in new followers for these accounts. 

On the flipside of that, the Account managers will as well, because, as a recent Twitter study, showed, people are 72% more likely to make a purchase from a brand that they follow or engage with on Twitter. The owners of the account are allowed to create their own budget, depending on their own goals.

I reached out to Twitter to find out what percentage of its advertising revenue comes from Promoted Accounts as opposed to Promoted Tweets, but all a Twitters spokesperson would tell me, "We don't have that info publicly available, but Promoted Accounts are an important part of our business because it helps businesses and users better connect with each other on the platform."

"Twitter is a platform built around live public conversations that happen as events unfold in the world. One of the best ways for users to discover what’s happening on Twitter is through search, giving users the ability to instantly connect to conversations and topics of interest," Nipoon Malhotra, Product Manager of Revenue, wrote.

"Search also presents a great opportunity for marketers to connect with users, just when they desire information relevant to their search query."

This will also not represent too much change for the average user, since they were already seeing Promoted Tweets in search results anyway.

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