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Businesses pay for "Who to Follow" privilege, as Promoted Accounts joins Promoted Tweets and Trends
A noisy microblogging site might not immediately seem like an advertiser’s best bet for reaching a large, relevant audience, but then, Silicon Valley is known for innovation.
That’s why Twitter is in the midst of testing a plethora of adverting ideas, including Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, and, now, Promoted Accounts.
The new advertising strategy, which COO Dick Costolo told a New York audience on Tuesday would be launching “very shortly,” will enable businesses to pay to be included in the “Who to Follow” sidebar. [Costolo will be speaking at Vator Splash on Thursday evening in San Francisco.]
Analogous to how Promoted Tweets, which appear in searches based on a specific query, and Promoted Trends, which appear in searches for trends, Promoted Accounts won’t recommend just any company to any random user. Instead, one can expect Twitter to pair brands with the users who, based on the “Who to Follow” algorithm, would be most likely to actually follow said brands.
“It’s still an experiment to figure out exactly how it works and we’re working with [advertisers] closely to make it work well,” said CEO Evan Williams in an interview. “But I think, from what people are telling us, they know that they need to be on Twitter because Twitter is where people are talking about what’s happening in the world.”
Twitter claims that advertising on the site has already proven several times more effective than standard display ads. Engagement with the site’s Promoted products (including clicks, replies, and retweets) currently averages around 5%, according to Costolo. With just over forty advertisers participating in Twitter’s advertising program at the moment, the services are still very much in the testing stages.
By 2011, however, Twitter hopes to have a couple hundred advertisers on board.
As we noted in a story yesterday concerning the site’s recent experiments in advertising, Twitter still has to prove to marketers that they’re paying for something that will actually be seen by a considerable number of engaged users, especially when Promoted Tweets are selling upwards of $100,000. At the same time, the site must strike a balance: if users start seeing the site they love flooded with irrelevant and insubstantial blocks of advertising noise, Twitter could lose its appeal.
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
Where did the idea for Twitter come from?
Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.
How is Twitter built?
Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
How do you make money from Twitter?
There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.
In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet.
At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.
Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.
What's next for Twitter?
We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users.
We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.