Twitter roundup: new CEO, Promoted Accounts

Ronny Kerr · October 5, 2010 · Short URL:

Google TV, new CEO Dick Costolo, and launch of Promoted Accounts make a busy Twitter Monday

TwitterTwitter on Monday morning made three big announcements, each worthy of recognition in its own right: Google TV integration, the launch of Promoted Accounts, and former COO Dick Costolo’s replacing Evan Williams as CEO of the company.


Dick Costolo, who was still Twitter’s COO when he shared some important lessons with entrepreneurs at last week’s Vator Splash, has taken over co-founder Evan Williams’ position as CEO of the ever-growing microblogging startup. Williams will shift his focus to product strategy.

It’s no coincidence the switch is happening now. Over the past couple weeks, the San Francisco startup has been rolling out a completely new design of the site, dubbed “New Twitter,” which moves the main stream towards the left border, making room for extra content on the right sidebar. (So much thought went into the redesign that Twitter even incorporated the golden ratio.)

As the new design resonates positively with users, Twitter sees itself entering a new stage of life, where it must prove to users that it can provide stability and to investors that it can generate revenue.

“New Twitter was definitely a trigger for this,” said Williams in an interview. “Conveniently, I took over the CEO role just about two years ago — and brought Dick in just about a year ago. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a product guy, and New Twitter seems to work out well."

Costolo“New Twitter was a moment of clarity for all of us here,” added Costolo. “[With this change] Ev can once again focus on product.“

As Williams acknowledges, he just accepted the top position at Twitter two years ago, taking over for the site’s creator, Jack Dorsey, who now serves as chairman of the board. While so many executive disruptions in such a short time could be the sign of a company stuck in a rut, Twitter’s rocketing rise to the Web’s main stage might be good reason for the frequent changes.

Significantly, Dorsey, Williams, and Costolo have all retained top-level positions at the company.

“You couldn’t ask to take a job like this at a better time,” said Costolo, “the team is incredible, we have awesome stuff in the pipeline, and we’re ready to accomplish more in the next two years than we’ve accomplished in the last four.”

Promoted Accounts

Probably Twitter’s most ambitious plan for the next couple years is to secure a money-making plan, of which the just-launched Promoted Accounts, one in a series of Promoted Products, could play a major part.

As with Promoted Tweets, which highlight brand-sponsored tweets in search results, and Promoted Trends, which highlight brand-sponsored trends in the sidebar, Promoted Accounts will highlight brand-sponsored accounts in the “Suggestion for You” list of recommendations.

@xbox“For example,” explains Carolyn Penner of Twitter communications, “a lot of people who follow several gaming-related accounts also follow @xbox. If someone follows gaming-related accounts, but not @xbox, Twitter may recommend @xbox to that person.”

The company, though eager to display advertising to users, has smartly remained sensitive to those wary of irrelevant advertising. Users will only see suggestions to follow a brand if that brand already falls in their interests, based on other users they follow.

Even Twitter has noted that finding a solid stream of revenue on the microblogging platform will be a continuous process of experimentation and iteration.

Twitter just discontinued Earlybird Offers, a stream of sponsored advertising, as a possible source of revenue because it failed to make a big impact with the site’s worldwide users. Many deals offered only applied to United States users, ignoring a large fraction of the site’s worldwide following.

Nevertheless, the startup seems to be experiencing success with its Promoted Products, which have attracted over 40 advertisers, 80% of whom have made repeat purchases.

Google TV

Finally, Twitter on Monday announced the launch of Twitter for Google TV, a Web-integrated platform for set-top boxes and HDTVs.

As expected, users can do almost anything they can do on, retweeting, messaging, searching, and more.

“This is just the beginning of what could be possible at the intersection of Twitter and television,” writes Penner on the Twitter Blog. “We’re excited to see what’s next.”

And that’s how one of San Francisco’s most important startups kicks off an ordinary week in October.

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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, 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, 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 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.


Dick Costolo

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