Twitter to inject Promoted Tweets into your stream

Ronny Kerr · July 28, 2011 · Short URL:

If you're following a brand that buys a Promoted Tweet, you'll see it near the top of your timeline

The time has come. Apocalypse. (Not really.)

Twitter announced Thursday something many of us had been expecting for awhile: users will now start seeing Promoted Tweets in their timelines. It’s simple. A brand pays Twitter for extra exposure and followers of that brand will see the Promoted Tweet at or near the top of their timelines.

The new feature is being cast by Twitter as a way for users to be assured that they never miss the most important tweets, like special offers, deals or news from organizations they follow.

According to a company blog post:

We all come to Twitter to connect with the latest information on the topics and people we care about. So when we decide to follow a favorite brand, business or charitable organization, we expect to be among the first to get a special announcement, access to exclusive content or a great offer.

While some users may indeed enjoy the new feature, it’s clear that this is less about improving product and more about monetizing the platform. All of Twitter’s former Promoted Products allowed brands and businesses to pay for special visibility, either in search results, trending topics or “Who to follow” suggestions in the sidebar.

With today’s new feature, however, those same brands can finally pay for extra visibility in users’ timelines, probably the most valuable space on Twitter. Thankfully, Twitter isn’t just injecting tweets in just any stream: you must be following the company to see their promoted tweet.

Twitter says the new feature will roll out over the next several weeks with a select group of partners, including the following:

Best Western
Microsoft Xbox
Red Bull
Summit Entertainment’s “50/50”
Virgin America

charity: water
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Room to Read
The American Red Cross

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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.