So that's how it plans to make some money...
Yesterday Twitter unveiled its plan to launch 'Promoted Tweets' and today the service has gone live.
Essentially 140 character ads, Promoted Tweets will initially show up only in users' searches and must be relevant to the context of the search. For example, a search for 'coffee' may turn up a Starbuck Promoted Tweet about an in-store offer. Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Virgin American and - yep - Starbucks are the biggest name companies to sign up to the scheme so far "with more to come" according to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
"We strongly believe that Promoted Tweets should be useful to you," said Stone on the company's official blog. "We'll attempt to measure whether the Tweets resonate with users and stop showing Promoted Tweets that don't resonate. Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as “promoted" when an advertiser is paying, but in every other respect they will first exist as regular Tweets and will be organically sent to the timelines of those who follow a brand. Promoted Tweets will also retain all the functionality of a regular Tweet including replying, Re-tweeting, and favouring. Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page."
As far as advertising goes, it sounds about as gentle and elegant a first step as possible and is certainly a long way from the fear of many users that advertising would be slung heavily into their Twitter feeds.
The move follows Twitter's announcement last week that it has bought Tweetie, the iPhone's most popular Twitter client, from developer atebits to make an official Twitter app. Initially iPhone only, 'Twitter for iPhone' will eventually be expanded to other platforms and rolled out across desktop OSs. It will also be free.
"People are looking for an app from Twitter, and they're not finding one. So, they get confused and give up ," explained Twitter CEO Evan Williams. "It's important that we optimize for user benefit and create an awesome experience."
The downside is this decision will likely hit other third party Twitter clients hard (I personally prefer EchoFon on the iPhone and the Chrome extension Chrowety on the desktop), but much like the ads it does make sense long term.
Are you a Twitter believer or sceptic? Perhaps the TrustedReviews Twitter feed can convert you, while you'll find rants and ravings from @andyvan (Andy) @trustedchester (Ed) and @gordonkelly (me) to keep you occupied as well.