Watching the live stream from the Twitter Developers Conference of the unveiling of a long-awaited Twitter revenue generating idea, I had several reactions to the, tah-dah, “Promoted Tweet,” a tweet that an advertiser pays to appear if a user searches Twitter for a term related to their product. (Later: I guess I missed something in the presentation today as re-reading John Battelle’s earlier post on promoted tweets says, at some point in the future, they’ll also show up in a user’s tweet stream.)
First, I was perplexed why people who feel comfortable calling something a “promoted tweet” would feel the need to make up meaningless gibberish like “interest graph” and “resonance score” to describe the rather simple concept that what people will see when they use Twitter’s search feature is one paid-tweet about “something they should find interesting and helpful.” (And later, in their tweet stream, they’ll seem some paid tweets about something relevant to an interest they’ve displayed.)
At least two spots in the presentation, Twitter COO Dick Costolo admitted, “We don’t know exactly what resonance means yet.” Thanks for letting us know, Dick. We didn’t notice that before you told us.
Another thing I found perplexing, even insulting, was the claim by Costolo that a promoted tweet is not advertising because it is posted just like a regular tweet. Again, why the doublespeak? Twitter is charging marketers a fee to place messages on a search results page and in tweet streams “where they resonate.” Why does Twitter want to say that’s not an ad?
Okay, that was a rhetorical question. I get what they want to say: This isn’t a traditional form of advertising like a banner ad or a :30 second Superbowl commercial. But that doesn’t make it not an ad. Unless you explain that it’s not an ad in the same way the coke cups on the table of American Idol judges are not an ad. Or, it’s not an ad like advertorials that appear in magazines are not an ad. Or, it’s like those “underwriting messages” you hear on NPR that promote a product or service are not an ad.*
But to be honest, promoted tweets are about the least kind of intrusive ad I can imagine. Indeed, they seem so non-intrusive and so non-controversial they beg the question, why did it take so long to come up with this?
*Here’s my 2¢ worth of a suggestion to Twitter for another kind of promoted tweet that I actually wouldn’t consider to be an ad: I believe when I choose to follow a company, the tweets they post are not advertising. I also wouldn’t consider it advertising if Twitter charged such companies a fee to “time-shift” their tweets so they would appear in my tweet stream, even if the tweet was originally posted while I was off line.
Later: If I can’t block an advertiser whose paid tweet shows up in my stream, I will consider Promoted Tweets to be intrusive and, indeed, nothing more than spam.