Twitter Brings Promoted Tweets to User Streams

Twitter’s march toward profitability is bringing advertisements into its users’ timelines for the first time, a tricky step that could test how much intrusion users will accept in their tweet-streams. The company announced today that it is launching a test of promoted tweets with third-party application HootSuite, following up on rollout plans that it laid out previously.

The new test will not target all users and those who do receive promoted tweets will get what Twitter believes are relevant tweets based on several factors, including who they follow. According to AdAge magazine, the first advertisers to use the service include Virgin, Starbucks (s sbux) and Red Bull. HootSuite said pro account holders will have an option to bypass the promoted tweets.

This is all part of Twitter’s larger move toward monetizing the popular communications platform, which now has 175 million users. As Twitter makes what Mathew calls a move from adolescence into adulthood, it’s looking for ways to firm up the business and turn it into a money-making machine — which is a large part of why former chief operating officer Dick Costolo took over for founder Evan Williams as CEO. It’s not clear how much Promoted Tweets will help though: some early reviews by advertisers have been less than encouraging.

[inline-pro-content] Twitter has already begun elevating promoted tweets when people search a topic, and it has a related feature that allows promoted tweets to appear among the latest trending topics. The company has also launched promoted accounts so users see recommendations of sponsors among their suggested people to follow. And earlier it kicked out third-party ads from the Twitter timelines because it knew that this would be a big part of its own business strategy.

This latest move to bring ads into the timeline will make the issue a lot more personal for users, however, who may not take kindly to seeing ads in their Twitter stream. A lot will rest on how relevant the promoted tweets are — which will be determined by the network’s “resonance” algorithms — and how often Twitter injects them into the timeline, as well as how the company reacts to the inevitable backlash. The company is already getting flak for its rules on the word “tweet.” This could be a great test to see if Twitter can handle this transition and keep its cool with users, while advancing its ability to monetize its network.

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