Social Media: Twitter Tests Search Ads

With all the hullabaloo over Twitter’s big deal promoting ExecTweets, what may prove to be a far more significant revenue stream has been overlooked. The ExecTweets promotion is tied to a spot on Twitter’s main page right below the user counts, which Twitter uses to promote a variety of tools including third-party iPhone app Tweetie. So far only the ExecTweets placement there is paid.  What shows up in that area is completely untethered to activity on the page or by the user,  and seems aimed at the relative newcomer who might not know about stuff like Twitter Search – another tool that gets time in the box.

With our interest in how social media and search intersect, it’s no surprise that Twitter’s rollout of integrated search functionality piques our interest. Not every user has access to Twitter search as an integrated function yet but for those who do there is a brand new “featured user” ad spot that looks very much like a typical search ad:

times twitter

Why hello there, gray lady.

Clicking on the link takes you to the New York Times’ official Twitter stream. For a publisher like the Times this makes a lot of sense. More often publishers are seeing that sites like Twitter and Facebook which include copious link sharing are drive increasing amounts of traffic their way. I’ve seen numerous posts here on SearchViews that have derived as much as half of their traffic from these two sources.

To the Times, sending Twitterers to their branded stream where, hopefully, they become followers, increases the likelihood that these users will continually click posted articles and drive traffic back to the Times website. For a publisher that relies on traffic to generate ad dollars, generating consistent clicks is huge bonus.

As it is, Twitter isn’t tying the ads it shows to the search query – yet. What they do seem to be doing is allowing advertisers to send users to pages within twitter rather than to an outside landing page – a strategy that’s similar to what YouTube does with their search ads (though this isn’t the case with the ads on their main page.) Following through on this strategy is a smart move to keep the ads targeted, relevant to the Twitter community, and lucrative to all parties involved.

Even though the first framed dollar to go up on the walls of the Twittercave will be earned from their main page ad space – in my mind the real money to be made and the real benefit to marketers – will be on the search page. The only hitch to this so far is for users who use third party apps like Tweetdeck and Twitterfall. In all likelihood these ads will be invisible to them – and this is a significant portion of Twitter’s user base. Will Twitter have to modify their open API standards (and would they even be able to) to get the full benefit of the ad space or will enough users be able to see the ads to make them pay off?

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them here or check out Reprise Media folks on Twitter.

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