Social Media: When Will the Auction Come to Twitter?

"How dare you bid on my Earlybird day..."

Twitter has just launched their newest beta advertising program @Earlybird, an official profile designed to tweet exclusive deals and special offers. When talking to Twitter about this in the last few weeks leading up to launch it struck me that this could be where auction-based ad pricing makes it’s way to the Twitter platform.

When I first started working in social media (back in the pioneer days of the “Numma Numma” guy)  the concept of “advertising” in social spaces was looked on with disdain by community managers and savvy marketers. The reasons for this were simple – ad units sucked. There was little connection between awful banners and pop-ups and the actual behavior of users in social spaces – whether it be message boards or MySpace.

Things certainly have changed since then- a combination of smarter, more site-specific ad units coupled with better metrics to measure success are beginning to transform best practices in social media leading to a combination of paid and organic marketing (or earned and paid media in PR speak). If this sounds to you like the search universe of SEM and SEO then you are on the right track.

After all, Facebook is pushing CPC ads targeting users based on Likes and Interests and status updates (essentially a keyword based medium), Twitter’s new Promoted Tweets is a keyword triggered search ad (for now) and the new and improved metrics across the big three platforms of Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are clearly derived from the rich data available from search campaigns. Even more striking is the similarity between Facebook “Like” button targeting and search re-targeting and Twitter’s “Resonance Score” (designed to show the relative effectiveness of a Tweet) and Google Page Rank.

What has been missing in action so far  is a social media equivalent to the search engine auction in which advertisers bid on keywords. With the advent of Earlybird however, this could be changing.

How so?

Earlybird is built on value and scarcity – the value of the deal and the scarcity of knowing that the window of availability is 24 hours (or less if the deal is for something that has limited supply). Right now advertisers reserve their days in advance with Twitter and essentially own that 24 hour window.

So what happens when this model meets high-demand days like Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or Super Bowl Sunday?

Twitter hasn’t addressed this scenario yet, but it’s not a stretch to imagine pricing based on what the market will bear rather than a one-price-fits-all approach. Why not have advertisers bid on these days?

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