At last: Twitter has a plan for making money

Twitter finally has a plan to turn tweets into cash - as others try to grab a slice of their action.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Better late than never: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has finally unveiled a plan to generate some revenue from advertising. Companies will ‘buy’ particular words (as per Google’s AdWords system), as a result of which their ‘Promoted Tweets’ will appear at the top of the results page when a user searches for that word. It’s a bit of a U-turn from Stone, who last year said that he wasn’t interested in advertising on the site. But in truth be told, Twitter probably doesn’t have much choice if it ever wants to make some cash. And if they don’t do it, someone else will…

Twitter has certainly enjoyed phenomenal growth: according to comScore, it had more than 22m unique visitors in March this year, up from 524,000 a year ago - and that doesn’t even take into account the millions more who use the service through third-party apps like TweetDeck or Twitterrific. But like many other social networks, Twitter has struggled to turn eyeballs into cold hard cash – hence the new plan for ‘Promoted Tweets’. And this may just be the beginning: future plans apparently include promotional tweets that will appear in users’ Twitter streams, based on how relevant they are deemed to be.

Rumours have been circulating about Twitter’s plans for ages, but this still marks an about-turn in its stated strategy. Last May, Stone told a conference: ‘There are a few reasons why we’re not pursuing advertising; one is, it’s just not quite as interesting to us.’ However, he insists this is different. Apparently these Promoted Tweets won’t be traditional ads; instead they must be ‘part of a conversation’ and ‘resonate with users’. We’re not totally sure what this means, but the idea seems to be that unless people re-tweet them, they’ll get pulled. After all, the risk Twitter is running that the ads will start putting people off the site - which would rather defeat the purpose.

Still, Twitter’s unlikely to be short of demand from advertisers; apparently it has already signed up companies like Best Buy, Virgin America and Starbucks to plug their products (although they don’t seem to have started doing it yet, as far as we can tell). And external companies are eager to muscle in on this potentially juicy market: this week Bill Gross, the internet entrepreneur who basically invented online search advertising (he founded the company whose technology now underpins Google’s hugely successful system) has just launched a company called TweetUp, which is planning to auction off the privilege of appearing in Twitter’s search rankings. The land grab starts here…

In today's bulletin:

How the politicians are skewing the property market
Debenhams cashes in - and Easter boosts high street sales
At last: Twitter has a plan for making money
Ryanair tries to confiscate journo's flat over 'bet'
The Parent Project: Who am I?

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