Twitter's Google play: Self-serve ads for small, mid-sized firms

Twitter is testing a streamlined way for small and medium-sized firms to place ads on the microblogging service.

Is Twitter about to take a page out of Google's playbook?

For months, folks have expected Twitter to make it easier for small and medium-sized companies to advertise by offering a self-serve option for its ad platform. If Twitter was ever going to grow into a gazillion-dollar juggernaut a la Google (and Facebook, for that matter), this was a proverbial no-brainer. But for the longest time, Twitter has played coy about its plans.

When, for example, MediaPost reported in January that Twitter was testing a self-serve ad platform with advertisers and agencies, the company denied anything was imminent. However, it did allow that the product would launch later this year. With just a month left in 2011, it appears the company's finally making good on that promise.

During an onstage interview at Business Insider's Ignition conference on Wednesday, Twitter ad sales chief Adam Bain indeed alluded to the existence of such a test program. (Hat tip to AllThingsD's Peter Kafka for the pointer.)

The company now has about 2,400 advertisers, who are serviced by Twitter's inside and outside sales teams.

Rather than be invoiced, the program lets firms use credit cards to buy directly--and importantly--without needing to talk to a live human being. That will be key in helping the company generate serious volumes of business with small and medium-sized buyers.

In an emailed statement from a public relations representative to AllThingsD, Twitter said that it began testing the self-service advertising last month with a few existing advertisers.

These advertisers can now set up and run their own Promoted Products campaigns and pay via a credit card. This is an important step in continuing to grow Twitter's business. Our Promoted Products can help small and medium-sized businesses build their audience on Twitter and better engage with the people they want to reach. As with all of our advertising efforts, we're starting small, testing carefully and making improvements as we learn what works. We will slowly roll this capability out to more advertisers in the coming weeks and months.

In April, Twitter began offering promoted tweets with a small number of advertisers. That program introduced ads on search results and user feeds.

This item first appeared on CBSNews.com under the headline "Twitter takes small step toward big ad reward."

 

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