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Twitter readies political ads in time for 2012 election

The company says that the ads will initially come from five political campaigns, including Mitt Romney's presidential bid, according to a report.

Twitter is getting ready to capitalize on the highly anticipated 2012 presidential election with advertisements designed for politicians, the company told Politico in an interview published today, and later confirmed to CNET.

Speaking to Politico, Twitter president of global revenue, Adam Bain, said that starting today, the company will, for the first time, allow politicians and political groups to place ads "in the timeline and in search" to help get their messages out to the social network's users. Bain said that five campaigns have already signed up for the ads, but stopped short of naming them. However, Twitter confirmed to CNET that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is one of the candidates advertising on the service.

"I can confirm that Twitter has begun accepting political advertising, starting today," a Twitter spokesman told CNET in an e-mailed statement. "We've lined up a number of presidential candidates and national party election committees as preliminary advertisers."

Twitter offers three options to advertisers: Promoted Tweets, which show up (with a designation making it clear they're not regular tweets) in the timelines of the advertiser's followers and in search results on a given topic; Promoted Trends, which show up in the "Trends" box in the site's right sidebar; and Promoted Accounts, which are included in the list of accounts Twitter suggests users should follow.

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However, according to Bain, Promoted Tweets could be most important to the political campaigns, since it works with the site's search function.

"People are literally searching for topics and ideas as much as they are for names of campaigns," Bain told Politico.

Although advertising hasn't always been a major component in Twitter's business--research firm eMarketer believes the company only made $45 million in revenue last year, compared to about $2 billion for Facebook--it has the user base to potentially generate serious cash.

A Mitt Romney ad on Twitter.
A Mitt Romney ad on Twitter. Twitter

Earlier this month, Twitter announced that it now has 100 million monthly active users, including 50 million who log in to the service each day. What's more, Twitter.com welcomes 400 million unique visitors to its site each month, which could prove extremely lucrative from an advertising perspective.

Even so, the microblogging service will have a long way to go to catch Facebook. Just yesterday, eMarketer reported that Facebook is expected to generate $4.27 billion in revenue this year.