Twitter is set to finally introduce adverts in a bid to recoup its massive investment. What could be a drastic change to the wildly successful micro-blogging service, however, is being touted by the company as unobtrusive and a natural evolution.
These ads are called 'promoted tweets', founder Biz Stone explained in a blog post, and they won't work like traditional on-site banner ads. Instead, a company partnered with Twitter will be able to tweet a promotional message and have that tweet appear whenever users enter a relevant search term. If you do a search for 'Starbucks' on Twitter, for example, you might see a promoted tweet pointing to a new coffee deal.
These tweets will appear above all your other search results in a slightly smaller font and will be signposted as 'promoted' so you know it's been paid for. Those details aside, promoted tweets will have all the functionality of normal tweets, including favouriting, replying and retweeting.
How annoying will this be?
The good news is that promoted tweets will only be appearing in searches, not in your friend-feed (unless you're following a brand that's tweeting promotional messages), so your day-to-day tweeting activities are unlikely to be affected.
The other bit of good news is that Twitter has said that if a promoted tweet isn't 'resonating' -- that is, people aren't interacting with it using replies and retweets -- it'll be taken down. This procedure should help to keep particularly boorish or uncreative promotional material away from your discerning eyes.
Are you sure? That doesn't sound annoying enough for advertisers
Although promoted tweets will only be appearing on the search section of Twitter -- at least to begin with -- interaction with these tweets will be heavily encouraged, particularly in the form of competitions. 'First 50 retweets will win a free caramel macchiato' would be an especially delicious example.
This means while large corporations won't be able to ruin your Twitter feed with promotional messages, your trusted friends will have this power, because every time they retweet a promoted message, it'll pop up in your feed. This could potentially lead to frustration, eye-gouging and more worryingly, unfollowing.
Stone hinted in his blog post that this is only the first step. Twitter recently acquired Tweetie, a popular third-party Twitter client, and with the iPhone's offering increased support for in-app advertising, it's possible that Twitter's shiny new advertising empire is about to go mobile.
What do you think? Will advertising on Twitter put you off using the service? Do you think promoted tweets are enough to keep Twitter afloat, or will the micro-blogging juggernaut need to take more drastic steps to stay solvent?