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Twitter's attempts at developing a viable business selling ads are in full swing. Twitter's latest experiment in this area: paid trending topics.

As I write this, Twitter users will find 'Toy Story 3' in the list of Twitter's worldwide trending topics. But unlike the other trending topics, it has a prominent 'Promoted' image next to it.

According to TechCrunch, Twitter has confirmed that Disney/Pixar are paying for the Toy Story 3 trending topic:

As we have always said, we plan to test different advertising and promotional models in these early stages of our monetization efforts for both user and brand value. As part of this effort, we are testing trends clearly marked as “promoted” for an undefined period of time.

Like normal (read: unpaid) trending topics, clicking on the link generates a search result for the term. At the top of the list: a promoted tweet that Disney/Pixar is ostensibly also paying for. Below it: several 'Top Tweets', which appear to be tweets that have been retweeted 100+ times.

On the surface, it looks like Twitter has come up with a fairly clever solution. The Toy Story 3 promoted trending topic is likely to expose far more Twitter users to Disney/Pixar's promoted tweet, which has a link to Disney's disneyticketstogether.com, a Facebook-based ticket sales application.

Of course, Twitter's solution has to be more than just clever; it needs to deliver ROI. And when it comes to ROI, it's not entirely clear that promoted trending topics, used in concert with promoted tweets, will ever be as effective as, say, AdWords when it comes to delivering intent and action. Two clicks are required (first on the trending topic, and then on the link in the promoted tweet). And since disneyticketstogether.com is on Facebook, Facebook members who aren't logged in will have to log in. Non-Facebook members are, of course, out of luck.

Notwithstanding the structure of this campaign specifically, promoted trending topics also pose some risk for advertisers, as they can't entirely control the tweets that appear in the search results. Not only could these tweets be negative, it seems like this may open the door for subversive guerilla marketing campaigns in some markets. Hypothetically, for instance, what would stop Reebok from engaging in a campaign to hijacking the search results for a Nike promoted trending topic?

Since promoted trending topics are an experiment, Twitter obviously has time to figure these sorts of things out. But one thing is clear: Twitter is serious about monetizing, and just about every part of the Twitter service is fair game.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 June, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2390 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Jemma

I agree Patricio - "...promoted trending topics also pose some risk for advertisers, as they can't entirely control the tweets that appear in the search results." I'd be very interested to understand how Twitter hope to get around this without damaging their integrity.

Given the "Promoted" yellow button too marking it out as paid-for, surely this opportunity has limited appeal to all but the biggest brands?

about 6 years ago

Daniel Bryan Hopwood

Daniel Bryan Hopwood, Digital Media Planner/Buyer at MEC Manchester

I'd agree with you Jemma that promoted trending topics do pose a risk to the advertiser - but Twitter itself has always posed a risk to Advertiser. All Twitter has managed to do (if its successful) is now make money from a company putting itself on the line.

I would be intrigued if Twitter would employ any kind of filtering Tech to stop negativity towards to the topic, but I'm sure if they did they'd never let us know the workings.

I'd love to know Twitters cost plan for this aswell? Clicks, Awareness etc

about 6 years ago

Mike Essex

Mike Essex, Marketing & Comms Manager at Petrofac

It is certainly odd to use Twitter to promote a Facebook application. Clearly Facebook is a very dominant platform but to presume a user of one service will use another is baffling, especially as the web evolves and further subsets of applications become available?

How many millions of users would a service need for us to presume it is the majority? Farmville has 70 million 'users' but would Coca Cola run an advert in the press offering a link to a service only on this application?

about 6 years ago

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