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Despite the fact that Twitter has been slowly building up its advertising offerings, and is making money from them, advertising on the popular microblogging service is still far more difficult to come by than, say, Facebook.
That's because Twitter's ad offerings, which include Promoted Tweets and Trends, are fairly unobtrusive.
For users, that's a good thing. Twitter, however, has a dilemma: if its ads are too unobtrusive and many users don't even notice them, they're not going to be effective for advertisers who are shelling out big bucks to advertise on one of the internet's most prominent social media properties.
At the same time, if Twitter makes advertising more intrusive, it risks sparking the ire of users who have become accustomed to a nearly ad-free experience.
Given that Twitter is a business, and investors continue to bet big on its prospects for financial success, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the company is reportedly preparing to take some risk in an effort to bolster its advertising business model.
As detailed by AllThingsDigital's Peter Kafka, "Twitter is pushing a new ad product called “Promoted Tweets To Followers”, set to launch by early August [that] will give marketers a chance to place their message directly front of users that follow particular brands, via ads that will show up in when a user first logs on to Twitter.com."
He further explains:
“Promoted Tweets To Followers” are supposed to help solve that problem in two ways. They allow brands to send messages directly to people who have already said they care about them — that is, Starbucks can target people who are already following Starbucks on Twitter.
And they can ensure that Starbucks’ followers actually see the ad, by inserting them at the top of their timelines.
The good news for Twitter users is that Promoted Tweets to Followers won't stay at the top of their timelines; they'll inch their way down tweet-by-tweet after the initial impression.
The million-dollar question, of course, is how far Twitter can push timeline-based advertising before users object. Here, it may be jeopardizing brands' relationships with their followers.
After all, if following a brand on Twitter effectively opts users into advertising programs that allow those brands to hit their followers with more aggressive messaging, it might discourage some users from following brands.
Brands, of course, should consider this. They should also consider that they already have the ability to 'advertise' to their followers free of charge. Yes, Promoted Tweets to Followers makes it easy to highlight a particular message, but the reality is that more than a few brands have run very successful Twitter campaigns without Twitter's help.
The key: the campaigns had a message that mattered to recipients. As such, they not only responded to it, but in many cases redistributed it to their followers.
At the end of the day, whether brands employ Promoted Tweets for Followers or not, they should remember that having a message that resonates is just as important to action and viral distribution as having a message that's simply seen.