Twitter April 13 introduced Promoted Tweets, the company's first stab at a formal plan to make money by attaching ads to the millions of tweets that stream through the microblog each day.
Twitter lets some 70 million users post short, 140-character messages that surface on the Website in real time.
Twitter has made several technology improvements to fortify its scale and added functionality such as geotagging to increase relevance. Apart from multimillion dollar deals to let Microsoft Bing and Google index its tweets, Twitter hasn't really had a steady source of recurring revenue to help recoup its investors' $100 million funding.
Promoted Tweets, announced via blog post by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, is designed to help Twitter make regular money from the ultimate revenue avenue leveraged by successful Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
Promoted Tweets will be ordinary tweets offered by new Twitter ad partners, which include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America. These companies will pay on a CPM basis, or per thousand people who see their tweets.
Twitter users will see these tweets labeled as "promoted" at the top of some Twitter.com search results pages, similar to the way Google, Bing and Yahoo users see ads on the right when they conduct searches. See this Starbucks Promoted Tweet on AdAge here.
Promoted Tweets will also be sent organically to the timelines of Twitter users who follow the brand. Users will be able to reply to, retweet and favorite Promoted Tweets just as they can regular tweets.
Twitter doesn't want to irk, inundate or distract users with advertising, so only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page. Twitter will also measure whether the Tweets resonate with users, according to what Twitter told the New York Times, and takes into account nine factors.
This includes the number of people who saw the post, the number of people who replied to it or passed it on to their followers, and the number of people who clicked on links.
If users don't interact with a Promoted Tweet, by replying, retweeting or favoriting these tweets, the tweet will vanish.
"Over the years, we've resisted introducing a traditional Web advertising model because we wanted to optimize for value before profit," Stone wrote, adding that Promoted Tweets is "non-traditional, it's easy, and it makes a ton of sense for Twitter."
Twitter spokesperson Sean Garrett told Reuters Promoted Tweets will be rolled out to 2 percent to 10 percent of users via search on Twitter.com beginning April 13.
Over time, Twitter will introduce Promoted Tweets to Twitter clients and other ecosystem partners and will display relevant Promoted Tweets in "timelines in a way that is useful to you."
No doubt Twitter will carefully being gauging the sentiment analysis around Promoted Tweets to decide whether or not the ads are working before rolling them out on a broader scale. If Starbucks, Best Buy and other ad partners fare well on the site, expect other ad partners to come knocking to promote themselves on Twitter.
Twitter COO Dick Costolo, who be talking about Promoted Tweets at the AdAge Digital conference in New York City today, will join Twitter Co-founder Evan Williams to discuss this program at Twitter's first Chirp developer conference in San Francisco.
Chirp will also be the backdrop for some soul searching by Twitter developers, many of whom are reeling from the notion that Twitter's strategy to plug holes in its platform could leave them on the outside looking in to Twitter's platform.