Twitter's promoted trending topics, an experiment in the Promoted Tweets ad system designed to reap the microblog service revenues, has been kicked off by Disney/Pixar's ad for the company's forthcoming "Toy Story 3" film.
"Toy Story 3" appears as the last Trending Topic in the lower right-hand rail of Twitter.com, marked by a yellow box that simply says "Promoted." Mousing over the box, a hover card pops up claiming the topic is being promoted by Disney/Pixar.
Click on the topic and the box surfaces real-time search results for tweets on "Toy Story 3." The top tweet is clearly from the Disney/Pixar account, and the yellow box "promoted by Disney/Pixar" is clearly marked underneath the tweet's timeline.
Clicking on this tag brings users to Twitter's help center for businesses, where the company explains the concept of Promoted Tweets.
Twitter said the plan is to test different advertising and promotional models as it seeks to make money from branded content. "As part of this effort, we are testing trends clearly marked as 'promoted' for an undefined period of time," the company said.
Social media experts are eagerly watching Promoted Tweets, gauging its effectiveness with the obsession normally reserved for the way they scrutinize social ads on Facebook.
There's no question people are flocking to and staying on social Websites. Twitter has some 190 million users, and Nielsen recently found that people spent 22 percent of their online time on social networks and blogs in April.
The belief is that, like most Web companies, Twitter's long-term viability hinges on its ability to make money from digital advertising.
The company is expected to launch paid commercial accounts with analytics software at some point. But it's the ads that make successful Internet Websites such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft thrive.
Interestingly, by putting the promoted trending topic at the bottom of the list (No. 11 on a list of 10), Twitter may have sacrificed visibility for the sake of unobtrusiveness.
Web page real estate is a small precious commodity. Ads are all well and good, but if people don't scroll down the Web page to see them, one has to question how effective they are.