Twitter Tests Promoted Tweets in the Timeline

Twitter is experimenting with offering Promoted Tweets to its timelines, bringing paid ads to the Website's 175 million users. It's about making more money without annoying users.

Twitter Nov. 1 extended its Promoted Tweets effort to its timelines, exposing paid ads to more of the microblog's roughly 175 million users.

Promoted Tweets let advertisers such as Starbucks pay $100,000 to push their products in searches and trending topics. The ads started in searches on and extended to search through Twitter partners.

By targeting the timeline, Twitter is leveraging the most visible section of the microblog. That means the company is being very careful about the rollout, tapping HootSuite to help with this test.

"Not all HootSuite users will see Promoted Tweets, and those who do may see different Promoted Tweets in different places in their timeline," Twitter said. "As with Promoted Tweets in search, we will display Promoted Tweets in the timeline when they are relevant."

If a user tweets about certain products, chances are good she will see a Promoted Tweet in her timeline for that product.

"You'll see Promoted Tweets which closely match your interests, or you won't see them at all," said HootSuite Community Director Dave Olson.

That should be comforting for Twitter users put off by Promoted Tweets, Trends and Accounts, which launched in October as a way for companies to buy ads to promote their Twitter accounts, which in turn hawk goods and services.

Though the ads are fairly unobtrusive now-certainly no more noisome than the search ads to the right of Google or Bing search results-some people will be irked by the increasing prevalence of ads in any online service previously devoid of them.

Introducing ads to a service with millions of users is always a tricky balancing act. Companies need to make money from the ads, but not at the cost of losing the users that brought them to that monetization threshold.

Yet Twitter claimed users have "engaged with Promoted Products on Twitter at rates that far exceed typical forms of online advertising."

That should serve the company well into 2011.