November 02, 2010, 12:51 PM — If you're hungry for more advertisements, Twitter is the place to go. Not content with just displaying Promoted Tweets in its search function, Twitter is rolling out an initiative to deluge your timeline with them as well. This campaign will annoy users, choke already-spam-muddled user timelines -- and make Twitter a lot of money. But at what cost? Your enjoyment, that's what.
The Initial Rollout
At first, only users of HootSuite will see the advertisements (roughly 1 million of Twitter's 175 million users, according to TechCrunch). The corporate agencies involved thus far are Virgin, Starbucks and Red Bull. Fear not, marketing junkies: Twitter intends on throwing Promoted Tweets in the faces of all its users, including other mobile apps and Twitter.com.
In a carefully worded statement, Matt Graves, Twitter's communications director, attempted to soften the invasion of Promoted Tweets by claiming the ads would only be displayed in the timeline "when they are relevant." So if you like coffee, you'll see Starbucks ads. And if you're a virgin ... oh wait.
How Will It Work?
As I mentioned, only HootSuite users -- but not all -- will see Promoted Tweets infecting their timelines at first. Twitter doesn't detail which HootSuite users will see what, how often, or where -- Graves merely writes, "Not all HootSuite users will see Promoted Tweets and those who do may see different Promoted Tweets in different places in their timeline."
Vague enough for you? It gets cloudier. The selection of these advertisements, according to Twitter's blog, is based on the use of "several signals to determine a Promoted Tweet's relevance to a user, including the public list of whom they follow."
Notice the word including. That means there will be other "signals" determining the product, placement, and user. But we don't know what these signals are, how they will function, and how many users they will affect.
AdAge also points out the hypocrisy of Twitter's actions: "Twitter banned third-party clients from injecting any kind of paid tweets into a user's timeline in May, stating on the company's blog that ‘third-party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created.'"
So third-parties can't destroy Twitter's unique user experience ... but Twitter can, and will, right now.