After years of working to "optimize for value before profit," Twitter has finally announced how it plans to monetize: by using your eyes.
Its new program -- Promoted Tweets -- consists of "ordinary Tweets that businesses and organizations want to highlight to a wider group of users." In other words, a business will send out a normal tweet about its product, and Twitter will turn these into promoted tweets, running them at the top of the search results page. If this program goes well, there are plans to move Promoted Tweets into your timeline -- regardless of whether you follow the product or not.
Quite soon, even users who choose not to follow businesses will be seeing 140-character messages about products and services while on Twitter.
To translate Twitter's message into plainspeak: You come for the value, and once Twitter is a valuable source of information and socializing, you have to stay for that pesky profit.
No one can fault the owners of Twitter -- or any site owner -- for desiring to turn a profit. Web sites, especially those as enormous as Twitter, take both money and manpower to keep the site afloat. Ads keep the site free for users while enabling the owners to continuously reinvest in their project as well as pay monthly bills to service providers and employees.
Yet users can't help but feel cranky when they came for the value, lulled into an belief that it would remain ad-free, and then discover that our timelines will be peppered with the words of "innovative advertising partners that include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America -- with more to come." It's like putting up billboards in the Wild West. And it sort of kills the landscape and makes it feel a little more slick, a little less cowboy.
Plus, promoted tweets has been rolled out as something users will love and is awesome! It is difficult to "share in [Twitter's] enthusiasm" when we're being asked to get excited to have advertising thrown at us.
Users have give a wide range of reactions to Twitter's announcement. The Business Insider put together a slideshow showing who just got screwed by Twitter. Revagrover says: "Noo! Twitter, I thought you were different. I hate that you are selling out," while JJolsen echos the sentiment: "With #PromotedTweets Twitter moves further down the 'More Profitable/Less Useful' continuum." And possibly the winner of the most amusing tweet, Maryangelavm quips, "The conversation will be monetized."
Weigh in with your thoughts on the new Promoted Tweets.
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