Twitter is apparently due to bring an end to years of speculation about its money-earning plans by announcing an advertising platform today. Here's our guess, before the news presumably hits this afternoon, on how Twitter Ads should work.
Twitter Ads Must Not Intrude
One of the joys of using Twitter compared to other social networking/life-casting services (and here I'm really imagining the ocular-assault of a typical MySpace page) is its absolute simplicity. This starts with the short length of Tweets, which forces textual "neatness," and continues all the way up through the way Twitter works to its Web site, which is pleasantly uncluttered and straightforward. Third party apps do sometimes add in complexity, but in essence the Twitter user experience is very slick.
And as a result, if Twitter is to remain the same from a user's point of view, advertising on Twitter really must not intrude or interfere in any way with how Twitter works. Road-block style adverts, or forced click-throughs would be such a jolt to the system that Twitter could really damage the reputation it holds among its rapidly growing user base.
Luckily, we suspect Twitter is wise to this: Upgrades to the site have always been careful, and very occasional—so far they've one nothing but augment the user experience, even if some (like the official re-Tweet system) aren't so successful. With this in mind, we expect Twitter's ad system to be smart and discrete.
Ads Must Be Relevant
Its irritating when you get presented with ads that have absolutely no relevance to you—they're a visual and mental distraction from the task in hand, and when you're interacting with Twitter in such short bursts this could irritate users.
Twitter, thanks to your Tweet history, has an extensive data stream with which to try some Google-esque user profiling, however. Careful use of this could easily result in user-tailored ads, which may also prove to be a selling point to advertisers. We say "careful" because Tweeps view Twitter with affection, and it would be a shame for Twitter to harm this by being over enthusiastic with profiling its users.
As a continuation of the relevance idea, hyperlocal a placements make perfect sense for mobile Twitter users. The company already knows how important location data could be, and is slowly ramping-up its location-based systems for geo-tagged Tweets. But maybe location-based ads could be worked into the system too, where you may find them incredibly useful: For example, a location-based ad with a money-off coupon for a nearby coffee store could well tempt you to visit during a lunchbreak from work.
Location-based ads could also appear less annoying to users, as they're more likely to be immediately relevant.
Linked To Trending Topics
Trending-topic linked adverts could be a huge revenue winner for Twitter: If its advertising system is super-agile, and dynamically managed by Twitter's team, it would be relatively easy to include adverts that were relevant to the topics that the millions of Tweeps are talking about right at the moment. This has the benefit of being highly targeted, with ads directly hitting users who are more predisposed to paying attention to a placement that's linked in some way to what they're Tweeting.
Linkable to Third Party Apps
Most people interact with Twitter not via its Web interface, but through one of a host of third party apps on the PC desktop or in a smartphone. We can guess that Twitter's ad plans are centered on its Web site, but in order to reach the maximum audience (and hence make more money from advertising partners) it would be smart if the ad system was connected to Twitter's API so that third party developers could work it into their apps. This is something Twitter has to be very careful with, however, as some third party systems already use tiny ad placements to earn their own advertising revenues.
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