Twitter’s Promoted Accounts just got some of its first customers: Rockstar Games, the studio behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption and Microsoft’s Xbox–suddenly, it makes sense why Twitter’s blog recently used Xbox as an example of how Promoted Accounts would work.
“We haven’t disclosed the full list” of Promoted Accounts, Twitter spokesman Matt Graves tells Fast Company, “nor have we discussed pricing.” Promoted Tweets have reportedly fetched as much as $100,000, though.
Monetizing a free, wildly popular site is an exercise in eggshell-walking. As the great Internet entrepreneur Justin Timberlake informs us (at least, in his role as Napster founder Sean Parker in the The Social Network): ads are not cool. In fact, ads could be downright dangerous. Introducing ads to Twitter is something like transplant surgery; there’s a danger that the body of users may revolt in rejection.
As a result, Twitter has been moving very cautiously. Promoted Accounts function in a relatively non-invasive way; Twitter uses its old “Who to follow” algorithm to make sure it only recommends accounts you’re likely to take an interest in. It’s intelligent enough to know that I am a gamer, for instance, since @RockstarGames has just appeared in my own “Who to follow” sidebar. And I, indeed, enjoying the humor and intelligence in that company’s products, have just chosen to follow it. No revolt in this particular user.
Someday, perhaps, Twitter ads will become as ubiquitous and mildly irritating as they eventually have become on Facebook. By then, if not already, users will probably be so addicted to the service as to willingly tolerate it. Twitter appears to be such a fixture of the internet at this point that Twitter could probably spam many a sidebar with spurious ads for mail-order Valium and still keep its stride. Timberlake is right though: that definitely would not be cool.