Promoted Tweets too teeny at launch

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I don't like or follow brands. I keep my social networks social, and as much as I love Quiksilver or Vans as brands, I'm not interested in mixing their product promos or consumer engagement efforts with photos from a friend's party or Donald Glover's goodness. I get that people do like and follow brands, but I don't get why the roll-out of Twitter's Promoted Tweets to all users' timelines in its current incarnation is such great news for advertisers.

(Note: Every time I mention Promoted Tweets in this post, I'm referring to the rollout of Promoted Tweets to the timelines of users who follow a Promoted Tweets advertiser. It's just easier.)

My knock: Promoted Tweets are limited to consumers who already follow a brand. That's like hanging out with a bunch of friends and one of them relentlessly tapping you on the shoulder and saying “Hey.” That would likely get even more annoying if a brand's regular tweet appears when its Promoted Tweet is in action.

However the limited expansion does provide an opportunity for advertisers. Assuming that a brand won't want to turn off its followers by overmessaging through the mix of Promoted Tweets and regular ones, that brand could incentivize followers by running Promoted Tweet offers that are inherently limited to their followers, as the folks at Twitter get at in a blog post announcing the ad product.

This dangers on redundancy because the idea of following a brand is that it provides the consumer the inside track to deals. I'll happily argue this explains the existence of @JetBlueCheeps. But I'll counter that not everyone checks their Twitter feed often enough daily to see the big offers, and that brands are wary of constantly tweeting an offer for fear of overmessaging and are similarly wary of running an offer for too long to the point that it results in negative ROI. Promoted Tweets could solve that conundrum. Could.

Peter Kafka gives Twitter the benefit of the doubt by noting that the company's recent investment rounds offer it the leeway to wade into advertising. But Kafka also points out the second hole in the Promoted Tweets strategy. “And if you're checking Twitter on your iPhone, or via clients like TweetDeck,” he writes, “you won't see them there, either.”

Oof. According a study of 25 million tweets sent on March 11, 2011, social analytics firm Sysomos found that only 35% were sent via Twitter.com. While the official web client dominates every other app or client, it still means 65% of consumers on Twitter are unlikely to see a Promoted Tweet, whether it's in their timeline or not.

I'm doomsdaying Promoted Tweets. I'm sure I am. I'm also sure that Twitter will be easing out the ads to brands' non-followers and that the company is working to thread the ads into mobile apps. That would seem to be the most logical reason Twitter bought two of the top mobile apps since the start of 2010.

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