Twitter’s chief operating officer Dick Costolo said the company’s new promoted tweets are fundamentally different from advertising at the Chirp conference in San Francisco. The company launched a new way for brands and businesses to buy special placement for tweets atop search results and hashtag streams yesterday.
“Promoted tweets are a way of enhancing the communications that companies are already having with users. It’s a combination of earned media and paid media in one place,” Costolo said.
To select a promoted tweet, brands can select their own account’s tweets or tweets that are from accounts affiliated with them. (They can’t just pick anyone’s tweets.) After that, those tweets can sit atop search results for certain keywords or special hashtags.
He said the company’s core revenue model came rather easily them after he joined.
“We’ve always wanted to build a revenue model is organic to the product itself and beneficial to the user,” said
Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, who added that company stalled for a long time to make sure they built a compelling and widely distributed product.
The challenge was that Twitter was able to grow by leaps and bounds because of its ecosystem and its users weren’t largely concentrated on its Twitter.com property.
“It had to be a monetization engine that worked everywhere the tweets went,” Costolo said.
Costolo gave a few examples of places Promoted Tweets might work. For example, when the iPad launched earlier this month, initially people were having problems with the tablet’s batteries. A company servicing Mac users could have paid for a promoted tweet that instructed people on how to fix the problem.
Costolo said Promoted Tweets would only appear at first on Twitter.com and in search.
“We want to start out with a testbed if you will of impressions and inventory to see if we get this right,” he said. “When we have a sense of when it works well, we can roll out to the ecosystem and advertisers. We will make this program available to all our partners and to anyone who wants to use it. This will be 100 percent available in syndication.”
Developers will have the choice as to whether they want to implement Promoted Tweets.
Then comes the controversial part. The company will serve Promoted Tweets in user streams matching them to people’s explicit interests, as revealed by their tweet history. Theoretically, if I tweet a lot about coffee, I could be a great target for Starbucks ads, for example. Costolo referred to this concept as the “Real-Time Interest Graph.”
Twitter will only serve ads if they have an acceptable “resonance” level with users. That means: Do they attract a lot of engagement from users? Factors the company will consider include retweets, replies, #tag clicks, avatar clicks, link clicks and views after a retweet.
“Tweets that don’t resonate with users will disappear,” Costolo said.
So if a brand like Virgin Airlines authors several tweets, the few that attract more attention should stay on Twitter’s service. And the ones that don’t should fall away.
The company will initially price Promoted Tweets based on a CPM (or cost per 1,000 impressions) basis. But once it begins to understand “resonance” more, it will charge based on “return-on-investment” of those promoted tweets using resonance. More details on that should come later.
Costolo said the new revenue model was about “the entire ecosystem making money.” So the company is splitting Promoted Tweets revenue 50-50 with distribution partners.
The company has initially partnered with brands like Starbucks on the new advertising system.
Federated Media chief executive John Battelle, who moderated the event, asked whether Twitter would reveal how resonance works unlike Google, which has been quite secretive about how AdWords functions.
Costolo said they’d provide individual resonance reports to companies but they’d probably keep the full mechanics of the system “close to the vest.”
Battelle pressed Costolo to explain the “real-time interest graph” concept further:
“Twitter is this real-time, public, one-to-many communication platform. If I follow the Wall Street Journal, I’m interested in finance. If I follow the San Francisco Giants, I’m into sports.
One of the things that raises the hairs on Biz and Ev’s hair is this notion that we’re a social media company. We’re a real-time interest graph. When I look at a person’s tweets, I can understand what they’re interested in. We think there’s an amazingly unique-to-Twitter interest graph that will be compelling to companies.”
When Battelle asked him how the “real-time interest graph” was different from Facebook’s concept of a social graph, Costolo stressed the public nature of Twitter.