Yesterday I got the opportunity to sit with Dick Costolo, COO of Twitter, and hear first hand Twitter's positioning of their Sponsored Tweets program and what they are focusing on next. Twitter launched their first monetization program this month called Sponsored Tweets. Sponsored Tweets offers a good opportunity for brands to get their message in front of possible consumers that would not otherwise see it. Sponsored Tweets allow brands to buy key words and post their tweet at the top of the Search.Twitter.com page without it falling down in the stream and likely not being discovered after 10 minutes of activity (each new tweet goes to the top of the Twitter stream pushing down older Tweets).
One thing that impressed me was how Twitter is approaching their ad model. They are focused on learning and not repeating mistakes made by the pioneers before them. Seems quite a few of Twitter employees (including Dick) came from Google so they have first hand knowledge of success and mistakes Google made while developing an ad model. It's good to see they are laser focused on not repeating those mistakes.There are early signs the Sponsored Tweets program is working. Virgin America told Mashable that the day Promoted Tweets went live, Virgin ended up scoring the fifth highest sales day in its history. One learning so far is consistent tone matters. If a brand's Twitter page has been designed to offer customer support and that's what followers have come to expect followers will not be happy if a brand all of the sudden become a pitch machine and laden's their tweet with heavy marketing messages. Because resonance is a determining factor in which tweets make it into the Sponsored Tweets a brand will be hurt by irrelevant tweets that drive followers to unfollow that brand. Unfollows will drop the resonance score.
There are still open question around the Sponsored Tweets program. Currently the cost model is CPM but they hope to go to a cost per engagement model when they have more data that will allow them to price a cost per engagement. At present there isn't enough data to understand the real impact Sponsored Tweets will have. Brands will be able to buy key words around events, like the World Cup or Superbowl but it's unclear how they will monitor brands buying common search topics like Justin Bieber. He's been a top trending topic on Twitter for weeks but should Twitter be selling advertising against a person or an untimely event like the death of Michael Jackson which also was a top trending topic? Twitter activity is largely driven around events and brands will likely pay dearly to show their tweets to World Cup followers who are searching for game day conversations. Or imagine a sponsor of a major concert series wanting to reach consumers at the concert in real time. Look for Twitter to bring Sponsored Tweets to 3rd party developers such as Seismic and Tweetdeck and offer rev share for partners who support Sponsored Tweets.
Annotation is another feature Twitter announced at their Chirp Developer conference. The best way to think about annotations is Sticky Bits meets Twitter. An annotation can be added to a Tweet and that icon contains information that can be viewed by clicking the annotation. Imagine linking a movie trailer to a tweet so followers could view the trailer or local movie times by one click on the annotation. Or say you are Britney Spears and you are releasing a new single. The annotation could play 20 seconds of the song when a follower clicks on it. That song stays attached to the tweet as people retweet.
Twitter refers to their conversations as an interest graph rather than a social graph. Facebook is all about the social graph because it's connected by conversations with people you know and are social with. Twitter is connected by conversation that interest you. Look for Twitter to find ways to lean into an interest graph as they evolve their Sponsored Tweets program. They have the data that says who I follow so they could likely serve tweets to me by brands that fit my interests. I follow Kate Spade and Stella McCartney so it's logical to assume I would be interested in sponsored tweets by Nordstrom.