Twitter is introducing ads into the live stream of messages, according to the Financial Times. The addition of "promoted tweets" -- a euphemism for advertising -- within the live Twitter stream is bound to frustrate many users, at the same time as it attracts businesses looking to reach some of the company's 300 million users.
Twitter's executives have been meeting with strategists at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France this week to find a way to ramp up revenues, which disproportionately trail those of social media companies such as Facebook.
Twitter is expected to generate revenues of about $100 million this year. Facebook, by contrast, reaps $3.5 billion from display advertising, according to a forecast by Enders Analysis.
A few other ideas leaked out of these meetings. One was that Twitter would offer mass coupon deals, which hold potential given the real-time nature of interacting on Twitter. A brand profile, which would allow advertisers to pre-schedule their company's Tweets, is also being considered.
Twitter currently offers promoted trends and promoted user profiles. The company also displays promoted tweets when users search for related terms. This is similar to the way Google AdWords work--and like Google AdWords, promoted tweets are clearly separate from non-promoted content. The introduction of sponsored content directly within the live tweet stream has never been attempted before.
How the new ad options fare depends largely on the Twitter community itself. The company had to remove the ad-displaying "Quickbar" from its iPhone app earlier this year when users balked.
But, as we've seen with other social networks like Facebook, a certain amount of advertising will be tolerated--and clicked on--by the digital community.
If the sponsored tweets do stand up to the inevitable backlash, the opportunities for small businesses to get directly into a user's Twitter stream are incredibly powerful. This is partly because of the real-time nature of the platform, and partly because the format of exchanging small bites of information bites lends itself well to advertising.
If the commercialization of Twitter can be pulled off correctly, it could launch the company into the echelon of online marketing leaders such as Facebook and Google in its importance to small business owners.