Twitter risks alienating users with focus on advertising
Twitter’s recent announcement that it is going to allow advertising on its pages has divided opinion on the micro-blogging site.
Twitter had previously resisted the spectre of advertising but co-founder Biz Stone has confirmed that advertisers will now be able to buy “promoted tweets” that will appear on Twitter’s search pages. Stone said the new policy “made a ton of sense” for Twitter as it enters the commercial market. It is one strand in its marketing policy as they have just started to make deals which will aim to monetise the hugely successful service.
Social networking sites have found it notoriously diffcult to make profits, despite their vast numbers of users. Facebook’s targeted advertising model barely allows it to break even and this is seen in the industry as the best system currently available.
Twitter will experiment with the “promoted tweets” policy. “Promoted tweets” have been described as “ordinary tweets that businesses and organisations want to highlight to a wider group of users” and only one tweet will appear on each search results page. It has signed up a raft of big companies including Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Best Buy, who aim to benefit from this new policy.
Stone has admitted that “promoted tweets” will have to “resonate with users” and that they would simply disappear if users did not interact with them. The reaction to the news on Twitter has been mixed, with some cautiously optimistic and willing to give the policy a chance, and others threatening to turn their backs on Twitter altogether.
Twitter is quite clearly wary of commercialising its successful product. Meanwhile, the fact that it is successful is what attracts potential investors and advertisers. Stone and all at Twitter know that there is a thin tightrope to be walked between making money and alienating their userbase and they will have to be careful regarding this new policy.
Facebook’s targeted marketing has not alienated its subscribers but AOL’s purchase of Bebo has been cited as a contributory factor as to why a previously successful social networking site has been haemorrhaging visitors. Clearly commercialisation needs to be done correctly as people do not like to be overtly sold to in their spare time and the views of users on Twitter have reflected this.