Promoted Tweets: Is Your Business Ready?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 12:00 AM

Timing is at the core of Twitter. How current is this? How new is this? What's going on right now?

A tweet's 140 characters take no time to read and little time to write. And tweets stay visible in the Twitter search results only until they're buried by newer tweets. So Twitter's recently announced "promoted tweets" as a way to beat the clock--and to be seen in a search engine that caters to the most impatient searchers on the planet.

But these are not ads. They're tweets--with one difference: A promoted tweet will stay out there as long as people are engaging with it, and only when they've stopped will it disappear.

Twitter has been very careful to fit its new advertising program with its carefully cultivated "users in charge" philosophy. So, unlike regular online advertising, where an algorithm decides whether or not an ad is relevant to the user's query, on Twitter, the users themselves give the yea or nay--by retweeting, replying, adding it to their favorites or otherwise responding to it.

Twitter's calling this approach "resonance" and it will develop its criteria as the new program rolls out.

How it worksA single promoted tweet will appear at the top of the search results for a particular keyword--just one per page. Right now you pay for 1,000 views, but as Twitter develops its resonance algorithm, this will change.

The advertiser reserves a keyword and sets a budget, then chooses a tweet to promote. It's just like a regular tweet, except it appears in the search results with shading behind it and a label underneath that says "Promoted by Twitter." The promoted tweet also goes out to anyone who follows the company.

If people interact with the promoted tweet, it stays up and keeps being seen in the search results. Once people ignore it, the advertiser goes on to the next tweet it wants to promote for the keyword, until the budget for that campaign is spent.

However, if an advertiser's promoted tweets are so lame that everybody ignores them, Twitter refunds the rest of the budget and lets some other company reserve the keyword. So you'd better know what you're doing.

Here are two examples from Best Buy, one of the Twitter advertising partners taking part in the rollout:

The top ad is a great example of how to inspire response. It's got a specific call to action with a link that will let them measure how effective the ad is, and it all comes wrapped up in a social responsibility message that readers will want to share.

The second is, well, more like an ad, and probably won't be as effective.

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