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Are promoted Twitter accounts the new SEO?

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 5th October 2010

Twitter yesterday announced that it is rolling out its promoted accounts feature to third parties and partners as well as launching a sponsored element too.

Promoted accounts appear in the top right of your Twitter profile and make suggestions about who you might like to follow, using a specially designed algorithm.

The monetisation element now comes in as companies will be able to pay to be featured here as a way to grow their follower numbers.

The interesting point to note is that, even for companies that pay, their appearance will still be algorithmically based:

“Promoted Accounts are suggested based on a user’s public list of whom they follow. When an advertiser promotes an account, Twitter’s algorithm looks at that account’s followers and determines other accounts that those users tend to follow. If a user follows some of those accounts, but not the advertiser’s account, then Twitter may recommend the advertiser’s Promoted Account to that user.”

This got me thinking; will we soon see a growth in the number of people/businesses that try to game the system to get a better algorithm ranking – either paid or ‘organic’ – by following or trying to be followed by certain people or using certain keywords or links in the their tweets?

Twitter has stated that the algorithm is currently based on the accounts that a user is following, but there is no reason to suggest that this might become more sophisticated or search-engine-like in future. And with ‘promoted products’ seemingly playing a crucial role in Twitter’s monetisation strategy, these algorithms could become more and more important.

As Twitter continues to grow, it would be naive to think that companies out there won’t try and trick the system to get an advantage.

Danny Whatmough