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Timely Tweets: Twitter’s cash cow or a desperate attempt to eek out some extra revenue

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 29th July 2011

Twitter has announced an extension of its promoted tweets advertising service called Timely Tweets. The service itself is slightly baffling, not least due to a confusing explanation on the Twitter blog:

“We all come to Twitter to connect with the latest information on the topics and people we care about. So when we decide to follow a favorite brand, business or charitable organization, we expect to be among the first to get a special announcement, access to exclusive content or a great offer.

Ah, so this is a public service…? They continue:

“That’s why, starting today, we’re introducing a way to ensure that the most important Tweets from the organizations you follow reach you directly, by placing them at or near the top of your timeline. These Promoted Tweets will scroll through the timeline like any other Tweet, and like regular Tweets, they will appear in your timeline just once.”

Ah no, it’s just a way to try and make some money?

What these comments fail to make clear is that, rather than just seeing promoted tweets at the top of your timeline, these Timely Tweets will be scheduled to appear whenever you log into Twitter.

So, on the one hand, you’ll (probably) now only get Timely Tweets from brands you follow (which is good), but you’ll also now be bombarded with them whenever you use (and probably Tweetdeck too considering it is now owned by Twitter).

Is this good for advertisers?

For me this seems a little bit intrusive and I think advertisers will be wary of this. Also, because Promoted Tweets will only show up for users that are already following the brand in question, it will be less effective for advertisers looking to grow their follower base.

Is this good for Twitter?

Does this signal that the Promoted Tweet trial has failed to have the effect that Twitter was looking for and does it also show increasing desperation in its attempts to put some cash in the bank?

As Chris Lake on Twitter points out, it’s interesting to note that Twitter’s founders have now essentially deserted the service and that, as my colleague Max Tatton-Brown says, some of the promised ‘VIP’ elements of the service such as business profiles, analytics and even Twitter Pro accounts have largely failed to materialise.

With Google stepping up its social strategy and with business-grade Google+ accounts nearly upon us, is Twitter clutching at straws and will it eventually regret turning down Google’s generous buy-out offer earlier this year?

Google already knows how to make money from advertising after all…

Danny Whatmough