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Twitter to Put Paid Tweets in Searches

Folks have been waiting for years to figure out how social networking service Twitter will begin to make money off the millions of people tweeting 140 characters at a time. The company has been getting by on funds from investors and on real-time search deals with big names like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google…but now the company is taking the wraps off Promoted Tweets, paid-for tweets that will turn up in users’ search results on the basis of keywords and brands.

According to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, the goal of Promoted Tweets is that they be useful to users and meet a “higher bar” than a regular tweet. Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as “promoted” rather than as a legitimate search result, but in “every other respect” they will look and behave just like regular tweets: users can reply to them, retweet them, favorite them. Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on a search page, and, according to Twitter, if users don’t respond to a promoted tweet by clicking it, retweeting, or otherwise interacting with it…it’ll eventually disappear from the program.

Initially, Promoted Tweets will appear at the top of some search pages on the main Twitter Web site, but Twitter is describing this implementation of Promoted Tweets as a “first phase” of rolling out Twitter-based advertising in order to get a better handle on what both Twitter users and advertisers consider useful. Eventually, Twitter plans to migrate promoted tweets into Twitter clients and other “ecosystem partners,” including integrating Promoted Tweets into regular timelines.

Initial partners for Promoted Tweets will include Best Buy, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, and Starbucks.

Promoted tweets mark Twitter’s first move to directly commercialize the service; until now, Twitter has eschewed traditional forms of online advertising, preferring to “optimize for value before profit.” Apparently Twitter now considers itself sufficiently optimized for value.