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What do Twitter Ads Mean to You?

Twitter is now letting advertisers pay to have their tweets appear in search results on the site. Here are some questions and answers about what the development means:

Q: When will I see these new advertisements?

A: You might not see them for a few days. Twitter was aiming the ads at less than 10 percent of its audience on Tuesday. The ads should begin appearing in all relevant searches within the next week.


Q: Will I now be bombarded with ads on Twitter?

A: Twitter says it’s going for something far more subtle than bombardment. For now, at least, you would have to search Twitter for all tweets on a given subject, such as “Starbucks.” A tweet that Starbucks paid to have come up first might appear atop the list of search results. This tweet would follow Twitter’s usual guidelines, including the 140-character limit.


Q: I never search for topics on Twitter. I just tweet my thoughts and read my friends’ tweets. Would I see these ads?

A: You would see that tweet from Starbucks if you “followed” Starbucks, which means you had signed up to get all of its updates. Otherwise, at least for now, you’d probably see one of these new “promoted tweets” only if one of the people in your network forwards it, or “retweets” it. At some point, Twitter says, it might incorporate promoted tweets into your personal “timeline” of messages, if they are presumed to be relevant to you.


Q: Does this mean Twitter is more likely to stick around?

A: Until now Twitter had only one main revenue stream. It got an undisclosed amount of money from Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in exchange for the rights to have tweets appear quickly in the results generated by those companies’ Internet search engines. It’s not clear how much money the new ad program can bring in, but advertising is likely going to be a main way that Twitter’s founders can build a profitable company. It still mainly subsists on $155 million it has raised from venture capitalists.


Q: Twitter recently started asking me for my location. How could this feature figure into ads

A: Twitter says it sees a lot of opportunities in eventually allowing large and small businesses to send promoted tweets that target readers in specific places. So an airline such as Virgin would be able to reach people who are tweeting from an airport, for example. Or a restaurant could tweet about the day’s specials to people within a certain distance.