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Twitter trying to boost engagement by removing ads for top users

Twitter has started eliminating ads from the timelines of its most prominent users in the belief that it’ll encourage them to engage with the service more.

Keen to encourage high-profile users to spend more time using the social media site, the company has been experimenting with reducing – or eliminating entirely – the number of ads those users see, unnamed insiders told Re/code this week.

The sources said there’s no single definition on what constitutes a high-value user, with Twitter considering various metrics such as follower numbers, how often someone uses the service, and the level of reach their tweets achieve.

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Twitter apparently believes that the activities of an engaged VIP user base will filter down through its network, encouraging more use of its service, which in turn would of course please advertisers – despite the fact that a relatively small bunch of “important” users aren’t seeing those ads.

The scheme encouraging more user engagement is thought to have launched back in September, a short while after Jack Dorsey stepped in as interim CEO following the departure of Dick Costolo.

It’s not altogether clear if eliminating ads is really going to encourage more tweets and retweets among a particular set of users, though if the effort continues then the suggestion will be it’s working.

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But surely a more pressing concern for Twitter – besides dealing with the fallout from its recent executive exodus – is its slow user growth. The service, which at the last count (in October) had 320 million monthly active users, has struggled to bring on board new users at anywhere near the rate of, say, Instagram, which last year sailed past Twitter and now has more than 400 million users.

Recent moves by the company to build its user base included its first ever TV ads last year, as well as the rollout of extra features like Moments that aims at simplifying the service for newbies, and a new hub to attract more gamers.

The big question is, have these efforts had any positive effect? We should have some idea come February 10, when the company announces data for the final quarter of 2015, which, importantly, covers Dorsey’s first full quarter as permanent CEO.