Twitter’s long-awaited ‘self-service’ ad system has been launched in the US. It will now allow small business advertisers to manage their marketing campaigns and budgets without having to deal with sales representatives. However, the service is only available to advertisers who accept or use American Express cards and is only open to the first come 10,000 customers for the time being (it will roll out to everyone at a later date).
To help launch the new platform, American Express bought $100 in Twitter ads for each of the first 10,000 small US businesses that signed up at http://ads.twitter.com/amex.
The ads, which will be called ‘promoted products’ will start appearing in Twitter timelines in late March. The question is, will this new service initially attract a deluge of small advertisers and will peoples’ timelines become flooded with unwanted ads from thousands of dog groomers, teeth whiteners and golf teachers?
Twitter, obviously, hopes not and points to the trials it ran with a hand-picked bunch of small businesses over three months. One example being trotted out is Glennz Tees, an online retailer in Austin, Texas. Its December sales more than doubled from the previous year, its Twitter follower count tripled and it only ran two or three ads per week. “We didn’t want to go overboard with it because we didn’t want to annoy people,” said the CEO Walter Stokes.
Fair play to Walter and his success, however, his comment that he ‘didn’t want to annoy people’ points to what could become a very damaging development on Twitter. Most people use Twitter, pretty safe in the knowledge that they won’t come across annoying spam too much and if they do it’s easy to block a spam bot. The question is – what will Twitter look like if it becomes a classified ad stream for every small business on the planet?
The other thing that will annoy and alienate potential advertisers is the deal Twitter has signed with American Express. If this service is closed to people who don’t accept American Express or don’t have an American Express credit card then the reaction will be obvious. People don’t like being excluded from a service and they don’t like spam. How users will react to ‘promoted products’ remains to be seen, but CEO Dick Costello remains confident it will work and Twitter can start to make some serious cash*. “I have every expectation that we will be able to scale this very rapidly,” he said in a statement this week. Let’s wait and see shall we?
* Last year, Twitter generated ad revenue of about $140 million compared to $36.5 billion at Google and $3.2 billion at Facebook. This year, eMarketer expects Twitter to sell $260 million in advertising. Twitter is currently valued at around $8 billion.