Promoted Tweets: A Necessary Evil

Twitter’s much anticipated advertising platform launched yesterday. The analysis has been measured but mostly leans positive…I suspect that in most cases, industry watchers know that it’s crazy to bet against Twitter. (Of course.) But my friends at Forrester, Edelman, and Altimeter don’t seem to be “making the call,” so I’ll go ahead and say it: marketers should wait and watch before participating in promoted tweets. Why? Keep reading.

Over a decade ago, I read an interview featuring Tim Koogle at Yahoo!, discussing the site’s advertising model. He said something along the lines of: we place the ads in a consistent place on each page, in a consistent size, so users know what do expect. You know what? That made the ads easier to ignore. Guess what? Promoted Tweets occupy a consistent, easily ignored position on a search page.

A few key reasons to support a bearish position on Promoted Tweets:

  • Advertising on social networks has a poor track record. Remember Beacon? Google display ads on MySpace? Microsoft ads on Facebook?
  • Consumers love to hate advertising. Content and service providers will never be able to support their businesses based on consumer payments alone – they require commercial subsidization. Watch for clutter, irrelevance, and interruption to take root.
  • Return on investment. Are Promoted Tweets really the next best place to invest your advertising budget? If you haven’t exhausted the potential of measurable initiatives like search and email marketing, why bother with an experiment?

Can anyone blame Twitter for monetizing the platform? Of course not – they’ve got to perform up to expectations for the hundreds of millions of dollars invested. But I think the smart marketers will watch bleeding edge brands run their experiments now and learn from the successes and failures. For Twitter, Promoted Tweets are a necessary evil to turn this question mark into a star (think growth-share matrix).