Twitter Monetization

If Twitter is worth billions, will the ads to achieve that number ruin the experience?

The issue of monetization should be near and dear to the hearts of anyone who loves a certain social media platform.  If you are taking the time to actually read a blog about social media, you likely already understand the value social media has to you and perhaps your business.

One of the reasons that I love Twitter is that I choose who to follow and thus I choose who I give attention to.  If a product or person is interesting or useful, I opt in to giving that brand or person my attention.

But how does Twitter, the company itself, make money?  The application is so big now and the evaluations of what the company are worth are so high (5, 7, 10 or even 20 billion), that Twitter has to be able to find a way to make a significant profit off of its users.

Twitter’s new iPhone app, is providing us, Twitter users, with a view into the future of what Twitter will be.  And I am concerned it will become too commerical.

Most of the controversy about the new app is a result of the “Quick Bar” that Twitter installed across the top of the app this past week.  It is billed as being useful because, as Twitter puts it, “it shows trends and other important things.”  Most people just found it annoying.

In response, Twitter made it so the this “Quick Bar” only appeared at the top of the the application and didn’t sit on top of all the user’s Tweets as they scroll.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal either way, so why does it matter for the future of Twitter?

It matters, because much of Twitter’s early revenue has come from promoted trends, promoted tweets and promoted accounts. 

In the past, these “ads” haven’t seen so noticable as to be distracting.  They are usually highlighted with a yellow “Promoted” icon, that while catching the eye, isn’t that intrusive.  I personally don’t find trends that interesting, whether promoted or not, so I rarely look at them.  But when I do, I usually see a movie, TV show or some event specific campaign by a brand.  If this is all it took for Twitter to make money, I would be fine with it, but it won’t be enough to achieve these billion dollar evaluations that Twitter is currently receiving.

The Quick Bar highlights promoted trends in a way that is more intrusive, and it forshadows the introducation of actually advertising tweets into our timeline.
This spring, I know it is scary, but ads will start to show up in your timeline.

And while the Quick Bar might affect early adoptors who rushed to get the newest Twitter app, actual ads showing up in the timeline, will affect everyone who uses the service, no matter what app or platform they use.

I am not happy about having ads show up in the timeline, but I am willing to live with it, if it doesn’t decrease my user experience too much and if it allows Twitter to keep going.

How Twitter walks this fine line is important to millions of users who have given their attention over to Twitter and who will have to decide, as ads start to become part of everyday use, if that attention is warranted.

4 thoughts on “If Twitter is worth billions, will the ads to achieve that number ruin the experience?

  1. Eric J. Gruber

    Twitter would be wise to listen to its users.

    Digg tried to squeeze a few more pennies when it switched to a new version and users revolted. Today, Digg is a fragment of what it used to be, with many of users (including me) going somewhere else.

    So, no, I don't think users will stick around if the ads and the stupid Quick (distraction) Bar sticks around. But I'd happy pay $4.99 for an iPhone app to help support Twitter if I could keep ads off it. I even paid for Tweetie before Twitter bought it and made it free.

    Corporations. Geesh.

  2. Josh Davis

    Hey Eric,

    Good point on Digg. I am a Reddit user, and I appreciate that site so much for keeping things simple. At the same time, I don't think they make much money.

    Your idea for a Twitter app that allowed you to avoid the ads is an interesting idea. I know that type of business model is popular, but I don't know that I have ever seen any reference to it for Twitter.

    I don't know that a paid app like that would achieve the monetization they will likely go for, but it personally appeals to me.

    We can always move to a new platform if the ads get unbearable, but Twitter has reached such scale, it will be hard to transitions.

    Thanks for your comments. Appreciate them.


  3. Brian Fenton

    I'm sure the ads that they place in the timeline will be targetable by some sort of ad blocking extension/script/etc… so I'm not yet worried. If they have a way to tag a tweet as "promoted" then that same mechanism should allow them to be stripped from the page.

    I pretty much follow the maxim that if I'm not paying for a product, I am the product.

    Professional Moocher

  4. Josh Davis

    Hey Brian,

    I hadn't thought of ad blocking software. You are likely right. Am sure their will be coders who offer a work around same day. Whether it will be usable for the average user, I am not sure about. Ad Blocker has been around for ever, but the only time I personally hear about it is on Reddit. Not sure it has seen wide adoption.

    Given how many people don't actually use Twitter to view their Tweets, I am sure that third parties will have to fall in line or lose access, but they won't be able to stop what people do on their own phones and computers.

    Thanks for the comment. Another interesting take on the issue.


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