Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Exclusive: Want Twitter to Help You Find More Followers? Pay Up For a "Promoted Account."

Twitter is still working to get its first two ad products up and running. But it’s going to launch a third, anyway: Tomorrow the company will show off “Promoted Accounts” at an ad industry conference in New York.

The idea is a simple one, people familiar with the company’s plans tell me: Twitter will try to help corporations and brands increase their Twitter following by inserting them alongside other Twitter users it suggests in its “Who to Follow” feature.

It’s easy enough to see how that would appeal to an advertiser, assuming they saw value in a robust Twitter following to begin with. (And if individual users want to boost their follower count for others reasons, Twitter will sell them the service, too.)

And Twitter will try to make the promotions palatable to users by serving up only “relevant” accounts, using the same algorithm that it already uses when it suggests “Who to Follow.”

In theory, that means that if you’re not interested in LeBron James, and none of the people you follow on Twitter follow LeBron James or related Twitter accounts, then Twitter won’t suggest that you follow LeBron James. Even if he hands them a pile of money.

In practice, it’s easy enough to see how the definition of “relevant” could get stretched here–if you pay attention to sports in general, could you end up with a LeBron suggestion? But it’s hard to see how the opt-in product–Twitter can’t make you follow LeBron–would upset users who are already looking at the “Promoted Trends” the social network is also serving.

I don’t have details on pricing, but it’s possible that COO Dick Costolo will talk about that when he rolls out the new product tomorrow, at the IAB MIXX conference in New York City.

But as I noted when I first wrote about the product back in July–I referred to it as “Promoted Tweeters” at the time–there are some fairly obvious ways to go there: Twitter could charge users based on the number of followers they acquired, or simply based on the exposure their Twitter accounts received.

And it’s easy to see how the new product fits in alongside the first two Twitter has already rolled out. Its “Promoted Tweets” are supposed to parallel Google’s AdWords product, but have been slow to take off. But its “Promoted Trends,” closer to a conventional display ad, have found a warmer reception with advertisers.

Twitter declined to comment, but referred me to the comment they offered when I first wrote about this a few months ago:

“We will eventually have full suites of both promoted and commercial products. All the components of these two buckets of product have yet to be determined. Some are currently being tested publicly now. Some will be tested soon. Some are just ideas that we are broaching externally for feedback.”

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”