The great Twitter sell-out

What does Twitter's new advertising plan mean for the site's users?

6 percent of the total U.S. population is on Twitter, but not everyone is tweeting.
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Twitter, the highly popular "micro-blogging" website, finally has a business plan. Twitter's new advertising service, called "Promoted Tweets," provides the site with its first ongoing way to make money off of its nearly 106 million registered users. But what does the new plan mean for avid Twitter fans? (Watch a CBS report about Twitter selling ads.) Here, a quick guide:

What exactly does the ad plan entail?

In the first phase of the plan, "Promoted Tweets" will place advertisements — which look like a normal tweet — at the top of Twitter search query results. The keywords users enter determine which advertisements show up. If someone searches for "coffee," for instance, a "promoted tweet" for Starbucks may appear. Only one ad will appear at a time. In the next phase of the plan, promoted posts will appear in a user's Twitter feed, based upon what that person is tweeting about. These ad-placement systems "will let businesses insert themselves into the stream of real-time conversation on Twitter to ensure their posts do not get buried in the flow," says Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times.

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What kind of ads will I see?

That's up to the advertisers — which initially include Best Buy, Starbucks, Virgin America, and Bravo — and an array of metrics instituted by Twitter to ensure the success of each ad. And a company's ad may change at any time. "A Promoted Tweet isn’t guaranteed to stay afloat for a long time," says Jason Kincaid in TechCrunch. "If the tweet isn’t tracking well in terms of replies, clicks, and a number of other metrics Twitter is calling 'resonance,' it will be pulled, and the advertiser won’t pay for it."

What are people saying about "Promoted Tweets"?

While much of the debate from commentators centers around whether "Promoted Tweets" can actually make Twitter money, Twitterers seem to approve of the plan. According to Twitter Sentiment, a website that tracks how the Twitter community "feels" about any given topic, 64 percent of users currently posting with the hashtag "#promotedtweets" have a "positive" view of the service. And despite some cries of Twitter's "selling out," many note that the new ad plan changes very little. "Much of the micro-blogging platform's content is already advertising ... behind the thinnest of veils: promoting one's website, article, book, consulting business, etc..," says Ryan Tate in Gawker. So the "Promoted Tweets" plan "will be awfully hard to notice."

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