Tweet the name of your favorite band, and you may soon see a "promoted tweet" show up in your feed promoting the group's new album or concert. Tell your followers how much you love Diet Pepsi or Dancing With The Stars, and you just might get some messages from the folks at Pepsico or ABC.
It's all part of Twitter's new Keyword Targeting in Timelines, rolling out now from the social media micro-blogging company. The potentially annoying ads won't be more persistent, the company promises, and hey, they're only 140 characters.
Dismiss Non-Relevant Tweets
"Users won't see any difference in their use of Twitter -- we're not showing ads more frequently in timelines, and users can still dismiss promoted tweets they don't find relevant," said Nipoon Malhotra, Twitter revenue product manager, in a post Wednesday on the company's advertising blog.
Instead, Malhotra said, users will be happier because they'll see "more relevant" promoted tweets based on their own messages (including, presumably, retweets from others that may contain less relevant keywords.) The new service is available in the full Twitter Ads user interface and through the Ads API.
Having established its enormous user base of 500 million users while running on start-up funds, Twitter -- which is free to all users -- now needs to start raking in some serious revenue from advertising, which it began selling three years ago this week. Last March it started selling ads for mobile devices.
The company is believed to have earned $350 million in revenue last year and may be worth as much as $10 billion as it heads for an expected initial public offering this year.
But could ads that mine your tweets turn users off?
Striking the Right Balance
"It depends if the ads are annoying or not," said Rob Enderle, a technology consultant for the Enderle Group. "People seem to be OK with ads if they aren't annoying and ads that are about things of interest."
But he said use of keywords can be unreliable because words can be taken out of context, leading to mismatches.
"Like saying, 'That movie was so bad it just made me sick,' and suddenly getting ads for discount meds," Enderle said. "If that happens too often it will upset folks, make them aware they are being monitored, and irate them. That combination could drive them away from Twitter. "
Malhotra said in the blog post that in testing with a small group of advertisers and companies, including Everything Everywhere, Microsoft Japan and Walgreens, "users were significantly more likely to engage with promoted tweets using keyword targeting in timeline than other forms of targeting in the timeline."
He said GoPro, a San Mateo, Calif.-based company that makes wearable camera gear, "saw close to 2 million impressions, and engagement rates as high as 11 percent" after trying out Keywords.