Twitter to turn on advertising “you will love” (here’s how: SuperTweet)

Twitter’s COO, Dick Costolo, today, at the TechCrunch Real Time Crunchup (live video of the conference is live now on building43, there will be lots of news all day long from this event), told the audience that Twitter is, indeed, going to turn on an advertising model.

This is a huge shift in what Twitter is saying publicly.

But advertising isn’t something many people love. So, how will Twitter make advertising you love?

By building a SuperTweet!

How can they do that?

Well, yesterday, I talked with Likaholix co-founder Bindu Reddy about just that. You can watch our video we recorded about how Twitter could make new advertising, which I say is a piece of building a SuperTweet.

So, what is a SuperTweet?

Well, first, some rules for building new ads and features for Twitter that people will love.

1. You can’t mess with the Tweet. That’s sacrosanct. So, we’re stuck with the 140 character rules, along with the rules of @replies and hashtags and all that.
2. You may NOT introduce new ad models inside the Tweet. You may NOT put ads inside Tweets.
3. You may NOT introduce new ads that look like Tweets.

So, what is a SuperTweet?

It is a Tweet with a metadata payload.

Think about all the metadata that exist OUTSIDE of the Tweet. How about you mouse-over a Tweet to see a new slide-down UI that shows you all the metadata.

What kinds of metadata do we already have?

1. How many times has the tweet been retweeted.
2. Where was the Tweet produced (geolocation).
3. What’s the tag cloud associated with the Tweet (get that from list names).
4. What tool produced the Tweet?
5. What are associated Tweets?
6. What are tweets in reply to this tweet?

But what else could we automatically generate?

Well, let’s say I wrote a Tweet saying “I’m going to see 2012 tonight.”

Couldn’t we tag that Tweet with the word “movie?” Like you can tag a photo on Flickr? Absolutely!

Couldn’t we have a bot that sees that 2012 and movie came through the system and then link to the IMDB database for the movie 2012, like this? Couldn’t you link to Fandango for movie reviews and movie times for 2012, like this?

So, add that all onto the tile that slides underneath this new “SuperTweet.”

But what else?

If CocaCola wants to target movie goers, couldn’t they put an ad into this SuperTweet? Something like “Drink Coke at the movies, show this tweet at the movie theater and get $1 off off a Coke.”

NOW you are getting how advertising could be something you love!

How about a Tweet that talks about a book. Someone could write “Loved Trust Agents by Brogan.” That could link to Amazon so you could put it on your Kindle.

There is ton of things that Twitter could do here to bring ads that people love, thanks to a SuperTweet infrastructure, and yes, I will love it.

By the way, two companies already are showing me advertising I love: Foursquare, which shows me offers from businesses nearby where I check in, and Yelp, who also shows me offers from businesses nearby. These are HUGE value ads for both consumers and businesses and if Twitter ads this new kind of advertising to a SuperTweet they will make billions of dollars.

I’m actually happy that Twitter is getting off of its “no advertising” stance and thinking about SuperTweets.

How about you?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

162 thoughts on “Twitter to turn on advertising “you will love” (here’s how: SuperTweet)

  1. A suggestion I made to @jack in email the other day was that Twitter should add an ad call to their API. It could be something like that. Actually, here's the mail:

    > This following idea seems pretty obvious, now that I've had a need for it,
    > so I guess will also have occurred to you guys.
    > One route to revenue for Twitter could be by providing an ad server as part
    > of your API. Anyone who writes a 3rd party app who wants to put ads on it
    > can ask Twitter for appropriate ads to display. 3rd party apps very
    > commonly deal with Twitter screen names (often that the user provides). The
    > app would send the screen names as an argument to the API call to give
    > Twitter context. You guys have all the tweets, the user connections, have
    > done the mining etc., so you're in the best position to know what to serve
    > as an ad.
    > I like this model a lot. It plays to your strengths, it gives the growing
    > 3rd party app community something valuable, and it's not that hard to get
    > something up & running, to monitor, and to refine it as you get smarter
    > about what to serve.
    > Terry

  2. Argh…. I wish I'd seen all this 5 days ago. How did I miss it? Robert – we're making all this stuff possible. I had no idea you and I were so much on the same wavelength. Please take a look at… and anything else on the FluidDB blog Almost all of it is relevant – though you may not see why immediately. Feel free to mail me (terry fluidinfo com) or just followup right here, of course.

  3. Thanks for the post, Robert!

    What I find funny about this whole debate is that I see the same arguments that cropped up when people first heard about Twitter.

    “But it’ll be full of spam.” “It’ll be easy to game the system.” “What’s the value?”

    This new advertising model might not work at all. But is it really a good idea to dismiss it for the same old reasons?

  4. one thing twitter can do to avoid users receiving certain type of publicity they don´t want is just to have some ad category options in the user profile. same for the ads associated to their tweets ..
    Not complete opt out (twitter has to live) but “selective” opt out..

    If you don´t go to your profile, by default you receive all types of ads OR any type of ad could be associated to your tweets

  5. Seems like a really great product idea to me. While you say no-one likes advertising, if they are actually interesting and useful then we all love to bounce around the web, especially if we get special offers. I think this could be a great strategy and I hope they can cracking on it soon! :)

  6. Let me throw something into the mush. Think of a Super Tweet as a message that carries a payload, and that payload has an 'expression mechanism,' essentially a kind of Media Unit (think: run-time space).

    In this context, a Super Tweet is both addressable as a simple, standard tweet and explicitly designed to expand into in a well-formed Micro-Post format.

    Fundamental to the format, the Super Tweet carries with it the promise of easy lookup, specific payloads and standardized handles for engaging with them (get product info, request sample, get coupon, index it), as well as what’s in it for them (loyalty points, early access and feedback on products, discounts and free samples).

    Think about it. What better use for Lists than in making the creation of a Consumer/Product Producer Engagement channel easy and simple?

    Similarly, imagine how that could overlay with client apps like Tweet Deck or job-specific services such as Stock Twits.

    Btw, for those who don’t know, in Posterous the tweet is the exposition of the Title of the Posterous Post, which is itself a by-product of the ‘originating content capture’ workflow using the Posterous bookmarklet.

    What’s especially cool about the Posterous model is that you can excerpt and encapsulate all sorts of online content, including text, pictures, files and video as part of an intuitive, copy and post experience.

    Here’s is a primer on Posterous, if interested.



  7. First, the meta-data association is BIG — way beyond just advertising. Tagging, geo-location, and parent/child info (providing the ability to piece together entire conversations and trends – REAL-TIME), just to name a few, would be enormously useful to Twitter and 3rd-party developers. It would create a mechanism that does not mess with the magical 140 characters, while providing an extension that embraces really useful things today and things that haven’t even been thought of yet.

    Addressing the monetization issue, clearly the integration of (multi-tiered) SuperTweet MetaData would benefit any advertising strategy Twitter pursues, and offer an affiliate opportunity for Twitter clients and developers. Twitter has every right to place whatever ads they want within any context they chose, just as the user has every right to ignore them or abandon the service. Twitter’s responsibility for long-term happiness (for all) is to find a balance.

    It wasn’t so long ago that nobody would conceive of paying a subscription for the right to push out messages 140 characters at a time. But that was before the phenomenal growth and success of the Twitter ecosystem. There is absolutely a class of Twitter users today that would pay $2.95 per month for additional value add – whether that be no ads, higher control over ads, or premium service/content.

    For everyone else, SuperTweet MetaData could help target ads in ways not otherwise available. The problem with web-based ads (a la Google), is that there is too much anonymity for them to be really useful (this is separate from privacy). If I visit a website, the context for ad delivery is the website I am visiting. Twitter, on the other hand, knows the context of the message, the conversation in which the message occurs, the originating sender, distributed recipients, relational association at each step (including location of all), plus any meta data that I may have inserted via preferences, priorities, filters, patterns, and trends – all of which occurs in real-time.

    I do not believe the case for SuperTweet MetaData is about advertising, though it certainly has relevance. No, I think the real case for SuperTweet MetaData is that it reinforces Twitter’s position as the center of its universe, extends 3rd-party opportunity by an order of magnitude, and provides Twitter with numerous monetization options – including advertising and subscription revenue.

    Steve Repetti

  8. Perhaps your SuperTweet approach is one way for Twitter to make money but it is not necessarily the ONLY way. Twitter could implement both of our models since they are not by definition mutually exclusive of each other. I like your idea, too.

    Sure, we currently do have a lot of commercial clutter (i.e. spaminess) already within Twitter. It is now often difficult for users to distinguish between channels of conversation and channels of commerce. At the same time, it is challenging for organizations, companies, groups, etc. to know just how much commercial content is appropriate for them to mix in with other messages.

    My suggestion that Twitter offer authorized (this is important) commercial accounts, which are marked as such, will offer both parties (tweet publishers and followers) more clarity. Thus, what I am proposing is quite different from the free-for-all that currently exists. Your easy dismissal is misplaced. The result of authorized commercial channels for tweet publishers would be that Twitter would instantly become better.

    You may want to consider that you, yourself, have already used an example in the comments concerning a coupon of $5 and how that would be an attractive offer to you. That restaurant may in my example maintain two Twitter accounts. One account would be the restaurant's “regular” account where it talked/conversed with its stakeholders. The other newer type o account would be a commercial account through which the restaurant could solely make promotions, special offers, discounts, announcements, etc.

    I, for one, would welcome such a bifurcation of communication from organizations that conduct commercial business. There are a bunch of addition tweaks that could be adopted to improve this idea of commercial accounts further. One such tweak might be to enable users to add keywords to classify a commercial account (e.g. restaurant, lawyer, computer, rental-car, etc.).

    Your thoughts Robert.

  9. Robert,

    You are definitely onto something, but I think that the metadata may only be used by advertisers to instantly generate an “under tweet” ad and it is the ad that you see when you mouse over a tweet. This is what it may look like:


  10. Fact: they are working on an advertising platform.
    Fact: they say we will like it.

    It is an informed opinion of mine that SuperTweet is what we'll see. Will I be right? We'll find out soon enough.

  11. Sorry, before Friday what you wrote would be true. IT IS NO LONGER TRUE THAT TWITTER IS NOT AN ADVERTISING COMPANY. That is the huge change that happened on Friday when Dick announced that they would be turning on an advertising platform.

    Also, all those other ideas are NOT advertising we like. Dick (Twitter's COO) announced that their ads would be something we WOULD like. That means only one thing: a metadata payload of some kind. If I'm wrong, I'll be very shocked.

  12. Robert,

    So when @dickc mentioned that their advertising model will be available to partners, what is your take on that given your “super-tweet” idea? You are saying the ad would then flow through to Tweetdeck and Seesmic?

    Your idea has some merit but lets be honest, it is an idea. There have been business ideas surrounding advertising on Twitter for almost 2 years including SponsoredTweets,, Twittad & Magpie. I think the most important piece is that Twitter is not positioning themselves as a advertising business. They want content and they want to share it.

  13. I love the moveOver popup with more info in it. I am keeping an open mind on the ad thingy stuff until I see how it works on me while I'm in twitterville. If I start feeling irritated, I'll remedy the situation by using one of the other mini-tweet places.

  14. The only ads that aren’t annoying are ads that users explicitly opt-in to receive.

    Therefore, one way Twitter (and Facebook Fan Pages) could structure the business model is to enable brands/organizations/companies, etc. to set-up specific commercial Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of communicating with Followers who themselves opt-in to this specific commercial accounts.

    It logically follows that most of the tweets flowing downs these new paid commercial accounts will be special offers, discounts, etc. Twitter users “will love the ads (read: tweets) because they will only receive these tweets when they want.

    So, for example, if you are in the market for a new computer you could Follow (i.e. opt-in) to a commercial account for Dell, Apple, Sony, etc. Once you have purchased the computer you can unfollow these commercial accounts.

    The commerical accounts pay Twitter on a CPA (cost per access) model with different rates per Follower (25 cents per month).

    Interestingly, Facebook Fan Pages is ultimately better suited to offer value-added channels to companies but it may be Twitter, which gets the ball rolling.

    Ultimately, this is NOT about ads but about access. Companies will pay Twitter for “access” to users. This is great for all three parties involved.

    PS: GDGT is perfectly positioned to implement the same Access-Based business model because it is the premier aggregator of hardcore gearheads. That is valuable.

    We will see much more of this type of opt-in access-based models. The New York Times could do the same thing but simply with a different set of companies. The great thing is for the users of each of these services, they do not need to see ads if they don't want.

    and finally, the irony will be that there eventually be some very exclusive aggregators , which will be able to charge users for membership because of the quality and/or status of the companies, which are making the offers.

  15. Maybe Google will only display the old-style regular Tweets, but they will link back to the full new SuperTweets on, right? So, now there's incentive to all of us to Tweet better, especially if we're getting a revenue share!

  16. This SuperTweet seems to be confusing people a little, including myself!

    Just another point that I need to throw out there and consider…

    With the development of social search on google now, how will these SuperTweets translate into the SERPs and subsequent results?

    Will a tweet that is displayed via social search, and which contains said advert, still function in the same manner as originally intended in the result itself do you think? Will google be looking for a “cut” as well (or can they?)

    lol, my brain hurts…

  17. At the conference you said they couldn't put ads on the webpage as a module (e.g. adwords) because of clients, but I think that is too strong of an assumption. I think they can virtually duplicate adwords/adsense model. With lists they now have keywords for users that advertisers can target against (with geo as a bonus). Put a minimum clickthrough requirement, like adwords, and put them on the page in a similar way to adwords, not attached as meta data per tweet. I think you can keep with the tweet length and image of person theme, as long as you tag it as an ad (though image isn't required). As far as 3rd party tools, provide adsense revenue sharing to them (they won't monetize any better than Twitter themselves!) and if people insist on using the API in high volume without ads charge them (they are already charging some high volume API users, Dick admitted yesterday). It's not that I don't like your idea of users adding additional meta data on their tweets, I love it, but I don't think users will do it enough because I don't think they will perceive value, which means that if it is optional it will be too sparse and so targeting on a per tweet basis, while the holy grail, will likely be as attainable as the grail. But let's make this interesting, care to place a $1 bet with me on whose solution will be implemented (ad attached to a tweet vs. ad attached to a user's page)? :)

  18. OK. Then I have to clean out my Twitter account, where I follow 2000 people, to make sure I don't do any discovery, meaning follow any people that I don't really “know.” I still think this is easy to game.

  19. Except when Twitter then kills that client by violating terms of service for accessing their API…

    Seriously, it's all in the execution. If it becomes clear that this is something new, that the ads are mostly useful, and that Twitter is keeping a tight lid on things so that there are minimal shenanigans, then all is well.

  20. A few things: 1) Bots are already being outed more and more due to the list count. High followers (due to refollow spamming), plus high tweet count (due to autoposting from twitterfeed, etc.), but only on 10 lists = Bot.

    And you just block them. Been doing a lot more of that lately as they are outing themselves more than before (anything from twitterfeed is suspect, unless its a declared blog RSS feed or similar).

    2) If Twitter is smart and turns on per advertiser blocking as I described further up, that solves the problem, along with just blocking the source (fake user) of too many tweets. And if a given “user” has too many ads blocked from his stream, Twitter could manually take a look & intervene.

    3) One would think that Twitter could easily throttle this in their set-up, that only x tweets per hour at most will be targeted, even if more were target-worthy (there will be many that won't be in everyday short conversation).

  21. Here is a great idea: Use something that is already totally familiar to every Twitter user – blocking. This time of specific advertisers.

    If I hate a specific ad, I just click a block button by the ad. It's great for me, and great for Twitter not to try showing me something I have no interest/etc. in again. They get to continuously refine their click-through rates!

    BTW I think that blocking in general is a totally underappreciated and underdeveloped function in social media, e.g. Twitter should have long ago allowed us to see our own “block page”, with a list of users we have blocked.

    That way, each blocking action could be ONE click, no pop-up (they have gotten better on this with the most recent UI changes), and could be reversed in case of error or later changing one's mind. Maybe it should just be called “muting” so as to not sound so drastic…

  22. Robert, you craft a book titled naked conversations, and expect the adsense engine to not think it's serving ads to a seedy website?

  23. Oh! that sounds brilliant.

    So you're saying the ad will be grafted on to the link up inside the cocoon of metadata stuff around the tweet?

    So everybody who has, say, the movie 2012 inside their tweetwrap, so to speak, would have the ability to click and get that movie's page? So the movie people would buy into that link, not with a search ad, or an ad on the interface somewhere, but an add inside the tweet, in its words .

    So would it get *more* intrusive, though, so that some companies could buy, like, the word “tonight” for a geographical area and other profile keyword searches, so that some people who were tweeting like “what do you want to do tonight”? “I dunno, what do you want to do tonight”? would click on “tonight” and it would show like a restaurant or a concert ?

    People might get pretty mad at it doing that, but on the other hand, I personally wouldn't mind if , say, a movie or book title would be clickable to go somewhere.

  24. The genius of this (if I understand Robert's description correctly) is that you'd never have to see an ad at all unless you'd want to. It would be your option to click on/mouse-over/surface the meta-data add-on package.

    By your ACTION you'd be declaring intent: Let's see what Twitter might have cooked up for me “underneath” this tweet.

    Then if it's intelligently targeted to the content of the tweet (and I agree that this is still a big if), you may well be delighted. And even if it's not for you, it won't feel like someone was completely wasting your time.

  25. Ari, no, you still wouldn't have a material connection: If you use Twitter's new retweet function, all credit remains with the original tweet author anyway (and he/she didn't place the ad either).

    But even if you use the old way (which I prefer BTW), then Twitter can simply assign a new or similar, or even the same ad to the “add-on payload”, but you still won't have a material connection because you're not endorsing. Deck shuffled anew so to speak.

    All of this of course predicated on the premise that Twitter is going to do a revenue share in the first place. They could clearly just say that that is the cost of using the service.

  26. Likely they would not, although 3 years ago I had no idea they would deliver fresh groceries to my door by 6:00 am in 2009 either…

  27. True. In fact, there are many ways to use capitalism to “make the world better and more peaceful.” I think Tech Crunch ran a story about this a while back.

  28. I don't feel that way at all. I think there is definitely alot of
    marketing on Twitter. But it's marketing we want. Otherwise we
    wouldn't have followed those people on the first place. I want to be
    marketed social media stories and sustainable food news. It's what i
    signed up for. I mostly ignore the marketing that is not for me. Is it
    that hard?

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