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. No, none of this stuff breaks FTC's rules. Here's a hint: Huffington Post has ads. Do they need to run an FTC disclaimer on every post? No. The rules don't state you do.

  2. But… unless this metadata was randomly assigned per tweet, then if I see your tweet that has this tagged metadata and I opt to retweet your content, irregardless of the metadata, then wouldn't I break the FTC's rules by not putting a disclaimer into that retweet?

  3. I don't agree that you would EVER see Viagra ads or Senior People Meet ads. I guess I'm not explaining this right. Twitter would approve every ad partner and there is no incentive for them to mess up by partnering with stupid things like that. They don't need to. Just adding an affiliate link to Amazon would make them tons of money every month.

  4. No fair picking a place I like, and a person I like. I wouldn't cross the
    street for a $5 discount; it would depend on the offer. If all ads were
    targeted like you just (manually) targeted that one to me, I wouldn't mind
    them. But you know they won't be. I will get Viagra ads. Or Senior People
    Meet ads, or some other misrepresentation of who I am. Or I will get someone
    trying to monetize their relationship to me.

    But I understand that Twitter has to eat, and that people won't pay for
    content. So I guess I will whore out my metadata.

  5. Considering that larger revenue usually means swifter development, this is an idea I could get behind. Interruption-based advertising falls into a totally different category than this, I’d say – I’d barely even call it advertising. It feels, at least from your description, more like a no-hassle affiliate program. Especially with the Coke scenario. Very cool.

  6. Well then the real story is the money trail. Theres a begining middle and an end. Three different stories I can assure you.

    Original Message, sent Sat, 21 Nov 2009 04:21:37 -0000:

  7. SuperTweet ads won't just be limited to tweets generated by your content, though. Look at the lists I'm on. Lots of them include the word “tech.” Intel could put a link into my SuperTweet surface for info about their new Windows 7 computers. How? Just buy buying everyone who is on a “tech” list.

  8. You are telling me that if I tweet about the Half Moon Bay Brewery and you see a link to OpenTable including $5 off your dinner that you won't use it? Bullshit. And you'll like it. Plus you'll know thanks to another link to Foursquare when I'm there, so you can come over and tell me how cool these new ads are. :-)

  9. You are thinking of it wrong. First of all, Twitter would approve each API these new kinds of ads would hook up to. Tell me, if I add Amazon as an API, does Amazon have cigarette or political ads?

  10. No, Google's ads suck and if you watched the video you'd have some hints about how they suck. I couldn't even put Google's ads on our book blog. Why? The title of our book was “Naked Conversations.” Google's ads included quite a few porn ads. Lame.

  11. Oh, I would love to ad metadata to tweets. We already have metadata about people on Twitter thanks to Lists. Look at just the lists I'm on, and say, @oprah is on. Compare them. What do they tell you about both people? (Assume you don't know us. Are they an accurate representation of both of us? I think they are!)

    Now, imagine we have tags for each tweet. Imagine further we could put a wiki in each tweet's payload. Along with ads. Videos. And metadata like how many retweets that tweet has gotten.

  12. Whump: the kinds of ads you'd get here wouldn't be hijacking at all. I think you are thinking too stupidly about what advertising really is and will be in the future. There's ways to make it fun and useful and relevant.

  13. Real followers are important. Absolutely. But I can prove that followers that are just given to you, ala Twitter's Suggested User List, are worthless and shouldn't be counted toward influence.

    By the way, Bill Gates has more influence than me, even on Twitter, and he isn't on Twitter!

  14. Hmm, I don't think so. Why? Because I care about my audience. I could already do that here if I wanted to <buy Ivory soap> couldn't I? <get a Chevy car> But why don't I <eat at Chevy's> pimp out my words at every chance <drink Diet Coke> I have? Because, well, you'd go away. I know I unfollow people who over advertise to me. Why? Because their noise isn't worth their signal. Are we really this lame that we can't get this?

  15. At some point, we are all going to get tired of being marketed to.

    I guess I rarely want to hear about the restaurant across the street, although I DO want to hear about the great new restaurant in my neighborhood that I didn't know had opened.

    I spend so much time online (practically all day) that I feel spam-slime creeping up on me constantly. Every message is a marketing message, including many of my own. Very few people are on Twitter just to “be there” anymore; they are all hawking a book, a webinar, a brand, a game. The only time Twitter now seems authentic to me is when someone's sick or when there is breaking news. Then I can see the true community shine through. But in between crises, Twitter's all marketing messages to me now.

  16. Thats why i hate capitalism. people spend soo much time and energy to get money out 140chars random thoughts, instead of doing something that make the world better and more peaceful ;)

  17. Followers will always have a role in Twitter influence. Obviously, there are some who have gamed Twitter to get followers but I think it would be silly to say someone with 1 million followers has no Twitter influence at all. Many of the same people on the SUL are also the people who are on the most lists now so there is a high correlation between the amount of followers someone has and the number of lists they are on. Followers is not an irrelevant statistic.

  18. I personally think they should be able to add whatever ads into your tweets as they see fit, and you should get nothing. I mean, if you don't like it, stop using twitter. It costs money and they want to make money, it's as simple as that. It is nice that the ads are designed to give people who use their services relevant discounts or the like… but what's in it for you? Nothing. You're not entitled to anything.

  19. Robert, would that ad model not create a 'SEO-like' race even worse than what we have in Google today? I mean, people (or worse, bots) tweeting things to intentionally generate ads. Or is that an acceptable on-the-side business in this case?


  20. Again, this is NOT about making your text do anything. SuperTweets would add a NEW display surface to the bottom of your tweets, or to the side, depending on the client.

  21. That is total bullshit. I can measure Twitterer influence without knowing your followers. I just ask people who you link to how many people visit their pages from your Tweets.

    But, seriously, Twitter influence based on followers is just bullshit anyway thanks to Twitter's suggested user list, which totally messed the system up, and due to autofollowers who will follow back if you follow them. That is NOT influence. That's bullshit and stop trying to sell it as important. It is NOT.

  22. I'm familiar with lists and I know Twitter influence is far more than just followers. However, you can't measure Twitter influence without considering followers. Anyway, still wouldn't want the text in my tweets turned into mouseover ads by Twitter. Imagine Rotten Tomatoes tweets – would they want any movie mention they make to be turned into a Supertweet so that when they mention New Moon or any other movie a mouseover sends people to IMDB? Microsoft tried this once in IE with a feature called “smart tags” many years ago – it was poorly received.

  23. Thanks Robert.

    Just goes to show where quality over quantity of followers on Twitter are more important. This I imagine was the tactic of Twitter lists to develop a “Directory of Niches” where the crowd helps the cream of 'trust agents' rise to the top.

    More food for thought…


  24. Who cares about Followers. Did you know you can follow me without following me? Here's how: start a new Twitter list. Call it “Scoble is a noisy jerk.” Put me in there. But do NOT follow me. Now you can look at anything I write without following me. So, tell me again why followers matter.

  25. They approve the partners, like Yelp and IMDB, that get displayed on the new display surface. People? Only people I'm following get displayed on my SuperTweets. There wouldn't be any spam.

  26. I've never heard anyone use that term before, but it doesn't matter. Messing with the idea of a 140 character Tweet is stupid. Adding on a metadata payload is smart. I call that SuperTweet. It'll be interesting to see what Twitter calls them.

  27. How does Flickr do it? Tags! Seems to work very well. I can tag your Tweets. If you've followed me, maybe the system should trust me to add tags to your tweets?

  28. So, give me opt out of specific advertisers or give me a choice of which services I would like to have onto my Tweets. Also, give me a choice whether I want to participate in revenue sharing, etc.

  29. Hmm, this may make social search, and relevant advertising a little more challenging. Depends on their semantic choices and system.

    I love that foursquare is advertising from locations a person visits. It's so personalized to the user, and their activities. Man, they're gonna rock the revenue.

  30. I hope there is an opt out function. I see a hornet's nest for the FDA regarding clinical trial patient recruitment messages without one. If you add metadata, that's not IRB-approved and by definition impacts the accurate portrayal of research study info. If it isn't pre-authorized by the IRB, it is banned. I would hate for what is a very interesting ad model for Twitter undermine the use of the microblogging service by researchers seeking patients (and vice versa).

  31. If you use Google's Blogger, Posterous or WordPress you don't want them turning your text into mouseovers that go to Fandango. I don't see why Twitter should work any differently.

  32. I'm not sure people will want stuff popping up when they mouse over a tweet. I think Twitter advertising will more likely be about helping people/companies get more followers. There are many ways they can do that without turning our tweets into ads.

  33. I have to agree with Stephen. What if Twitter links my tweet to a cigarette ad? Or, God forbid, a politician or political ad? That would cheese me off.

  34. I don't really see an issue with allowing for an opt-out:

    1) Most people never bother to look at their settings (which explains how few had the “view all @ replies” turned on before Twitter – stupidly – took that away).

    2) If people get a share of say anywhere from 10-50% and make some money WITHOUT having offended anyone, or forced anything on anyone (or being perceived as having done so), then opting out will just be plain goofy…

  35. Revenue share is a great idea to make this palatable, AND the fact that sponsored payload is in no way an intention of you the author makes this compliant with the new FTC rules: Even though you may get some revenue, the fact that you never chose/inserted/endorsed the ad should make it OK.

    Very important, as otherwise the new FTC ruling makes it mandatory to put something like “AD:” or “Sponsored:” in a tweet.

    And therein lies the even bigger genius of this: You are completely right that it would make little sense anyway to insert ad/sponsored tweets (say with some sort of highlighting around it), people would just train themselves to ignore those in short order like they have with everything else online, especially in Social Media.

    So instead, make it a conscious decision by the user to look at more info. Totally changes the mind-set, more similar to the “solution focus” we see with search ads. People are signaling that the they may be looking for something!

    It is ESSENTIAL to give people more of what they were already looking at when they “raised their hand”. Context is everything. And that's why Robert is right, there has to be a tweet first for this to be attached TO, else there simply is no context!!

    What's the context of your Twitter stream? That's right, there is just about none, at best you could say “social activity”. But each individual Tweet can have a context, and id it's not just the shortest of conversational snippets, it typically does.

    See what I wrote about this exact problem (Web content monetization) some months ago:

  36. Robert,
    I think what you say about affiliates is critical – if we are “brand advocates” for something then why not be rewarded for it?

    I blogged about this in the context of the broken Amazon reviews system here


  37. i agree i dont think google ads are useful,, many PPC programs I manage – i turn contextual off.

    i however think it is a good idea..but needs to be better thought out in execution… ie opt out, revenue sharing and such. or people will decide…to walk away… bcause they dont want ads in their content.. since this will be – if i underrstand it – on their content… not on a sidebar..

  38. My communications are not there to be hijacked by some fool with an open wallet to try and upsell/x-sell or otherwise pitch the reader.

    Twitter can do the ethical thing and sell subscriptions to users instead of selling us.

  39. I think the meta data surrounding the tweet has amazing value (and I don't mean value in just monetary terms). Programs can do a helluva lot more with the meta-data than with having to parse the tweet to perceive meaning – perhaps this means that people will be able to exploit this meta data in the same way that meta tags were initially exploited in web page SEO until Google got smarter?

    Interesting stuff :)

  40. this is your site robert.. thus it is your rules. if ads showed up on my comment here hawking abook – that would be bad. BUT this is YOUR content… so you can and should reap the benefits. the different is…twitter is placing an ad on MY content on my words… i might not like the message.. i might want to share in the revenue.. i might want to say no. i should have this right. does this make more sense…. it would be like typepad putting ads on my site – withoutr my permission…

  41. Robert – a few points – sorry for the length seems to have hit a passionate button in me..
    1) My Tweets, My content – I should have the right to opt-out of having ad's places on my tweet. I realize they active only on hover or click.. still. Consider – lets say i work for Pepsi – i dont want to have a coke ad on my content. Or worse – i dont drink soda… why would i endorese the same.
    2) My Tweets, My content – I should be able to reap the benefits – share the benefits if i allow twitter to places ads on my content. Of course, I can opt out – by stopping my usage of twitter… which is not what anyone would want (well maybe they would want ME to lol)

    same with amazon – if the algorithm sees a ref to a book – they should reward me as well as twitter for having this ad. BUT again – what if hate amazon and prefer BN – my content.. i should be able to say no.

    3) Ads in google are different. I opt in by adding adsense code to my blog… and i reap benefits by doing so. However, Google doesn;'t make me do it… my content.. my rules. and their ads.. on their search engine search – this is their platform.. i have no content stake on

    The benefit – if i am helping a friend select a nice restaurant… and that restaurant is NOT paying me to say so…then this is a fantastic use of social. Yelp allows you to read open minded comments so you can make up your mind. However, am i really helping anyone when Coke places an ad on my content.. even if they give a $1 off… are people thinking hey steve is endorsing coke (I dont drink soda!). so there is really no benefit..coke doesnt care. yelp participate care – coke doesnt.

    So… my view is… a great idea but let dont forget I own my content and should be able to tell twitter they can share in monetizing it… or… lose me as a participant. Facebook allows me to opt out of their usage of my photos..(which i did – because there is nothing in it for me and i have no ocntrol on how FB uses my i opt out and all are happy)

    whew… i will think this thru and write more on my blog… but this is my 3 cents!

    overall though – good thinking about twitter – just some consideration at execution.


    1. I think you may be confused here.

      Yes, you own your tweets. As Scoble said, tweets are sacrosanct.

      You won’t have as much control over SuperTweets. If you don’t like that, you shouldn’t use the SuperTweet service.

      It’s like writing for a newspaper–you’d better be comfortable with the publisher’s ability to control and manipulate your articles. That’s just part of the territory, and if that makes you uncomfortable (a perfectly reasonable response), you’d best find another venue.

  42. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something, Robert, but could you please comment on:

    1. How would Twitter infer semantics from 140 characters? It would be awfully inaccurate, unless my tweet includes a URL which they can index and use as a base for matching.

    2. Wouldn’t that click/hover trigger only work on What about other clients?


  43. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something, Robert, but could you please comment on:

    1. How would Twitter infer semantics from 140 characters? It would be awfully inaccurate, unless my tweet includes a URL which they can index and use as a base for matching.

    2. Wouldn’t that click/hover trigger only work on What about other clients?


  44. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something, Robert, but could you please comment on:

    1. How would Twitter infer semantics from 140 characters? It would be awfully inaccurate, unless my tweet includes a URL which they can index and use as a base for matching.

    2. Wouldn’t that click/hover trigger only work on What about other clients?


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