Users divided on Twitter ads

Very suddenly, Twitter is on its way to monetization with two announcements this week culminating in its owns plan to incorporate paid-for search advertisements in the tweet stream, replicating the Google AdSense formula, and users are making their voices heard.

With talk about selling out, spam as well as the acknowledgement that the microblogging service needs to make cash.

The big announcement from Twitter that it would be launching its own ad platform came the day after Bill Gross, the brains behind the original model for paid internet search, announced TweetUp. The timing was uncanny.

TweetUp, which will allow tweeters and advertisers to bid on keywords, using an auction-based advertising model like Google AdWords, will push paid tweets to the top of TweetUp’s search results.

Twitter ads will appear in the form of “promoted tweets,” first in search results and later in user feeds both on Twitter.com and third-party clients such as TweetDeck, twhirl, TwitterBerry and Tweetie, which was acquired by Twitter last week.

Whatever the case, Twitter users are talking, a lot, and the tweet stream is not entirely positive.

One of the first objections users raised to Brand Republic was the issue of spam. Dricho__ posted “I think it’s gonna create a lot of spam”.  @Krillman posted: Inevitable really – it depends on whether it is active dialogue with brands or passive spam. 20%+ tweets mention brands.

Twitter user@MikeG1 wrote: “The only reason the web runs on ads is everyone agrees to pretend there’s biz value there. Some day it will all crash down.”

@angie_seattle tweeted: “I don’t understand why a company like @Starbucks gains more from buying a twitter sponsored ad than from just interacting with customers” to which Starbucks replied, rather cautiously: “We’re curious as well. For us, it’s all about giving people the right answers and being relevant when they search.”

A number of users came back with comments about how advertising would damage Twitter. @goodthingsltd wrote:-” Promoted tweets can’t be a good thing can it? smells like a sell out. “ @DavidSimpson made a similar point while conceding Twitter has to monetize.

Yet most users, it seems, don’t care, or are loyally optimistic, like @hupajoob, who wrote: “It’s all about transparency. I think if it is handled in an appropriate manner things should be ok. Just look at FB ads.”

There was indifference on offer as well @minnie_rose posted “Promoted tweets, I’m indifferent if they’re highlighted as such, Google’s done it for ages with sponsored searches & it works.”

While others wondered why it had taken so long. @TheConceptFarm posted: “bout time” and @whitelabelmedia said “had expected this before now really”.

Gross, and undoubtedly Twitter itself, believes that tweets hold an inherent value. Gross told Reuters yesterday: “I would contend that if you have 5,000 followers you’re valuable. You’re valuable to your next employer; you’re valuable because you could start a magazine.”

Twitter said it has already signed up a number of brands for its promoted tweets, including Starbucks, Sony Pictures, Red Bull, Virgin America and Best Buy.

These ads will be subject to user criticism, Twitter said, and that the website is in no rush for profitability. Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo told AdAge: “We want to get this right. We don’t want to force a model on people that is based on incorrect hypotheses.”

Costolo is expected to talk about Twitter’s promoted tweets in detail today at the AdAge Digital conference, while tomorrow at Chirp, both Costolo CEO Evan Williams will further discuss this program and what it means for the Twitter ecosystem.