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Twitter risks backlash with advertising API

Twitter will finally begin to properly monetise its micro-blogging service with a customisable and automated ad service.

Reuters reports that the social networking company is planning to release an API that will let advertising firms launch major ad campaigns on the website with relative ease.

The API won't be available until the fourth quarter of the year, which means we probably won't see the new wave of ads appearing on the service until early 2012.

At the moment advertising on Twitter is almost non-existent. Companies can run ads by speaking to Twitter salespeople, but an automated service will result in far more people using it, and a lot more revenue for Twitter.

Twitter launched in 2006, but it was only in April 2010 that it started accepting advertising on its network. It currently has around 600 advertising clients and will make as much as $150 million from advertising in 2011, according to eMarketer.

The method primarily involves promoting accounts, tweets or trends and is a fairly non-invasive form of advertising.

Twitter has taken a long time to embrace advertising and it is understandably reluctant, given how negatively it could be perceived by its millions of users. At the moment people can enjoy tweets without being distracted by ads, but if the service is plastered with banners, and every second tweet is an ad, people might find less value in it and move on to a different service.

Initial reports suggest that promoted accounts and tweets will be the first services on offer. If it continues with this form of promoted content, simply opening up the API to a wider audience, it can pull in more revenue without upsetting too many people.