An addicted insider’s account of our real lives in the era of the realtime, social web.

Confession #54: I’m Being Followed By Rogaine

Twitter is set to launch an advertising platform that will include the insertion of Promoted Tweets into your search results and eventually into your main stream. Here are a few takes on the new ads.

The Algorithm Will See You Now

Twitter will algorithmically assign the most effective ads to your stream. This targeting will be based on what you Tweet about, who you follow and the general gestalt of your realtime Twitter existence.

That could prove to be upsetting. I know it will in my case. I’m going to be expecting a series of Promoted Tweets from Axe Body Spray, Vans, Quiksilver, and Justin Bieber’s record label. Instead I’ll probably be getting Tweeted at by Cialis, Metamucil and Rogaine.

Will You Click?

I’ve run two search sites (Rollyo and Addictomatic) and I’ve learned that the more advanced the search tool, the less often users will click on ads. My hunch is that most people who use Twitter for search are fairly advanced searchers. More importantly, I’d guess a huge percentage of Twitter queries are ego or brand searches — maybe I’m projecting here, but that’s seems to be the most obvious use case. And people who search for their own names or to track their own brands only care about one thing. They won’t even see the Promoted Tweets. I think the effectiveness of these sponsorships will increase dramatically once they appear in your main stream.

Update: Twitter announced they’re doing about 600 million searches a day (many automated via bots). So obviously there’s dough to be made. I just feel the in-stream stuff will be bigger.

I Found Myself (or was that Shaq?)

The intrusion of ads into my stream seems like a fairly small issue overall. I’m used to having my personal life interrupted by branded content from commercials on TV, to billboards on the bus my son and I ride to school, to Facebook and Gmail ads next to my personal correspondence. On its own, I’m not sure the Twitter ad plan will make that big a dent in a world that is already so heavily sponsored.

But I do think that these Tweets from entities to which you’re not directly related are part of a broader trend that is worth considering. The walls that have naturally formed between different aspects of our lives have been obliterated by the unified stream. I read a relatively personal message from my wife in the same stream of content where I read about Jim Carrey’s breakups or CNN’s latest news out of Afghanistan.

My parents and I have always been news addicts. From the time I was a teenager, my Dad has greeted me with the same series of questions: How’s the market? Is it raining where you are? And what do you think about the latest news on the President? I’m pretty sure my Dad sees me as his real life version of a web portal complete with the latest updates on news, business and weather.

I love talking current events, but the experience does point to the often difficult task of drawing a clear line between what I’ll call the outside world and the experiences and emotions that are directly connected to my own life.

This line was blurred long before the social web came along. But now all of these aspects of one’s life — regardless of their proximity to the actual inner self of the individual — are smashed into one stream filled with personal asides, updates about important life events, global news and the latest musings from the Real Shaq. Now you can add Promoted Tweets to the mix.

And more is on the way.


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My name is Dave Pell, internet superhero. This blog provides an addicted insider's account of what's happening to us in the era of the realtime, social web. You can read more about the site, grab the rss feed, follow me on twitter, join the Facebook page, or get email updates.