After three years of slow roll outs and testing with specific partners, Twitter’s Senior Director of Product for Revenue Kevin Weil just announced the general availability of its advertising options for all US business. Businesses don’t need an invite any more. Weil revealed the move on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, which could ramp up revenues and prep Twitter for a widely anticipated IPO.
Twitter first announced in April 2010 that it would begin showing ads. Since then it’s revealed Promoted Tweets and Promoted accounts, which let businesses pay to get their updates seen and their profiles followed. More recently, Twitter announced limited availability of a self-serve tool for buying ads in March 2012, and an Ads API for programmatic buying of huge campaigns in February 2013. Then just last week, Twitter announced that its ads could be targeted based on keywords tweeted or within tweets engaged with by users, which lets Twitter move toward demand fulfillment like Google Search ads.
Weil explained on stage, “As most of you guys know, the Twitter advertising platform has until today has been invite only. We’ve had brands and agencies, thousands of small businesses using the platform but all on an invite-only basis. Today we’re taking the next step and opening up Twitter ads to everyone in the US. Every brand, every business, every account, every individual. Businesses have been on Twitter since day one and we’re really excited that today every business in the US is going to be able to leverage the power of Twitter advertising, either through Promoted Accounts to build a loyal follower-base, or through Promoted Tweets to reach a broader audience.” In a bit of a cheeky move, he said on stage that he would tweet this link, giving the first 100 people to click $50 in free Twitter ad credits. You can watch the announcement below.
Anyone can now go to Twitter’s newly opened self-serve interface to start buying Twitter ads. Advertisers can choose a location to target, and the interests of the people they want to reach, decide what type of ads to run, and set a daily budget. Along with Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts, businesses can use Twitter’s business analytics system to track the impact of their spend.
The ads rollout means the microblogging platform can start more seriously competing with other social outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn for ad dollars. Some expect Twitter to hit $950 million in revenue in 2014, largely from ads. That could be enough to lure advertisers to invest in the company if it in fact IPOs. Getting its ad business humming on mobile before announcing any move to go public could let Twitter avoid the bashing Facebook’s share price received when it IPO’d. Facebook had mobile ads running for just three months at that time despite users shifting to the small screen in droves, and the lack of proof that its mobile ad business would work was widely cited by investors as why $FB lost 30% of its value soon after hitting the market.
With so many businesses now competing for followers, the ability to pay for extra visibility can make the difference between obscurity and prominence. Meanwhile, direct advertisers with things to sell online can capitalize on Promoted Tweets to get extra clicks to their shopping pages. While once seen as a niche service for techies, Twitter has grown into a core way the world communicates about their opinions, media, and current events. The ability to insert themselves into these conversations and take advantage of digital word of mouth is drawing dollars away from one-way traditional media towards Twitter where businesses can have a real dialog with their customers.