Twitter will soon add another feature to its Timeline on the desktop to generate revenue: Promoted Accounts, with the option for people to follow them directly with a button embedded in the Tweet.
Promoted Accounts already appear officially in three different places: in the margin of the Timeline on desktop, in users’ Timelines when accessed on mobile devices, and (most recently) in search results. These three, along with Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends, helped Twitter generate $595 million in advertising revenue in 2013.
Adding Promoted Accounts to the Timeline on desktop, however, is new. It appears that it’s being tested with some advertisers now and will soon be rolled out to all of them, according to a source.
I’ve seen three Promoted Accounts pop up in my Timeline on desktop today. The first one that caught my eye was from a Twiter product manager, Buster Benson:
But Twitter appears to be playing around with the format, figuring out what it might be best to include in a “Promoted Tweet” in your timeline. For example, here it looks like we have Buster’s profile description, but in fact that’s text from a Tweet, which I found by clicking through to see it in a separate window.
Strangely, I haven’t been able to find that correspond to an actual Tweet in his timeline. However, in one of the other Promoted Tweets that has appeared in my timeline, it links directly through to an earlier Tweet from the sender.
A third example of how it has appeared doesn’t include any detail at all, apart from the name of the account, a “Promoted” mark, and the big Follow button:
When you click on the link it then expands to show you more information and a more complete tweet from about a week ago:
In any case, none of these are like Promoted Tweets, which do not give users an option to follow an account:
Adding Promoted Accounts to the desktop Timeline makes sense for Twitter for a number of reasons.
For one, it’s part of Twitter’s bigger push to have more parity between the mobile and desktop experiences — a theme that has also been highlighted with redesigns on the desktop to look more like the mobile product.
It’s also an obvious way of sweetening the deal for brands or individuals who might be considering forking out some money to Twitter to promote an account: more Timeline appearances = more views. Twitter has said that less than 10% of its revenue in the past came from Promoted Trends, so the converse of that is that perhaps something like Promoted Accounts is offering better returns, and this could be a way of extending that.
There is a more user-friendly reason for adding these in, too. Twitter pointed out in February that Timeline views were actually in decline last quarter, and some have pointed to a bigger problem in keeping users engaged in the product. This is one way that Twitter can suggest more accounts to users that might be interesting to them based on their other activity on the platform (I happen to be a bit interested in user privacy and security, and Twitter, so in fact the accounts that were promoted to me make some sense.)
It also fits with a more general statement that Costolo made during Twitter’s first quarterly earnings report.
In response to a question about e-commerce on Twitter, CEO Dick Costolo referred to “the way we’ve developed the Cards platform” — which he described as a “rich canvas and additional kinds of action to Twitter in which the 140 characters really becomes a caption to this much richer card that carries with it interactivity and actions.” He said that Cards would be “the vehicle through which we think about commerce opportunities.”
Perhaps Promoted Accounts point to how Twitter plans to push Timeline opportunities, with more interactive buttons, outside of those Cards, too.
We’ve reached out to Twitter to for an official response; we’ll update with more.
Note: Article updated with rollout information.