Twitter users complain of timelines being overrun with ‘Promoted Tweets’

Twitter’s timeline is currently overrun with ads for some users, in what at first appeared to be a glitch involving the distribution of Promoted Tweets. Typically, a Promoted Tweet — which is just a regular tweet an advertiser has paid to promote more broadly — will appear just once at the top of a user’s timeline, then scroll through the timeline like any other tweet. Now, however, Promoted Tweets are popping up with increased frequency. Some users report seeing them as often as every four to six tweets, in fact. Others are reporting seeing the same Promoted Tweet more than once.

This seemed to have indicated some sort of issue with Twitter’s ad system, as the company generally intends for Promoted Tweets to be targeted and relevant to the end user, without being an overly frequent part of users’ timelines.

As Twitter’s Business website explains, “we’re thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets, and are conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.”

That’s obviously not the case when it seems like nearly every other tweet is now an ad — and often, a repeated ad.

Twitter says the change is not a glitch, however —  it’s intentional.

We regularly experiment and deploy changes to our advertising experience. We are constantly innovating and testing, and will continue to adapt as we learn,” a company spokesperson said.  

Twitter has not yet publicly addressed the issue through its @TwitterSupport account, or others that communicate with the public, like @Twitter, @TwitterComms or @TwitterMktg, despite users’ complaints. However, we’ve seen complaints coming from users both in the U.S. and abroad and on both the “Home” and “Recent Tweets” timelines.

Given the lack of updates and information, some Twitter users have been dealing with the influx of Promoted Tweets by muting or blocking the advertiser’s account. That could have lasting consequences, as advertisers won’t be able to again reach those users if they get blocked.

Twitter provided a comment to TechCrunch after publication and we’ve updated to note that the company says it’s not a bug, but rather that it’s intentionally flooding the timeline with more ads to make use of the surplus ad inventory at year-end.