140-character sponsorships

Though they haven’t shown up quite yet, the phrase of the day is “sponsored tweets” – Twitter’s long-overdue way to make money off its product. (When you hear anyone say “sponsored tweets,” scream real loud!)

I’ve searched a few terms that seemed like good candidates for these ads to show up but haven’t seen a sponsored tweet yet – which may be the first time anyone has ever wanted to see advertising but couldn’t find it.

Sponsored tweets do offer a new political tactic in advance of the 2010 elections.  Candidates have been using Google ads to frame themselves and their opponents for years, and 2010 will be no exception.  Search engine and Facebook ads, though, are closer to traditional advertising: you see creative (text or a picture), and if it’s interesting enough you take some sort of action.  Clicking on an online ad is a more instant (and measurable) reaction that buying something after seeing a television commercial, but the concept is the same.

Twitter ads appear to be more message advertising – so the “creative” may not even come directly from the ad sponsor.  Lets say you’re working for Republican Keith Fimian, running against Rep. Gerald Connolly to represent Virginia’s lovely 10th district (which includes this blog).  If someone searches for Connolly on Twitter, you might sponsor a tweet from a voter or activist – rather than from the official Fimian campaign Twitter account – that calls on Connolly to get heaved out of office.

This strategy has been tested somewhat with Google ads, but mostly as a joke – searching for John McCain, for instance, might bring up sponsored links for the AARP.   But Twitter ads give brands – political or corporate – a chance to use third party voices to frame search results.  No doubt this will become as much art as science as the 2010 elections approach.

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