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Brands May Have Better Toehold on Twitter Than They Think

Much ado has been made about the supposed distaste Twitter users will have over ads appearing in their stream. In recent months Twitter has rolled out several new ad products, such as its "Promoted Tweets To Followers", a service that lets advertisers insert their ads directly in the timelines of those consumers that are following them on the Twitter.com site.  Twitter later promised to expand the offering to analyze the followers of a given company's feed, then send ads to those users who aren't following, but have similar interests and friend lists.

As these ad formats gain traction, one study has found that followers don't, after all, mind them that much. eMarketer recently looked at a Lab42 report, which found that only 10.9% of Twitter users said Promoted Tweets are "annoying and take away from the Twitter experience." More Twitter users are open to Promoted Tweets, with 24.8% reporting they can be relevant.

The survey did offer some discouraging news for brands: only 11.1% said that following brands was the leading reason why they use the site.

Ripe for Change

That situation may be poised to change in light of new statistics offered up by Twitter and CEO Dick Costolo in the company's State of the Twitter report.

Costolo said 40% of Twitter's active users don’t tweet. That is, they will follow accounts, read timelines, click links, check out profiles and favorite tweets, but they don’t generate tweets themselves. That is a surprisingly large percentage and suggests there is more wiggle room for brands to curry favor with followers than previously thought.

Also in companies' favor: Twitter is a platform used by an increasingly large number of high profile users. Entertainers have been standard fare on Twitter, of course, but Twitter also reports that 35 global heads of state use Twitter as a primary way to communicate with their constituencies, the company has reported, from @JuliaGillard in Australia to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, @CFKArgentina. "In the United States, frequent Tweeters include every Cabinet agency, 84 percent of state governors, and every major candidate for President.

"City leaders, like Mayors @CoryBooker of Newark and @MayorOfLondon among many more, share local news. Also, more than 40% of the top global religious leaders are on Twitter, including @DalaiLama and the Pope, who sent his first Tweet from @news_va_en in June. Many US professional sports players are active on Twitter, as well, including two-thirds of the NBA. "Every team in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS tweets, as do cricket players in India, European football stars and many other celebrated athletes around the world. Fans and commentators join in for some of the most colorful conversations on Twitter."

Guiding the Non-Tweeters

Twitter is now focusing on this group of non-tweeters with the goal of introducing them to new content providers. "A year ago, when you signed up for Twitter, the first thing you’d see was the big 'what’s happening' box," Costolo said, via Venture Beat. "People didn’t know what to do next.; they didn’t have any followers, and they weren’t following anyone. Nothing happened. Now, we get new users to think first about following their interests. Get a timeline and start engaging that way."

More Ad Campaigns

Its main focus will be on new ad platforms, Costolo said. This will include creating more targeted ad campaigns, either via location or the expressed interests of consumers. It is also looking into how to share ad revenue with third party apps that serve Promoted Tweets.

From Zero to $150M

At the beginning of 2011, eMarketer predicted that Twitter would earn $150 million in revenues for the year, a substantial increase over revenues of $45 million during 2010, the first year Twitter sold advertising. By 2012, ad revenues on the site will reach $250 million, it predicted.

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