Twitter rolls out self-serve ad platform

Focusing on small-to-medium business market

Twitter is beginning to roll out its self-serve ad platform for a limited number of merchants, as the microblogging site ramps up its revenue-generation and focuses on the potentially lucrative small-to-medium business market. A Twitter blog post says that eligible American Express card members and merchants, in line with Twitter’s partnership with the financial service, will be granted access to the service. This will enable them to launch their own promoted account and promoted tweet campaigns across Twitter’s desktop and mobile properties. As with Twitter’s original promoted ad suit, businesses will be charged per follow for promoted accounts and per engagement, which includes click, retweet, reply, or favourite, for promoted tweets.

The move marks a significant expansion of Twitter’s ad efforts as it attempts to build up its ad business, with the platform set to become more widely available in the coming months. The self-service ad platform is currently US only, but speaking at the Social Media World Forum in London, Twitter’s UK sales director Bruce Daisley says that the UK is “clearly in our minds as the next step”.

The service is significant as it lowers the barrier to entry for smaller businesses, enabling them to initiate their own Twitter ad campaign without dealing with the company’s sales reps beforehand. It also shows Twitter relaxing its traditionally cautious approach to advertising, with the limited availability to its larger promoted suite indicative of its apparent reluctance to give ads prominent visibility throughout its properties. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo claimed last year that ads were “all Twitter needs to be a successful business”. But while its $139.5 million in ad revenues last year, as estimated by eMarketer, were significantly up on the $45 million it made in 2010, it still lies far behind market-leading social network Facebook, which raked in $3.15 billion from advertising in 2011, according to its pre-IPO filing.

Advertisers and marketers are devoting a larger portion of their attention and budgets to social ads after the success of Facebook in recent years, in the hope of providing more relevant, targeted ads to the millions of consumers worldwide currently on social networks daily. Overall, global social network ad revenues are expected to hit $7.72 billion this year, before soaring to $11.87 billion in 2014, according to recent research by eMarketer.

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