Twitter launches self-service ads with American Express

Twitter is opening up its fledgling ad platform to more businesses, unveiling a ‘self-service' tool that will allow advertisers to buy ads on the social network without having to deal with its sales reps first. As yet, ads are only available to small businesses that are American Express customers, with the credit card company buying USD100 in Twitter ads for each of the first 10,000 businesses to sign up. Twitter will start embedding ads within users' timelines from late March, as it seeks to bolster its business model and fuel its ad revenues.

The limited availability of Twitter's ‘Promoted Products' range of ads is indicative of the firm's cautious approach to generating revenues as it attempts to ensure it can up its earnings without alienating users. Although it unveiled the self-service ad platform in November last year, Twitter limited the number of advertisers to less than 20 brands before opening it up to around 100 towards the end of the year. eMarketer estimates that Twitter raked in USD139.5m from advertising last year, a marked improvement on the USD45m it made in 2010, but far behind social peer Facebook, which revealed it made USD3.15bn in ad revenues last year in its recent IPO filing.

Nonetheless, the firm's ad business appears to be gaining momentum, with eMarketer predicting that the firm will make some USD259.9m in revenues this year. CEO Dick Costolo tells AdAge that opening up the self-serve tools marks a key development for Twitter, as the firm looks to boost its international ad offerings. "So many hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of small businesses have been using Twitter effectively for years already, so by opening up our ad platform to all these folks as a mechanism for them to amplify the value they're already creating," he says.

Meanwhile, the firm is also rolling out its latest revamp, which was originally unveiled in December, to all users. Changes include the ability to expand updates to view photos, videos and shares, plus a ‘Discover' feature that provides users with a personalised feed of information. The firm is also updating its privacy guidelines to become more transparent around how it uses customer data, after a recent privacy furore that revealed Twitter and other online services copied and stored users' address books from their smartphones without their express permission.

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