Twitter has announced that it will be adding in-stream Promoted Tweets to its Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android mobile apps–an important step given that more than half of active Twitter users access the platform via their mobile device.
To date, iPhone and Android mobile users have been exposed to Twitter’s Promoted Products only via the search function–search for a topic and a Promoted Tweet is likely to appear at the top of the search results. With the most recent app updates, however, Twitter now is including the ability to see Promoted Tweets as part of the user’s stream.
A Spam By Any Other Name ….
In yesterday’s blog post announcing the new feature, Twitter continues to gloss over the fact that a user’s home timeline will include advertising from accounts that they are not following.
First, we’re going to get them used to seeing Promoted Tweets, but not scare them too much:
“Initially, a small number of users may see Promoted Tweets near the top of their timelines from brands they already follow. This will help ensure that people see important Tweets from the brands they care about.” (Emphasis mine.)
But further down in the post, Twitter describes the user experience like this:
“As with Promoted Tweets in search, we will only display Promoted Tweets in the timeline when they are relevant. If you see a Promoted Tweet that isn’t relevant to you, you can easily dismiss it from your timeline with a single swipe.”
This second description is how Twitter currently describes the Promoted Tweets product–and it definitely results in users seeing tweets in their timeline from accounts that they are not following. (See also: Is Twitter Spamming Users?)
If Twitter isn’t worried about a backlash from users if they see advertising from accounts they’re not following, why are they being so cagey about this?