Buying ads on Twitter is about to get easier for small businesses as the online messaging service adds a key piece to its moneymaking model.
Twitter is unveiling a long-awaited automated system that will enable advertisers to manage their marketing campaigns and budgets without having to deal with sales representatives. Before Twitter opens the system to all comers later this year, the self-service approach announced Thursday will only be available to advertisers who accept or use American Express cards. To get the ball rolling, American Express Co. will buy $100 in Twitter ads for each of the first 10,000 qualified businesses in the US that sign up at http://ads.twitter.com/amex. The ads, which Twitter calls "promoted products," will begin appearing within the flow of users' messages in late March. Flipping the switch on self-service advertising is the latest sign of Twitter's ambition to build a powerful online marketing vehicle in the mold of Internet search leader Google Inc., by far the Web's most profitable company, and online social network Facebook Inc., technology's fastest-rising star. It marks another stepping stone toward an eventual initial public offering of stock from Twitter, which has attracted more than 100 million users since its creation nearly six years ago.
The timetable for Twitter's IPO remains a mystery, although CEO Dick Costolo said in an interview Thursday that the company's decision won't be influenced by how well Facebook fares in its stock market debut this spring. "I don't look at what other companies are doing," he said. "We don't think in terms of building this company for a particular IPO date. We are trying to build this company for the long term." The company, which is based in San Francisco, isn't in desperate need of capital, having raised at least $700 million last year.