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April 13, 2010

Twitter has a plan to make money from people who do things that don't make any sense

I've made my feelings on twitter known before, but this article from the Times makes me feel like I'm on crazy pills:

Twitter Unveils Plans to Draw Money From Ads

Go ahead, read it, I'll still be here.

You done? Okay. You remember this part?

"When people are searching on Starbucks, what we really want to show them is that something is happening at Starbucks right now, and Promoted Tweets will give us a chance to do that..."

Why on god's green earth would someone search on twitter for Starbucks? For one thing, if someone's searching on twitter for Starbucks, Starbucks' advertising has already done its job, so there doesn't seem to be any reason for Starbucks to give twitter any money at that point. For another, check out what actually happens when you search on twitter for Starbucks:


Did you look? Was it a bunch of people you don't know or care about saying that they're going to Starbucks? It was? Now check this out. Go back to that page. Now are there dozens of new posts about Starbucks that are similarly useless and inane? There are?

I suppose Starbucks being able to promote some deal or something above the chatter of any idiot with a cell phone would be an improvement, so bravo to twitter on that front, but I'm still mystified as to what could be gained by anyone searching for twitter on anything ever.

What I should have done was make this post during sxsw. During the last one, I actually swallowed my pride and tried to use twitter to find out what was going on. Someone named Andie Grace had this to say at about the same time:

"I grabbed my phone to tweet that I was grabbing my luggage (at the airport)....But I stopped myself from Twittering and I thought if everybody did this, it's going to be useless."

Well, everyone did do that and it was useless. Hundreds and hundreds of people just telling me that they're at a cool/boring/average party or that they lost their keys or something, tagging it with #sxsw, at a pace literally faster than I could keep up with.

Okay, people like twitter, and I sort of get that now. People like having a platform where they can broadcast bite-sized ideas and keep up with the mundane details of the lives of their friends and Ashton Kutcher. But good god, searching for something on twitter is an awful, awful experience that could never possibly lead to finding anything remotely useful or interesting.

Please, I beg you, explain to me why I'm wrong. I'm not even being facetious there, I honestly want to know what the hell people are doing searching on twitter.

Posted by Will at April 13, 2010 9:02 AM


I can't speak to the potential effectiveness of Twitter Ad model, but as a hashtag-based news gathering apparatus, Twitter search is quite useful.

For example, the website of our local paper Mountain Xpress (http://www.mountainx.com/) displays a series of moderated twitter feeds (#avlnews, #avlent, #avleat, #avlhealth, etc)that allow people to consume or share info even if they are not following one another.

I can't imagine how this would be done if you couldn't search for these specific hashtags.

Posted by: Wade at April 13, 2010 1:07 PM

Wait a second. Who says you have to search for "Starbucks" to see a Starbucks ad? What about Starbucks buying ads to be displayed with people search for "coffee?" It seems both you and the NY Times article to which you link are basing their stories on a false assumption.

Posted by: Daniel at April 13, 2010 1:20 PM

I think you are just jealous of how awesome we are. Our search is way better than search on this site, so shut up.


Posted by: Twitter at April 13, 2010 2:05 PM

Wow, two comments! That's more than I've gotten all year. (I'm not counting the one from you, twitter, because I'm still mad at you.) Anyway, Wade, that hash tag stuff seems to be more about getting stuff onto your site, not going to twitter to search for stuff, which is what I think is ridiculous. And yes, Dan, searching for Starbucks is a terrible, unrealistic example. But that's the stupid example that the Starbucks guy made, so that's what I ran with. But also, why would anyone search for coffee on twitter? I guess my real point here is that I can't imagine a situation where going to twitter and searching for something would be useful, and I just don't understand why people are doing it enough for twitter to think they can make money off of them.

Posted by: Will at April 13, 2010 2:19 PM