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Mar 24, 2009

CLIP Twitter Accepts Its First Ad Payment, Will 'Suggest' ExecTweets

In what may technically be its first ad deal, Twitter is accepting payment from Microsoft and John Battelle's Federated Media Publishing to promote ExecTweets, a service that aggregates tweets from top business executives.

According to FM Publishing, ExecTweets is "a real-time tool that helps you to find, follow and engage with the world's most prolific and successful business executives on Twitter."

While FM says ExecTweets does not represent an important revenue model for the service, Twitter's leadership has given the ad seller its blessing. In a post to the company's blog, founder Biz Stone wrote, "if you're a major brand and you want to sponsor a topic-focused social media experience with Twitter, we suggest Federated Media -- they'll fix you up right."

On a first glance, the interface would appear to have been rolled out a bit prematurely. For instance, the media and advertising category -- where FM should be well-equipped to generate rapid value -- is slim pickings for anyone not exclusively interested in Web publishing. Featured here is a who's who of overexposed digerati: Joi Ito, Guy Kawasaki, Tim O'Reilly, and Pete Blackshaw.

Whatever its flaws, ExecTweets is notable for one big reason. It appears to be the first time any brand has worked with Twitter on a paid basis. While its not clear how much Twitter received from Microsoft for supporting and promoting the tool, Battelle wrote in a blog post that "Federated Media felt that Twitter should share some of the revenue associated with ExecTweets since this project is made possible using their open platform."

A noble sentiment to be sure. However FM stands to benefit greatly -- arguably more than Twitter -- by being the first to engage the thunderously popular service in a paid relationship of any kind. That is a huge selling point for any ad seller.

For its part, Twitter must tread carefully. Having agreed to promote ExecTweets on its homepage and "suggested users" page, the company must now give careful thought to disclosure to avoid provoking user skepticism every time it recommends a product or Twitter user.

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