I’m a huge user of Twitter and spend more time staring at a Twitter feed than pretty much any other online/PC/mobile utility. Collectively, literally more than an hour or two a day, my eyes glance at a feed delivered to me on top of Twitter. In terms of time spent, maybe my email client is close, but that’s about it. Like most of us, I do this increasingly on a mobile device. Thanks to the excellent Twitter iPad, iPhone and more-than-adequate (but not perfect) desktop apps, I rarely use Twitter’s web service. Because of all this, I have never seen a “promoted trend”, “promoted tweet”, or “promoted account”. Twitter and Facebook largely place advertising around the stream — in the chrome to the right of the feed. I know Twitter is experimenting with in-stream ads, but they are largely absent from Twitter clients today.
At Facebook, there is great resistance internally (and from some users) to the idea of putting ads into the newsfeed. Most believe that it would be a huge turnoff to their users. So Facebook is inventing some really cool social ad products that appear in the ad gutter to the right of the feed. But you never see these ads on Facebook’s mobile apps. And increasingly, that is where all our eyeballs are going, right? Even Facebook has admitted that a large amount of their future growth is expected to come from mobile products. So, where do the ads go?
I think they are going in the feed. They need to be highly targeted, socially influenced, and tastefully produced. They should solicit feedback from us and operate like content (contain links, be informative, utilize the conventions of the platform like hashtags, etc.)
I feel like it is 1995 again and we have the opportunity to invent the banner ad. There really is very little traction around what in-stream ads will look like. I am a firm believer that more and more of our time will be spent consuming information and media in streams. And if our eyeballs go there, advertisers will follow.