SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter announced Tuesday that it is introducing advertising, allowing companies to pay to have their messages show up first in searches on its site.
The introduction of Promoted Tweets comes as Twitter increasingly faces questions about how to turn its wide usage into profits.
Twitter has grown quickly in popularity since it started in 2006, with celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher "tweeting" messages of 140 characters or less alongside everyday users.
But the site has been slow to capitalize on that success.
Twitter has been making an undisclosed amount of money by providing Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. with access to messages for their search engines. Many people expected Twitter would eventually introduce advertising.
In a blog post Tuesday, company co-founder Biz Stone said the company took its time "because we wanted to optimize for value before profit." He said the company understood that many people have been frustrated by its "stubborn insistence on a slow and thoughtful approach to monetization."
Twitter said Best Buy Co., Sony Pictures, Starbucks Corp. and Virgin America are some of the advertisers using what Promoted Tweets.
The new Promoted Tweets are to be "called out" as ads on top of search results on Twitter, much as sponsors can pay for listings atop rankings on search engines such as Google, Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo. That means Twitter users would see the new ads when they search broadly for topics being tweeted about.
However, many users connect with the service not through such searches or even visits to the site. Rather, scores of outside programmers have written mobile and desktop software that can access the feeds of Twitter messages that users get from people they are "following" on the site.
Twitter said it might take the Promoted Tweets service further and make them also show up on those feeds.
Stone said Promoted Tweets will need to resonate with users. If a Promoted Tweet isn't replied to or forwarded by other users, it will disappear.
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