While the marketing world awaits Facebook's announcement on mobile ads, Twitter just beat 'em to it.
The microblogging platform announced today that it's rolling out mobile ads on its iPhone and Android apps. The move is key to boosting reach for Twitter's ads, which are now mostly confined to its website.
Promoted tweets will start appearing in users' timelines on iPhones and Android-powered smartphones this week; promoted accounts start appearing in the app's "who to follow" section. (Promoted trends and promoted tweets in search have been appearing on the apps since the fall.)
Twitter users may visit Twitter.com. Some use third-party apps to access the service. Twitter says 55% of its monthly active users access the service through mobile phones, meaning the small screen is key to reaching Twitter's audience.
Similar to the introduction of promoted tweets on Twitter.com last summer, the platform will begin with a small group of users who will see promoted tweets from brands they follow and then expand to include nonfollowers, according to Twitter spokesman Matt Graves.
Unlike the Twitter.com rollout, which began with a test group of 20 marketers, any Twitter advertiser that 's targeting promoted tweets directly to followers will start having those tweets surface in the timelines of iPhone and Android app users who follow them. Because the inventory for desktop and mobile ads is the same, and advertisers can't target mobile users specifically, there's no extra cost for serving ads to iPhone and Android users (unless the new opportunity drives up the bidding).
On mobile phones, promoted tweets will appear in user timelines and scroll down like normal tweets.
The ads will initially appear only on Twitter's official mobile app -- not on the vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps, such as UberSocial, TweetCaster and Echofon, also accessing Twitter. Whether third-party apps should carry Twitter advertising has been a point of contention; in 2010 Twitter began syndicating ads to one, HootSuite.
Promoted tweets are already populating the timelines of users on Twitter's HTML5-enabled mobile site, m.twitter.com.