Digital Conference 2010

Chat, Stats, Secrets About Twitter

What's Been Reported -- and What Hasn't -- Since Site's Sponsored-Tweets Announcement

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NEW YORK ( -- It was the announcement heard 'round the digital ad world: Twitter revealed at Advertising Age's Digital Conference that it would be accepting sponsored tweets. Here is a roundup of what's been reported and what hasn't since then about Twitter's announced business model.

The ad system

What we know: As told to Ad Age, it's Google's AdSense. Twitter's version appears on searches against its website, and a single ad appears at the top of a search. The ad is itself a tweet, and users can "re-tweet" the ad to pass it around, make the ad a favorite, or reply to it. Twitter's first advertisers: Starbucks, Bravo and Virgin America. They're currently auctioning promoted tweets on a CPM basis but will later use an ROI model based on what Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo calls "resonance," a metric combining various data, including re-tweets, replies, links and hashtagging.

What we don't know: How much is it auctioning these CPMs for? How are they being auctioned? When, exactly will it move to the ROI model and how will it be priced? How much is Starbucks, et. al paying for being early adopters?

Speculation: To address that last question, we think they're paying nothing -- for now.

Twitter stats

What we know: The company has long kept secret the number of its registered users. Released at the company's Chirp Conference April 14, here is the figure, along with a few other key stats:

  • 105,779,710 registered users
  • 60% of those are from outside the U.S.
  • 180 million unique monthly visitors
  • 75% of all Twitter traffic comes from outside of
  • 3,000,000,000 requests per day to Twitter's API
  • 19 billion searches per month

That last stat was crunched by's Danny Sullivan, who tracked down CEO Evan Williams right after his Chirp presentation to suss out more details. Comparing Twitter searches against Google, Yahoo, and Bing, Mr. Sullivan figures the avian arbiter ranks a distant second to Google, which is significant now that it's planning to sell ads against Google.

What we don't know: Exactly how many searches live on

Speculation: As Mr. Sullivan, and later AllThingsD's Peter Kafka made clear, most of those 19 billion searches are performed off Twitter clients, which means owns far less of that 19 billion figure. Still, presuming most, if not all, Twitter publishers will accept promoted tweets to get 50% of that revenue, 19 billion is still a lot of searches to sell against.

Ads across the Twit-verse

What we know: So promoted tweets are already running against searches on and will eventually run within Twitter clients who want that 50%. In the fourth quarter, Twitter may start pushing those promoted tweets to individual content streams.

What we don't know: The big question on the minds of all those 150 million Twitter registrants (and counting) is what the threshold is for pushing promoted ads to an individual's content stream. Mr. Costolo told Ad Age: "Are [promoted tweets] great in search and horrible in the timeline? We are going to test and test and test."

Speculation: Twitter will probably ask users to opt in to its promoted streams, and most of them will do so, as long as Twitter offers the same 50/50 revenue share.

More to come as things develop.

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