Twitter introduced a redesign Tuesday that changed the look and feel of the service, displaying photos and the first frame of Vine videos in users' historically austere Twitter feeds.
As one agency put it:
Unwanted photos float through our @Twitter stream like jellyfish interrupting an August ocean swim.— McCann (@McCann_WW) October 30, 2013
It didn't take long for marketers to figure out they could start showing big display-sized ads just by attaching them to promoted tweets. The images they're attaching to tweets have the ability to be seen by their followers as well as by users they pay to reach through promoted tweets.
On one hand, there's a big opportunity to show users display-ad-style images that they're unlikely to miss while breezing through their Twitter feeds. But there's also a risk of spamming them with images they're not interested in.
And there's the sizing factor. Yesterday, in the preview rendering that appears in feeds, a tweet from Sprint showed a poorly cropped graphic with the text "Sprint -- Faster." The full image shows up when a user clicks on the preview, but until that happens users are left to guess at the second word.
The cropping issue seems problematic for more than one brand. An in-stream picture from @DellSecurity is stripped of its context because a header that reads "Zombie Apocalypse" has been removed.
While in-stream pictures will be enticing for marketers who have been wanting higher-impact ad units on Twitter, they also pose an operational challenge. The social network has worked hard to teach brands to tweet, but now it also needs to get them to produce rich-media content that's made for the Twitter stream, just as Facebook has done.
Difficulties aside, the result could be lucrative: Twitter only collects from marketers when users somehow engage with ads. They don't pay when people merely notice -- or don't notice -- their promoted tweets and breeze right past them. Ads that take up more room in the stream are more likely to be engaging. Or annoying. Time will tell.