New Ad Strategies on Facebook & Twitter

As advertisers flock to Twitter and Facebook, ads are getting sophisticated.

Advertising has been a fixture on Twitter since 2009. Companies can purchase the top spot on keyword searches or buy accounts that are heavily promoted in Twitter’s ‘Who to Follow’ feature. They can also pay private users to tweet on their behalf. In other words, ad exposure has been limited to a user’s interests and who they choose to follow. But for a price, ad tweets can now been seen by users who are ‘like’ the company’s followers—that is, people who don’t follow them already. Users have been receptive to Twitter ads so far, but the new plan goes against Twitter’s user-centric platform and reaction remains to be seen. But it’s potentially the strongest way to reach Twitter’s 200 million users.

Facebook now displays ads in the app ticker. If you don’t use applications (like LivingSocial) or play games (FarmVille) you probably haven’t noticed it. The ticker lists apps that your friends have recently used, and paid updates have crept in. Don’t see them? Look again. Only the tiny ‘sponsored’ icon distinguishes them as ads.

It’s a small change, but it might be a sign of bigger things to come. Blurring the line between advertising and user content may prefigure similar campaigns in your news feed or photo galleries. Time will tell.