Let's be honest. Twitter has to pay for itself. It has dipped its toes cautiously into the turbulent waters of online advertising through the fairly unobtrusive introduction of promoted Tweets -- in other words, commercial Tweets from accounts you don't follow.
I have to admit that, as a Twitter user, I've scarcely noticed the ad content -- good for me, less good for advertisers. But my experience might not be typical. In an August survey of Tweeters by the market research firm Lab 42, almost a quarter of participants acknowledged they had seen promoted Tweets relevant to their interests. A fifth of participants confessed they found out about a brand or took advantage of an offer via a promoted Tweet. With only 10 percent expressing hostility, Twitter's advertising model could hardly have hoped for a better start.
In these circumstances, how could Twitter pass over the groaning war chests of the political parties preparing for next year's interminable election season. (Oh, it started already?) Yes, political advertising has come to Twitter, and it's going to be hard to avoid.
Only the outgoing New York Times editor Bill Keller, or a fool, could overlook Twitter's remarkable reach, not least with some particularly choice demographic groups.
It's no surprise that 13 percent of online American adults are using Twitter in 2011. How does that audience break down? According to the Pew Research Center, it's overwhelmingly aged 18-49 and has deep reach into the black and Hispanic communities. It's also split fairly evenly between men and women (and among different income groups). Urban and suburban residents with some college education are heavily represented.
Twitter is not, therefore, a great way to reach older, rural high school graduates. That's just dandy for the candidates, because that's about as good a definition of nonswing voter as you can get. As students of the electoral college system know, presidential elections are decided by the swing vote in swing states. That's quite a specific segment of voters, and defining it as young and educated is not a bad start. In key states like Florida, it's Hispanic, too.
Facebook, by comparison, has more users who are older, as well as plenty of users below voting age.
If I were a candidate, I would be reaching for my mobile device right now. Mitt Romney, that very model of a modern, technocratic pol, is in the Twitter vanguard already. With the handle @MittRomney, he's been Tweeting for some time to a meager 95,000 followers. No other Republican presidential candidate has much more than that. (Benchmark for comparison: Khloe, the least famous Kardashian sister, has over 4 million.)
The Mitt Romney promoted Tweets, of course, will reach nonfollowers, too. "We can't afford 4 more years of failed leadership" is an early example. "RT & share if you agree."
OK, so nobody promised the Gettysburg Address. But reaching a young, electorally relevant audience is gold dust. On blogs, for the most part, candidates are preaching to the converted. On television, let alone radio, they're reaching those older people who aren't about to have their minds changed.
Twitter is very plausibly the playground of the uncommitted. Those are dollars well spent.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution