When it comes to advertising on Twitter (and we’re talking advertising here, not marketing), there are two popular methods. That first is employed by TwittAd. They sell static advertising on the backgrounds of people’s Twitter accounts. Twitter itself has employed this method in Japan. But it doesn’t work for two reasons: first, the backgrounds are static and can be engaged with in anyway, and second, and more importantly, not a lot of people use Twitter’s web site. The majority of Twitter traffic comes via the API. In other words, most people see tweets via a third party client, and not many users will actually see your ad.
The second method of advertising is direct, in stream ads. This is what Magpie does, and something Twitter was reportedly testing last April. Twitter never added in stream ads, and there’s probably a reason: people hate them, so they’re likely ineffective. Twitter already has a poor signal to noise ratio that increases as you follow more people — add advertising to the mix and things could get bad, fast. That’s why we called Magpie a terrible idea when it launched.
So the two main methods of pushing advertising to Twitter users don’t really work. A new ad network called The Branch thinks they’ve found a third method. We think it makes more sense than the other two, but it can’t really classified as a Twitter advertising method.
The Branch is essentially a traditional ad network that deals exclusively with sites and tools that are highly trafficked by Twitter users. The idea is that while you can’t effectively advertise directly to Twitter users, you can advertise on the sites they frequent. Right now, the site sells advertising on the ultra-popular Twitpic, and Twitter Gallery.
We agree that The Branch will likely be more effective at reaching Twitter users than TwittAds and less invasive than Magpie, but it also misses on the targeting opportunities that exist in Twitter. You’re no longer able to target specific users, influencers, or groups of users. Rather, The Brand essentially sells run of network ads on popular sites — those sites just happen to be popular with people who also use Twitter.
The Branch was founded by Zerk Media, which also owns targeted advertising networks serving the Ruby and Microsoft developer communities. So they definitely have some ad network cred could certainly be successful. However, The Branch is also still not that elusive Twitter advertising solution.
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.