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Twitter's Advertising Win and (Temporary) User Loss

Twitter
Twitter

It's a busy news day for Twitter — while Virgin America and Bravo declare success with Twitter's "Promoted Tweets" the company also suffers from a glitch that seems to wipe out users' follower lists. (Note: Both Bravo and CNBC are owned by parent company General Electric .)

The Twittersphere erupted with protest when it appeared that users are following zero other people on Twitter and have 0 followers. Twitter quickly explained that it's fixing this glitch. The micro-blogging service may be free, but users expect 24/7 access and flawless execution from Twitter. The uproar expressed in the half hour after the followers’ outage is a testament to Twitter's popularity.

A Twitter spokesperson tells me "we take this quite seriously and are working quickly to fix it." It's worth noting -- Twitter has this outage because the company is protecting against a potential privacy breach. Here's the comment on Twitter's status page: "We identified and resolved a bug that permitted a user to “force” other users to follow them. We’re now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place. Follower/following numbers are currently at 0; we’re aware and this too should shortly be resolved." The company adds: "of note: protected updates did not become public as a result of this bug."

In the meantime Twitter does have reason to celebrate -- three major companies testing "Promoted Tweets" have deemed the company's first revenue model a success.

Virgin America announced the airline's expansion to Toronto via Twitter, promoting the new route with 50 percent off for the first 500 fliers coming from California. The company says the offer sold out in three hours, helping Virgin American record its fifth-highest sales day in the airline's history. The company also added 12,000 as a result of this promotion, giving the company direct access to more engaged interested customers.

There's certainly plenty of interest in Twitter expanding this ad program. A Bravo Promoted Tweet, about an online 'Green IQ' game hit the maximum number of retweets, and was seen by 200,000 users. Red Bull told BrandWeek magazine that engagement rates for Promoted Tweets have been higher than typical online advertising. The company says it's ready to roll out Promoted Tweets globally as the company expands the ad model.

Twitter knows that to make the Promoted Tweet model a huge hit, it must keep its users engaged, loyal, and as obsessive as they are now. And to do that the company needs to keep its service as smooth and consistent as possible. So today's two pieces of news are in fact, intricately connected. We'll see how soon Twitter can restore my follower list, and in the meantime, I doubt it'll hurt traffic on the site.

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