RealTime IT News

Is Sparq the Future of Twitter?

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- A new advertising service announced today at CrunchUp, a one-day conference held today in Silicon Valley, aims to solve Twitter's money problem.

SocialMedia announced Twitter Sparq, the first advertising service for Twitter. Twitter has been testing highlighting links on the right-hand column of its interface.

"Brands are active all across Twitter, but there's been no opportunity for advertisers to spark conversations or move the dialog a certain way," said Somrat Niyogi, SocialMedia TK, during an on-stage demo. "Twitter Sparq is like AdWords for Twitter, except people are pages and clicks are free."

Like Google's AdWords, Sparq provides a self-service interface that lets advertisers quickly set up the ads. The ads appear on the right-hand column on Twitter as Tweet Now. When someone clicks on the link, it automatically populates the tweet box with the advertiser's message. This can include a link, as well as an option for the user to customize or add to the message.

Advertisers can use keyword targeting based on a user's previous tweets. Ideally, that person's followers retweet, sparking a viral Twitter ad campaign. A dashboard for advertisers includes some familiar options, along with specialized metrics such as the number of tweets generated and how many clicks came from within the tweet box.

Twitter is rumored to have paid corporate accounts with special features in the works. (Not that the insta-blogging service is under financial pressure.)

CrunchUp focuses on real-time media, that is, the incessant stream of people's status updates, tweets, and posts to social media sites.

While the mantra for real-time startups is "Get users first, make money later," monetization was on the menu at CrunchUp. In an onstage conversation that opened the conference, host Michael Arrington, head of TechCrunch, asked venture investor John Borthwick, CEO of betaworks, and angel investor Ron Conway, an early investor in Google, how they expected to make back the cash they're sinking into social media companies.

Conway responded with a list of potential moneymakers, including selling analytics, lead generation, customer relationship management, payments, and syndication of ads. He sees a total of $5 billion in new revenue opportunities from real-time media.