SCap_ 2010-06-17_14Twitter has started selling spots on its right sidebar “Trending Topics”, so-called Promoted Trends. Toy Story 3 is the first test candidate, as can be seen on the right:

When clicked, it takes you to the same Twitter Search (internal) view for that keyword phrase as any other Trending Topic would, only now the top tweet is the “Sponsored Tweet”, which presumably also comes up if you were to type in the search yourself.

So far, so good, as this set-up folds in the ad as unobtrusively as possible into the user experience, a feat that Mashable’s Pete Cashmore called ingenious in a CNN.com post he wrote about the new system.

I’d point out that while it may be necessary to do things this way, there is likely a reduction in response, i.e. the click-through on the actual ad, which represents the second click already. As a rule of thumb, assume 50% drop in response for any additional step in your Web efforts).

And Twitter will likely play things close to the vest as far as additional click results from the Retweets that can happen around the Sponsored Tweet, so we won’t know whether that alone can make the considerable cost of the promoted trends/sponsored tweets worthwhile.

But the real problem is this. Look at what can show up right below the promoted tweet, based on Twitter’s own Retweet-count-based popularity surfacing:

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Probably NOT the brand experience that Pixar was aiming for. The tweet by movie critic Roger Ebert might only cost some 3D revenue, but the 4th tweet is slightly reminiscent of the PR disaster (around larbor/fair trade) for Nestle on Facebook some weeks back.

As you can see, that tweet may very well have gone nearly as viral as the promoted one! Definitely food for thought as brands shift more and more advertising online and into social media.

One bonus oddity I recorded from Twitter yesterday: Due to the instability of the platform during the massive World Cup server and internal data center network loads, Twitter has shut down the Profile Cards, and Geo-Location pop-up functionality to lighten that load. As well as intermittently, the Trending Topics…so that only the “promoted trend” was left in the sidebar:

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Harmless for now, but user annoyance might grow if this were to continue. Either way, we can say that Twitter’s Status Blog has been busy again…