Twitter’s Self Serve Ad Platform Launching in March

As the latest endeavor to add another significant revenue stream to the microblogging platform, Twitter is introducing its self-serve ad platform next month to 10,000 small and midsize businesses. It’s a move made possible through Twitter’s partnership with American Express.

Beginning late last week, American Express cardmembers and merchants were given the opportunity to register to use the platform on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Those who sign up are also given $100 in advertising credits to, as Ad Age describes it, “put toward bidding on promoted tweets and promoted accounts — hopefully whetting their appetites for more.”

If you’re unfamiliar, self-serve allows advertisers to make electronic payments instead of being invoiced by Twitter’s sales team. The first taste of the new platform came last November with just a handful of committed advertisers to demonstrate Twitter’s new effort.

It now appears that Twitter is ready to aggressively expand.

CEO Dick Costolo noted that opening the self-serve platform is a key development for Twitter in a potential banner year. The company is also focused on reaching the market for its political ad products and scaling its international ad offerings.

“So many hundreds of thousands and even millions of small businesses have been using Twitter effectively for years already,” says Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, “so by opening up our ad platform to all these folks as a mechanism for them to amplify the value they’re already creating.”

As is the case for any of Twitter’s 3,000 advertisers, small businesses can set bids for promoted accounts on a cost-per-follower basis and for promoted tweets on a cost-per-engagement basis/ In the latter case they pay only when users actively engage with the tweet (by retweeting, for instance.) While national brands might be bidding on keywords or hashtags associated with major events like the Oscars, which makes bidding competitive and expensive, small businesses would be more likely to bid on highly specific terms and to localize their bids, according to Mr. Costolo. (Twitter currently allows for city-level targeting at its most specific.)

Twitter says the self-serve platform will officially launch for the aforementioned 10,000 businesses in late March. The offering will then be expanded to more advertisers and merchants in the coming months.