Edit 2 August 2014: when I first published this post I was unaware that (a) it costs the advertiser each time you interact with a promoted tweet (ha!) and that (b) quite separately, people might deliberately respond to advertisers to let them know of their anger about Twitter's poor response re bullying / harrassment etc for example).
I just found out that replying to a promoted tweet, even just with heckling, costs the promoter between 50¢ and $5. Use that as you will.
— Tom Scott (@tomscott) August 1, 2014
I screen capped a mnth of advertiser TWs on my TL-should I send you a copy of what I send them documenting what they support? #askcostolo
— Sarah Stardust (@SarahDeLe) July 29, 2014
The short version
The way Twitter handles threaded conversations means that any reply you post to a promoted tweet can be seen by anyone else, if you want to have a little bit of fun with particularly irritating and poorly targeted (and persistent) ones. Each time you click, RT, reply to or favourite a promoted tweet the advertiser is apparently charged for this 'engagement', though presumably they set a cap for the amount they will pay to Twitter.
I have used Twitter for six years and benefited hugely from it yet I've never paid them a bean. It would be churlish to begrudge them revenue and I wish them well in collecting it.
One of the ways I think they're doing this is to charge people to promote tweets - they've been doing it since at least July 2011. Note that I said people and not advertisers or companies. Anyone can pay to promote their tweet to a bunch of people. And they do, and some of them are ... well, a bit pointless.
Initially it was mostly companies promoting a product or service through Twitter but now it seems that anyone with less sense than money can join in.
Here are some that I've had promoted into my timeline.
|"Eh?" was my reaction to this promoted tweet.|
To be honest I think this sort of thing should probably be reserved for only the really irritating tweets that are irrelevant and persistent - let's not all be mean to people who mis-send a tweet every now and again.
Do promoters understand this?
Having clicked on a few promoted tweets now (both from companies and people who seem to have promoted a tweet by accident), and seen the replies, it seems that sending out a promoted tweet can really open you up to some unpleasant responses. I don't know if Twitter is warning advertisers - I assume they're being told that their tweets are being targeted to relevant people but having received so many that are so off-target this system might need to iron out a few glitches. Mis-targeted tweets probably increases the unpleasantness of responses as people find these promoted tweets pretty irritating. The problem, for advertisers, is not just the unpleasant replies ('snark yes, unpleasantness no' would be my motto) but the fact that others can see the unpleasant replies thanks to threading, and also that each response or interaction is costing them money.