Twitter finally opens an ads API. Your move, Pinterest and Tumblr

By Erin Griffith , written on February 20, 2013

From The News Desk

To date, the fight for social ad dollars has mostly been between Facebook and Twitter. (Yes, other small players are doing their native thing, and yes, the market is becoming increasingly fragmented, but Twitter and Facebook remain the two biggies.)

Facebook has dominated, thanks to its vast ecosystem of more than 260 service providers helping advertisers spend money on the platform. Buying ads on Twitter has not had the aid of this wide array of SaaS tools.

To buy a Promoted Tweet, Promoted Trend, or Promoted Account, advertisers who don't want to go through a sales representative must use Twitter's self-service tool. It exists only on and it is purposefully simple -- a little too simple, as I discovered when I tried a $20 ad campaign last year. Questions of effectiveness aside, the tools lacked basic functionality that even an unsophisticated advertiser such as myself wanted.

Now imagine a global brand with Twitter accounts in 30 different languages trying to jump into conversations to deliver the so-called "right message at the right time." Doing it manually is messy, cumbersome, and not at all conducive to spending lots of money.

It has been way too long in the works, but finally, with today's launch of an ads API, social SaaS marketing platforms like launch partners Buddy Media Salesforce, Hootsuite, SHIFT, TBG Digital, and Efficient Frontier Adobe can handle all the ad spending on Twitter campaigns inside their platforms, making the platform far more attractive for ad dollars.

"It's been hard to buy on Twitter," says Mike Lazerow, CMO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud. "Talking to clients, they say they want to advertise but ... there hasn't been a sophisticated system to do it."

He compared today's news to Facebook's mobile ads API. Two quarters ago, Facebook wasn't doing much in the way of mobile ad revenue. Neither were its developer partners. Then it released its mobile ads API, and last quarter the company reported that mobile now represents 23 percent of total revenue. "We basically didn't have a mobile business on Facebook two quarters ago, and now it's a significant part of our business," Lazerow says.

If other social platforms want a piece of the still-expanding social advertising pie, they better jump on the ads API bandwagon ASAP. Pinterest's API has been anticipated for a year now. In the interim, a whole host of cobbled together Pinterest management tools like Curalate have cropped up to fill the void. Tumblr, which is making a major push for brand dollars, has no ads API. Foursquare doesn't have an ads API either, although I haven't heard of too many brands clamoring to get on that platform yet. (Dennis Crowley mentioned at the Decoded fashion week conference last week that Foursquare was pushing to get more national retailers using the platform.)

I'd say the same advice goes for Instagram, but since it sold to Facebook, it's under no pressure to make money. Besides, we've seen how Instagram's sloppy attempts at preparing users for such a future have gone over. Backlashville. Users want Instagram to remain an unprofitable darling forever, and who knows -- it very well may.

Twitter did not shy away from pissing off users and developers last year. The company turned into a bit of an API monster when it closed its API any developer in the "quadrant of death," meaning they were pulling and republishing Tweets. A backlash ensued, naturally.

That decision was driven by Twitter's desire to make advertisers happy by delivering a "unified experience." Happy advertisers means more revenue, so you can imagine that the development of its ads API has been less contentious with its constituents. Advertisers, rejoice.

Update: An earlier version of this post noted that advertisers were hungry for LinkedIn to release an ads API as well -- the company actually has one, which it announced in November.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pandodaily]