Twitter Inc yesterday formally launched a service that would allow small businesses to buy and place ads on the online messaging platform.
The company, which has for years sought ways to boost its advertising revenue, hopes the new ad service would at least partially answer looming questions about its long-term business strategy.
Since 2010, the company's in-house sales staff had sold "promoted tweets" to large businesses on a case-by-case basis. Last year it developed a self-serve system that could handle a much greater volume of ad transactions and, in November, opened the system to a few clients for testing.
The service officially launched on Twitter's website yesterday. It is limited to merchants and advertisers who use American Express cards. The company would open the service to other cardholders over the coming months.
The service is being launched at a critical stage in the company's development and would be observed closely by investors and analysts curious to see if the company would go public anytime soon.
The company started operations in 2007, from San Francisco. It allows people to send 140-character messages, or tweets, to groups of followers. The company counts over 100 million active users and a valuation of over $8 billion, even as it is yet to establish a money-making model.