Twitter aims to ape Facebook's talent for money

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Twitter, the microblogging phenomenon, is hoping to ape one of Facebook's main advertising strategies from next year as it attempts to grow into a truly commercial operation.

Facebook's revenue is expected to break $4bn this year, largely on the back of its ever-improving advertising sales. Twitter, meanwhile, which is expected to have sales of only around $140m this year, is aiming to monetise its service.

The organisation is in talks to sign up a handful of "alpha" partners for its advertising application programme interface (ads API), aiming to announce them in early 2012.

An ads API is essentially a system that allows companies to tailor their advertisements to individuals or small groups of users. Facebook introduced its alpha programme in 2009, when UK-based TBG Digital and Techlightenment, alongside the US's Blinq Media, were asked to develop online tools for the API.

Although this has since been expanded to more developers, these firms became market leaders and each have more than 100 big-name clients, including Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline and Samsung.

Their technology allows these clients to personalise their advertising campaigns for individual users, so that an 18-year-old male and a 50-year-old female would receive very different variants of the same campaign. The developer takes a small percentage of the price charged every time a user clicks on the advertisement, with Facebook taking the lion's share.

An industry source said: "Twitter is still looking to identify alpha partners, as Facebook did. Their vision is to be the voice of the advertiser."

It is thought that many of Facebook's alpha partners and developers that joined in the "beta" group have talked to Twitter. Once hired, they will have to help Twitter develop its marketing capacities: advertising does not play as important a role on its site as it does on Facebook's.

LinkedIn is also thought to be looking at a similar programme. But plans aren't believed to be as advanced as those of Twitter.