With social network usage increasingly shifting to mobile, Facebook and Twitter have both extended their ad programs to mobile apps in a bid to leverage the platform for monetization. Twitter recently extended its Promoted Products to mobile users, bringing promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts to its Android and iOS apps after testing waters in a limited way.

– In an announcement on its blog,  Twitter said that with its most recent app updates, it is now pushing Promoted Accounts to Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android apps. It added that in the coming weeks, it will begin introducing Promoted Tweets in the timeline on these mobile apps with a small number of users seeing Promoted Tweets near the top of their timelines from brands they already follow, in the initial phase.

– Promoted Tweets will appear in the users’ timeline like any other Tweet, and like regular Tweets, they will appear in the timeline just once; and will flow with the rest of the Tweets in the timeline.

– As with Promoted Tweets in search, Twitter will only display Promoted Tweets in the timeline when they are relevant. Users can dismiss non relevant Promoted Tweets with a single swipe.

– Twitter will also display Promoted Accounts in the list of ‘Who to Follow’ recommendations within the apps.

Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets in search had already been made available on Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android and the mobile web (m.twitter.com), while Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets in the timeline were available on mobile web.

Our Take

Both Facebook and Twitter had refrained from bringing ads to their mobile apps to keep the experience free of clutter and intrusion, specially since they wanted more people to get on board and drive mobile usage, in the initial days. Both have now realised that more people with smartphones are sharing and communicating through mobile versions of the services, and that the time is ripe to leverage the possibilities that the mobile web offers.

However, what remains as a challenge for the social network giants, is that they have to make sure that the experience doesn’t suffer because of ads. Android users and a section of iOS users are comfortable with ads inside apps, since they get the apps for free, in return. But ads on an ad free platform will take some getting used to.

Then there’s also the problem of fragmentation. Twitter had made it clear that it did not wish that developers build new clients- Perhaps it was out of fear of losing control on the platform (and on it’s monetization). On the other hand, Facebook is also supporting the cause of HTML5 to deliver a consistent experience (yes that includes ads as well) across platforms and is ready to share revenues with mobile operators to eliminate the middle men (read platform app stores). The social networks want to see themselves as major players in the mobile ecosystem, and monetizing mobile products is a small piece in the puzzle.