07/28/2011 05:34 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2011

Timely Tweets: Twitter Introduces Potential Cash Cow

Twitter is introducing a new feature involving "promoted tweets" which show up at the top of users' feeds. The service is billed as a way for people to get the latest news from the businesses and organizations they follow, but it is also designed to generate revenue for Twitter and could alienate users.

From the Twitter blog:

We all come to Twitter to connect with the latest information on the topics and people we care about. So when we decide to follow a favorite brand, business or charitable organization, we expect to be among the first to get a special announcement, access to exclusive content or a great offer.

That's why starting today, we're introducing a way to ensure that the most important Tweets from the organizations you follow reach you directly, by placing them at or near the top of your timeline. These Promoted Tweets will scroll through the timeline like any other Tweet, and like regular Tweets, they will appear in your timeline just once. Promoted Tweets can also be easily dismissed from your timeline with a single click.

Twitter is testing out the feature with a "select group of partners" including Best Western, Dell, Gatorade, Groupon, HBO and JetBlue. Charities like Make-A-Wish Foundation, Room to Read and The American Red Cross will also get a chance to try out the service.

The Financial Times says that the strategy is meant to generate ad revenue by eventually selling Timely Tweets to companies who want to reach potential customers. The risk is that this strategy will irk users by filling their Twitter feeds with ads.

ZD Net notes that Twitter is likely trying to mitigate a potential backlash by enabling a feature that allows users to get rid of the Promoted Tweet from the timeline with a single click.

How are Twitter users reacting to Timely Tweets? We've rounded up some of the first reactions here.