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Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter announced Tuesday that it is introducing advertising, allowing companies to pay to have their messages show up first in searches on its site.

The feature is called Promoted Tweets. Twitter says Best Buy Co., Sony Pictures, Starbucks Corp. and Virgin America are some of the advertisers.

Twitter has grown quickly in popularity since it started in 2006 but has yet to define a plan for turning its wide usage into profits. The eventual introduction of advertising was expected, although Twitter also has been making an undisclosed amount of money by providing Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. with access to messages for their search engines.

The new Promoted Tweets are to be "called out" as ads on top of search results on Twitter, much as sponsors can pay for listings atop rankings on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. That means Twitter users would see the new ads when they search broadly for topics being tweeted about. But in a blog post by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Twitter said it might take the Promoted Tweets service further and make them also show up in the feeds of messages that users get from people they are "following" on the site.

Stone said Promoted Tweets will need to resonate with users. If a Promoted Tweet isn’t replied to or forwarded by other users, it will disappear.