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Twitter Now Accepts Political Ads; Acquires Julpan

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As the 2012 campaign for the White House starts heating up, Twitter says it will start accepting political advertising. Starting today, candidates and their political committees will be able to buy Twitter’s full range of ad products, including Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends. Separately, in a bid to bolster its insights about what its users share across Twitter, the microblog has acquired analytics startup Julpan.

The political ad program is being initiated with what Twitter described as “a small group of presidential candidates and national party committees,” though the company didn’t immediately identify those campaigns. These partners will be running ads in the coming week. Over the course of the next few weeks, Twitter plans to expand the pilot program to include other candidates and committees as it completes the formation of its political sales team.

Twitter has hired Peter Greenberger as its political ad director. Greenberger spent 4 years with Google (NSDQ: GOOG), where he built and managed the company’s first political sales team and managed the company’s work with electoral campaigns, committees, and issue advocacy groups. He’ll be based in Washington DC.

Although there was a good deal of political ad dollars spent online during the last presidential election in 2008, the marketing of candidates and issues is still heavily tilted toward TV, especially local stations. Online political ad spending has tended to be relatively small, with most of those dollars going to search marketing.

But social media like Twitter and Facebook have come a long way since the last major political race and both are expected to be heavily used to get out the vote and drive public opinion on issues.

Advertising in general has been a touchy area for Twitter, and it has tread very carefully with its “Promoted” marketing products to avoid alienating users. The emotional nature of politics has the potential to create even more angst among users, so minimize any friction or accusations of bias or lack of transparency, Twitter has completed two small UI tweaks designed to make it easy for users to distinguish political advertising from other ads in users’ feeds.

Users will notice a new purple “Promoted” icon that will be used to identify political advertising on Twitter. Second, campaigns who advertise on Twitter will be able to include a full, Federal Elections Commission-compliant disclaimer when users hover over their Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends or Promoted Accounts.

In making the announcement, Twitter noted that it’s already in heavy use by politicians in an official capacity — and, in the infamous case of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), it’s had some scandalous uses as well. There are currently 85 U.S. Senators now on Twitter, as are more than 360 members of the House of Representatives. There are also 42 governors are on Twitter, as are all of the major presidential candidates (Obama, Romney, Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich, Huntsman, Cain, McCotter, Santorum, Paul, Roemer).

Turning to the Julpan acquisition, that deal also brings in a former Twitter exec, Ori Allon, who, SearchEngineLand notes, was hired for his Orion search refinement technology. Financial terms were not disclosed. Release