Advertising on Twitter: Is it right for your brand?

Written by and published

One of my favorite new advertising opportunities is Twitter’s promoted products. Competition is low, engagement rates are high, and research indicates the audience actually likes seeing them. I spoke on Twitter’s promoted products at the SMX Social Media Marketing conference in December, which inspired this blog post. Here’s why I think Twitter is worth your advertising dollars right now – and what you’ll get if you take the plunge.

Twitter is aggressive about advertising

Obviously. Twitter’s main source of revenue is their promoted products, and they want to compete with other self-service advertising platforms like Google and Facebook. In my opinion, it is actually easier to target users with one of Twitter’s promoted products than with a standard Facebook display ad.

Initially, promoted products were only available to US advertisers, but they have been expanding with new offices in the UK and Japan. According to reports, Twitter’s ad revenues are expected to be close to $400 million during the year 2013. Which is a pretty impressive number considering the community is only a few years old.

Consumer don’t mind promoted tweets

But how do people on Twitter feel about ads in their Twitter stream? Check out these statistics from eMarketer on attitudes towards promoted tweets.

promoted tweets in twitter

Only a small percentage said they find promoted tweets annoying, and a much larger group is engaging with them and even finding valuable discounts. The vast majority of Twitter users surveyed were OK with seeing promoted tweets that are relevant to them – possibly even enjoying them.

Twitter trumps Facebook in fan loyalty

When comparing Twitter to Facebook, CMB Consumer Plus recently found that users who follow a brand on Twitter have a higher likelihood of buying something from that brand than those who are a fan of the brand on Facebook (67% compared to 51%). They also found a higher likelihood that Twitter followers of a brand would recommend it to others as compared to Facebook fans (79% compared to 60%).

CMB Consumer Plus report

The competition is low – for now

Because Twitter’s advertising program is still in a beta, the competition is low. You bid against other advertisers, and without many other advertisers to bid against, you can pretty good cost per engagement (CPE) prices. The minimum CPE bid is only $0.50 (which is not necessarily what you would pay, as you have to bid high enough to beat out other advertisers), which presents a great opportunity to start a campaign on a reasonable budget.

But that window could be closing soon. Twitter Sales Chief Adam Brian spoke with the Wall Street Journal a few months ago and said that more than “1,000 advertisers, including many small businesses” have used purchased ads from Twitter, “and about 80% have made more than one purchase.” As more and more advertisers purchase more ads on Twitter, the competition will rise.

How to get started

If you can spare $5,000 a month (Twitter’s minimum commitment, for 3 months) from your advertising budget, consider testing a Twitter campaign. Right now, you still need to apply for an account to begin running promoted tweets or accounts.

Usually, you will be required to complete an insertion order, but a few weeks ago Twitter announced a limited beta allowing electronic payments – a good direction, as their ultimate goal is for advertisers to be able to set up and launch a campaign without help from a representative. Still, I can tell you that you can easily get a sponsored follow or tweet campaign running within seven days. Your options are:

Promoted accounts

Promoted accounts are probably the easiest and most straightforward advertising solution on Twitter. Your account is listed under the “who to follow” section on, and you bid against other advertisers in a cost per follow bidding model. Just like with AdWords, the bidding really depends on your industry and the competition but generally CPF starts around $1-$2.

You can target users by location, interests, and keywords mentioned in their Twitter stream. Here’s an example of what a promoted account looks like on

promoted account in twitter

This is the official Occupy Wall Street account being promoted, by the way. If an occupier hooked up to a car battery, using WiFi from a nearby coffee shop can run ads on Twitter, your business can too!

Promoted tweets

With a sponsored tweet, you can promote a message in Twitter’s search results, in a follower’s timelines, or in the timeline of users that Twitter deems “similar” to your current followers. Advertisers pay on a cost per engagement model, where you can bid your maximum CPE. Promoted tweets carry a minimum CPE of $0.10 and a suggested CPE of $0.50.

Engagement is defined as one of the following actions:

  • Click (can be a link, hashtag or open of the promoted tweet to the details pane)
  • Favorite
  • Retweet
  • Reply

Notice that you will be charged for the click of a hashtag. This is why, unless you have a specific reason for doing so, I usually don’t recommend including a hashtag in your promoted tweet.

Promoted trends

Worldwide promoted trends are Twitter’s most expensive advertising solution by a long shot. For a $120,000 flat fee you can promote a trend to all users in the USA. The trend will also appear on third party and mobile apps. Experts estimate this promoted trend can deliver an average of 25,000,000 impressions a day.

With such a high price tag, this is obviously not an option for most advertisers. But for those representing, say, a large brand launching a new product, or a television network looking to create conversation about a new show, then promoted trends can actually be a pretty effective way to reach a huge audience.

Layer on top of organic efforts

If you’re ready to run a Twitter promoted campaign, make sure you’re getting the most of out those advertising dollars. The most important piece of advice I can give you is that any effective paid Twitter strategy must be paired with natural interaction in the community. You, or your community manager, will need to be active in posting valuable updates, interacting with your followers, keeping on top of popular trends, etc.

If you don’t have that foundation in place before launching a sponsored campaign, it will inhibit the success of your paid effort. Why? Because no matter how high you bid on a promoted follow campaign, if users don’t see any value in the updates in your Twitter stream then they aren’t going to follow you. Plain and simple.

Set goals before launching

Before you begin spending money on followers or actions, think about your goals. Exactly what actions do you want users to complete? Exactly how will you define the success of your campaign? Always establish your goals first, and then build your campaigns around these desired actions.

You may just want to get more followers for your brand. That’s an easy goal to achieve. But maybe you have a more complicated goal, like getting people talking about a new product launch. Maybe you want to get users to click through to sign up for a newsletter on your site or complete a contact form. As with any paid effort, it is always important to define these goals, otherwise you could be wasting your advertising dollars.

I have no affiliation with BeachBody (the P90X workout company) but I think this is a great example of a promoted tweet.

BeachBody's promoted tweet

I took this screen shot on November 10th, 2011 – the day before 11/11/11, which was trending worldwide on Twitter. BeachBody did a great job of capitalizing on the popularity of 11/11/11, and tied in a contest for $1,111. Also, notice how the only link they have in the promoted tweet is a link to enter the contest. No hashtags, no push to get users to retweet, the goal is very clear: click the link and enter the contest.

Consider deals and contests

According to a study from, 58% of people surveyed say they follow retailers online to find discounts. Another 39% said they follow retailers for information on contests. These are great elements to include in your sponsored effort, and they often lead to higher engagement rates.