The second largest social network, Twitter, has massive reach; according to eBizMBA they have an estimated 250 million unique visitors a month and rank 2nd amongst social networking sites. Twitter has recently launched their advertising platform and has opened it up for those willing to beta test.
Toronto web development and online marketing company 9th sphere decided to partake in an experiment to test out the functionality of the Twitter Advertising platform to see what kind of results we would be able to achieve.
At the time of writing this article, Twitter had selected a group of companies to be beta testers and granted them access to their platform for advertising purposes. The platform is still in its infancy and will likely be updated before it's released for public use. We wanted to showcase our findings, such as how intuitive the platform was for us, and measure the type of engagement and results we were able to achieve so far.
Three Methods of Advertising
Twitter offers 3 main methods of running ad campaigns. For each method, you can target specific keywords and set geo-targets, which helps to narrow down your audience. With all methods of promotion, you can target your followers or users that are like your followers, so that users with similar interests to your followers will see your tweets or account in their timelines. Twitter also allows for device targeting where you can select specific platforms and devices you wish to target. Currently the options for this are Desktop & Laptop Computers, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Other mobile devices.
The Promoted Account campaigns are simply for promoting your brand and expanding your reach. This method of advertising was mainly used for expanding our Twitter following and building up more brand awareness for 9th sphere. Accounts are promoted in the search results for related keywords that you target, as well as suggested in the "Who to follow" section of Twitter. One of the key advantages of promoting your account is that once you get a new follower, they will be "yours" as long as they don’t unfollow you. This allows you to tweet out to them in the future as you see fit at no extra cost. The synergy of SEO & PPC allows you to gain new users for future tweets and engagement for which you won't have to pay.
The second method of advertising offered by Twitter allows you to target search results for specific keywords in order to promote your content or tweets. You can target down to the city level in the United States, but as of right now one can only target to Canadians on a national level. Your ads are placed on timelines to help broaden your reach and help encourage engagement among users interested in your selected targeting options.
A simple search for "web marketing", for example, shows our promoted tweet at the top of Twitter's search results where we are linking to one of our blog posts. Interestingly enough, if you have compelling content that gets retweeted enough, it will appear at the top of the search results for free, as shown in the above screenshot from Mashable.
The third means of ad delivery provided by Twitter is their "Promoted Trends" which are built in order to broadcast your message to a large audience for 24 hours. While we haven't taken part in this method of promotion yet, it would be interesting to see what kind of results could be produced. There is a hefty price tag that goes with the promoted trends, you will have to contact Twitter for pricing details. We can't disclose pricing details in order to comply with Twitter's beta tester terms.
How it Works
Twitter's ad platform works on a cost per engagement basis (CPE) for the Promoted Tweets campaigns or on a cost per follow (CPF) for the Promoted Account campaigns. Both methods work pretty much the same from a budgeting standpoint. You select the start and end date for your campaign, along with your overall campaign budget, and then finally a daily maximum that will not be exceeded. From here, you select your maximum bid that you will pay per engagement. Twitter provides a suggested bid range for you to remain competitive and promises to charge you 1 cent more than those you're competing against as long as your bid is above theirs, similar to Google Adwords. You pay whenever an engagement occurs, which is defined as a user clicking, retweeting, @replying to, or adding a Tweet to their favorites. One of the downsides to Twitter's ad campaigns is the inability to set up accurate bid models that work during all hours and days of the week. One of the nuances is that the bid prices are always changing, and in order to remain competitive you will need to manually adjust them during peak times.
Measurement & Analytics Timeline Activity
The tracking and analytics on the backend of Twitters ad platform isn't as robust as most PPC marketers will be expecting. It provides a simple barebones metrics for engagement to allow you to measure your follows, unfollows, mentions, favorites, retweets and replies. We were able to measure our engagement when we ran a promoted blog post outlining our sponsorship of SMX Toronto. This brought us nearly 250 click-throughs and around 60 new follows in a 48-hour time period. For examples of the graphic elements from the Twitter Ads backend view the screenshots they have available here.
From the followers page, you get a graph overviewing your followers, breaking them down by interests, location, engagement, gender and other users they follow. You can follow your follower growth and track the most unique interests of your followers so that you have a better understanding of what they are looking for and what will encourage engagement.
The Promoted Tweets analytics shows your engagement data in a line graph format as well, where you can measure your clicks, retweets, replies and overall impressions. The analytics are broken down further by each promoted tweet you send out and by campaigns if you have segregated your tweets by category or "buckets". You can view your statistics by a selected date range and by campaign and view all stats, or alternatively you can view your top and bottom performing campaigns to see which had the best and worst engagement. While it's not as granular as one might hope, it does help to provide further insight on the performance of your ad campaigns. Twitter also provides a handy CSV export, allowing you to download all your hourly data for in-depth analysis.
Lastly, the Promoted Accounts analytics section allows for you to view your overall profile views, impressions and follows from your Promoted Account campaigns. You can sort your data in a filled line graph form once again, allowing you to sort impressions by 15 minutes, 1 hour or 6 hour increments. This page will also show how many followers you received, profile views and actual follow rate so you can get a better understanding of how well your promoted account is working. The Promoted Accounts analytics page also provides a CSV export for your convenience.
Conclusion and Thoughts
While the Twitter Ad platform isn't going to compare to the likes of Google or Facebook, it still works rather intuitively and the interface is a breeze to navigate. The reporting is rather lackluster at this time and we suspect that this will be improved upon moving forward; however currently it does provide the essentials for marketing teams looking to grow their social reach. Twitter does have a massive audience and something we would like to see is more in-depth demographic and geographic targeting options to narrow down campaigns that would perform better for a specific audience. Unfortunately at this time we had to settle for marketing to all of Canada, which may be hurting performance if we are only looking to target a Toronto audience. Engagement and relevancy to interests (read: keyword targeting) seems to be a common underlying theme towards success on Twitter, and while it is increasing our brand awareness and reach, the question still remains how effective it will be for actually driving sales. There isn't a way to select related keywords that people actually use on Twitter. Instead, you currently need to manually enter each term. We also were not sure if the keywords are used as exact match or will prompt an ad when parts of the keywords are used. With some other experiments in the works it will be interesting to see what kind of engagement levels we can reach targeting specific trends and topics. We are still learning the ropes and growing our brand on Twitter, and with their advertising platform being in its infancy, we will continue to test and measure performance to see what works well. Stayed tuned for the results as well as future case studies from us.