All a flutter about Twitter Promoted Tweets?

We have all heard the news, Twitter has launched a long awaited revenue/advertising model – Promoted Tweets. The first phase of trials have begun with a handful of brands that have embraced Twitter including Virgin America, Best Buys, Sony & Starbucks to name a few.

But is it the next Google Paid Search, or is everyone getting a flutter about nothing?

How do Promoted Tweets Work?

Without re-gurgitation all of the press circulating about the product, I will highlight some of the interesting innovations they claim to have made with their product (obviously as I have not tested it as an advertiser thus I cannot comment on this from first hand experience).

Promoted Tweets* Ads that form part of the conversation; Twitter’s ethos of building a great user experience has been at the centre of their strategy to date and they have used this to help guide their ad strategy. Rather than disrupt the user experience promoted tweets aim to naturally form part of the conversation. Twitter’s first step is to deliver promoted tweets at the top of search results however overtime Twitter plans to display “relevant Promoted Tweets in your timelines in a way that is useful to you.” – according to Biz Stone

* User Behaviour; Twitter’s promoted tweet system analyses user interaction to help determine whether or not to show these ads to the user moving forward. To quote Biz Stone;
We strongly believe that Promoted Tweets should be useful to you. We’ll attempt to measure whether the Tweets resonate with users and stop showing Promoted Tweets that don’t resonate. For it to resonate with a user they must reply to it, favorite it, or re-tweet it, if not the Promoted Tweet will disappear.

When is it occurring?

I have taken a quick poke around to catch a glimpse of when and how the ads are being triggered. I conducted several searches related to Starbucks and also Virgin America (that users might search on within Twitter) to gain an understanding of when they are featured. In particular however I want to highlight 2 of the outcomes of this experiment;

1. Coffee & Guns – Starbucks Promoted Tweets
One of the most topical issues for Starbucks at the moment is that related to people being allowed to carry guns within their stores. Their Facebook page features a lot of discussion around the topic as does Google news. This is obviously a very topical discussion as a search on Twitter will quickly reveal a lot of Twitter activity – however I note that the ad that is served by the new Promoted Tweets feature is irrelevant.

Twitter Ads

Another topical issue is that of Fairtrade coffee which when searched provides the same irrelevant ads.
This example whilst showing there is more work to do, does present a potential opportunity of the promoted tweet. Topical issues spread through social networks like wildfire. For brand who need to regain their voice in such circumstances like the “guns issue in starbucks” it could provide the platform to connect with their audience and the influencers.

The Verdict

It is obvious that the Twitter ad network is still in its infancy, although given that it has taken this long to develop a revenue model, I am sure the advertising industry was expecting something more exceptional. From the initial searching I conducted across not just Starbucks but other brands, it seems that at best these ads are relevant on a brand basis but not contextually targeted at all.

Unlike search advertising, Twitter’s new ad network has the potential to provide a very unique offering. Its underlying approach makes sense in a social environment ie factoring in user engagement and also attempting to integrate ads in the conversation rather than disrupt the user experience, however more work still needs to be done. In particular as real time search is increasing in size, a real time search strategy will become increasingly important for organisations.

At present 600 million Twitter searches are conducted every month and Twitter needs to provide brands with an opportunity to actively leverage this search volume in a useful way which does not currently exist (from what I have seen). They must do this however whilst building promoted tweets into the natural Twitter stream.

What are your thoughts on Twitters new advertising platform – would love to hear from others on this topic

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