Long Time Coming, But Twitter Did Ads Right

Without Further Ado...

With four years under its belt, Twitter has finally announced a business model that doesn’t involve corporate accounts or a search partnership with Microsoft, Yahoo! or Google in a recent blog post. The new model, according to Advertising Age, involves ads displaying on Twitter.com search results initially but eventually showing up on user feeds within Twitter and third-party clients.

Twitter Gets Ads

Twitter’s answer to advertising shows up in searches on Twitter.com as of yesterday with a single “ad” called a Promoted Tweet. However, the ad isn’t really an ad at all. It’s actually a tweet that has been generated by the brand or even by the one of the brand’s customers. Users can interact with a Promoted Tweet as they would any other by re-tweeting, favoriting and @repyling.

Promoted Tweets are judged by “resonance,” which is calculated by how Twitter users respond (re-tweet, favorite, etc.) to it. The more resonance a Promoted Tweet has, the longer it sticks around. Once its resonance drops below a certain level, it’s removed.

In order to have a Promoted Tweet, advertisers bid on keywords, much like Google AdWords. Searches conducted by Twitter users who use a sponsored keyword will have a Promoted Tweet at the top with a message that identifies it as “promoted.”

Why Do We Care

Twitter’s taken an advertising approach that has been done in the past with search ads based on keywords, but it mixes several factors that leverage the strengths of the platform, making it a potentially a very successful media vehicle depending on the marketing strategy:

  • Responsive: Twitter ads allow advertisers to respond to consumer feedback. If a Promoted Tweet isn’t resonating, it’s time to change things up, but that also means that paying attention will be essential to success.
  • Uncluttered Environment: Twitter ads display one at a time, so marketers will be sharing their tweet with consumers in an uncluttered environment with a contextually relevant message.
  • Influential Audience: Many of Twitter’s users are influential people, and delivering a message that resonates with them means that your message will likely make its way through their personal networks.
  • Ads are Tweets: The ads feel like tweets (though it is clearly displayed that they are ads), which makes them a natural extension of the platform.
  • Takes Users Into Account: The ads are contextually relevant to users, non-invasive and do not hinder the Twitter experience. In addition, since only one ad is displayed at a time, the experience remains mostly ad free. Clearly, Twitter took user experience into account when developing the ads.
  • Epitomizes the Ideas of Paid and Earned: Advertisers purchase keywords (paid), but the community decides what happens from there by choosing whether or not they will give the ad their valuable interaction (earned). For marketers, this means understanding what works and what doesn’t. Which of your tweets has really taken off in the past? Have you thought about why?
  • It Has Legs. Promoted Tweets have the ability to extend beyond Twitter.com to other third-party clients. Many Twitter users don’t tweet from the Web site, but with Promoted Tweets, they’ll still see the ads no matter what they use to tweet.

Time will tell, but my initial observations are that Twitter’s ad offering will work. As always, strategy and target audience will need to be taken into account to determine if Twitter ads are right for your brand.

Learn a Lesson from Twitter

Twitter didn’t have to surprise everyone with a groundbreaking ad platform. Being four years old, the leadership understands that Twitter thrives with simplicity, and that’s what we got. They know their brand, its strengths and what it stands for. Knowing those factors is something that a lot of brands out there might want to think about for themselves.

In the End...

Brands planning to use Promoted Tweets should still leverage monitoring, responding and connecting with their customers online. Promoted Tweets seem to be a great way to drive awareness. However, when it comes to driving loyalty, long-term engagement is key. The key is to use Promoted Tweets as part of an integrated engagement strategy, not simply because it's all new and shiny.