This post is part of a series on paid media to help PR and marketing professionals understand the basics of social paid advertising. Read all paid posts as we explore Facebook, Taboola, Outbrain, basics of content strategy and more in the coming months. 

While you may be used to hearing that you must have a Facebook advertising strategy, Twitter probably seems a bit more mystifying. You’re not alone. Without a clear plan and substantial budget, the platform rarely makes sense as part of a smaller advertising strategy. However, if you’re looking to quickly grow your follower base or are launching a new campaign, read on. We’ve outlined all you need to know about Twitter’s advertising products and how they might help elevate your brand’s engagement. 

How Ads on Twitter Work
Twitter allows companies to target followers by keywords (terms and hashtags), geography (including states and cities), devices (desktop browsers, iOS, BlackBerry, etc.) and interests (ranging from general interests like “outdoors” to specific interests like “skiing”). You can also target followers that are similar to those following specific handles you choose, which can allow you to directly target competitors or like-minded companies. For example, Target may want to target followers similar to those following Best Buy or Walmart. The ads work on a bidding system. You set your price point by defining the highest amount you’ll pay for a click (promoted tweets or trends) or a follower (promoted accounts). When someone clicks on your content, you’ll end up paying one cent more than the bidder below you. For example, if you set a cost per follow bid at $4 and another company set their bid at $3, you’ll end up paying $3.01. 

Ad Products
The three basic ad products are promoted accounts, promoted tweets and promoted trends. However, as Twitter gets closer to their IPO, they’re starting to offer more ad products, recently demonstrated by their new product called Amplify, which sells ads together with television and other media companies in real-time. However, for the sake of your brand, you’ll probably focus on the three basic products outlined below. 

  • Promoted Accounts: Promoting your account is the fastest way to grow your follower base within targeting parameters that you set across interest buckets, geographies and genders. You have control over the cost you want to pay per follower and will only pay when someone follows you. Ads will show up in the left hand side of users’ Twitter homepages. 

  • Promoted Tweets: By promoting your tweets, you can increase the reach to current followers and new prospects. Think of them like promoted posts on Facebook. Once you promote the tweet, the content will show up at the top of user feeds as well as in search results based on your targeting parameters. 

  • Promoted Trends: Twitter lists popular trends to show you what’s happening on a given day. You can promote a trend that already exists or you can promote a new trend and have it appear at the top of the list for a full day. These promotions do not come cheap, with reports that a trend can cost more than $200,000 for the day. 

For updates on products and to see best practice in action, follow the official Twitter advertising blog

Reasons to Use Twitter Ads
Let’s be honest, advertising on Twitter is expensive, especially if you’re comparing lower costs on content syndication platforms, like Outbrain or Taboola, or even on Facebook. However, if your brand has clear fan growth or engagement goals on Twitter, then you should definitely consider devoting a portion of your advertising budget. 

  • Fan Growth: If your brand is just starting out, a promoted account campaign can be particularly useful for growing followers quickly with your target audience. Targeting options allow you to grow your community in a particular vertical (like healthcare or tech), within a specific geography or even with followers similar to those of your competitors. The more granular you get with your targeting, the more you’ll pay per follower (upwards of $5). Make sure you set expectations with stakeholders accordingly before you launch the campaign. 
  • Engagement: Promoting specific tweets can be particularly useful when you have a specific announcement, campaign or contest. If you’re announcing a new product, consider promoting a series of tweets that test different copy and calls-to-action and think through your goals. Do you want to drive traffic to a link? Spread awareness through RTs? Generate comments via @ replies? Having a clear objective will help you develop tweets that will deliver on your campaign goals. For an example of a successful campaign, read about this promotion by Sesame Street. In a series of 29 tweets, the character Grover took over their Twitter and demanded that followers stop retweeting or else a “monster would appear”. The tweets created a story, demanded engagement and delivered a big return for the brand. While this type of promotion may not be feasible for most brands, it is important to think about the story arc to your promotion strategy. 
  • Conferences and Events: If your brand is attending a conference or has a stake in an event, you might want to consider promoting tweets to those searching for the conference or event hashtag. When attendees or those interested in the conference conversation search the hashtag, your tweets will show up at the top of the stream. Like all event promotions, make sure your content aligns with the conference topics and offers value to attendees. You don’t want to end up like one of these failed brands at the Oscars

Ready to get started?
 You’ll need a budget of $15,000 per month to work directly with Twitter. If you’d like extra help setting up your campaign, we recommend working with a third party vendor like Adaptly or Optimal Social. You can also dive deeper into specifics by reading this Simple Guide to Launching a Twitter Advertising Campaign from Hubspot. 

Don’t forget about your content! Similarly to content strategy on Facebook, your editorial calendar and engagement strategy on Twitter is equally as important. If you’re not already active on the channel, don’t jump in head first with a paid promotion. Get your feet wet first and begin engaging with your community. You want to build trust and authenticity with your content before you increase your reach. 

Have you begun to navigate social advertising for your brand? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. 

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