The Secret to Twitter Marketing

There's a new option for getting your tweets out to the right audience, but is it the right choice for your business?
Contributor, Amex OPEN Forum
September 26, 2012 If your company uses Twitter for marketing, or you're thinking about starting up a Twitter campaign or expanding a campaign, you need to know about your latest for-pay option: Say hello to Twitter's targeted promoted tweet.

Here, we'll go over the differences between the basic promoted tweets and the specialized targeted tweets and how they affect your marketing strategy. We'll also take a look at a few other Twitter offerings.

Targeted vs. Promoted Tweets: Key Differences

Promoted tweet. Advertisers purchase a promoted tweet and, based on what users tend to do with their accounts—whom they follow, what tweets they respond to, etc.—the promoted tweet shows up at the top of their feed. Also, when a user searches Twitter for keywords, and your tweet is linked to that keyword, your promoted tweet will appear near the top of the search results. You can also send a promoted tweet to just your followers.

Targeted tweet. In August, Twitter rolled out targeted tweets. To start with this new type of tweet is a promoted tweet. But, it is also a targeted tweet, which means the advertiser can select ahead of time a certain subset of Twitter users that get to see it. Such subsets are based on categories and keywords related to broad and narrow interests. For example, if you run Jake's First Sports Shop (fictional), selecting the category of sports makes a certain kind of sense. If you sell only baseball memorabilia, however, a subcategory that more narrowly defines your specialty could be a good bet to reach just the baseball fans. 

Now, don't confuse these with promoted accounts and promoted trends, which are typically found on the left side of your screen. Promoted trends are those hashtag words and phrases you'll see on the left side of the screen. To promote those, you buy a block of time, which can cost big bucks and run six figures. (Promoted tweets run an average of about 10 cents per engagement, which can still get expensive, but you're not paying for time upfront). 

Promoted accounts appear in the Who to Follow section and is also a time-based service that can be found on the left side of most Twitter screens.

The main point to remember here is that promoted tweets are tweets—they show up in the timeline that scrolls on the right half of a user's page. 

How to Buy Promoted and Targeted Tweets

Twitter sells both promoted tweets and targeted promoted tweets at automated online auctions where a minimum bid is one cent per click.

To win at these, you bid what you want to pay per engagement, and Twitter looks at both that bid and also how successfully engaging any previous ad campaigns you've run with them have been. 

If you launched a campaign that flopped, you may have to increase your bid to win. However, if your promoted tweets traditionally do very well, you could win the auction with a lower bid than other participants. 

Which Tweet Is Best for Your Business? 

This is best answered by a look at your target demographic. 

If your company is like the sports store mentioned above, and appeals to a broad range of people, a basic promoted tweet will work just fine. However, if your business appeals to a particular set of tastes—a movie service that specializes in foreign films, or a shoe company that only deals in short-run collectible sneakers—you might maximize the price-per-click with targeted tweets, which will go out to a subsection of tweeters that present the highest likelihood of conversions.

Remember, because your past promotional performance affects the price you will pay, you want to carefully choose your audience. So, if you're planning to reach out to an audience subset, which is typically a smaller and more focused audience demographic, you want to be certain that your targeted tweet is a high-engagement candidate. If you deliver a real bomb of a tweet to those folks who love $900 kicks and nobody engages with it, you're going to possibly pay more when it comes time to bid on your next promoted tweet.

Read more about social media marketing

In addition to writing about social media and content strategy, James O'Brien blogs for Contently about business, politics, technology, and travel. He has contributed as a ghostwriter to several recent publications on the media, technology, and social change. He is a correspondent for Boston University's Research Magazine and he has written extensively as a news correspondent for The Boston Globe. He joined the caption-research team for photo-essayist Rick Smolan's new book, The Human Face of Big Data, in 2012. James blogs via

photo: Thinkstock