What is Promoted Tweets and How Do They Work?

Twitter officially launched its advertising platform yesterday titled Promoted Tweets along with a short little FAQ page in the Twitter Help Center here. With Promoted Tweets, advertisers can bid on keywords that are searched within Twitter so that tweets put forth by these advertisers will appear at the top of the search results. Essentially, advertisers are highlighting their Tweets.  For right now, Promoted Tweets is only available to select big-name advertisers including Starbucks, Best Buy, and Virgin America.

To many self-proclaimed “Social Media Gurus”, advertising on Twitter can be taken one of two ways:

1. PPC is now infringing on our realm
2. Finally I can be taken seriously when I say Twitter is having an impact on your business’s marketing

In all honesty I was very skeptical and still am of the opportunities Promoted Tweets offers a business. On one hand it seems like a great opportunity for brand reputation management while on the other it could be a complete waste of time and money if you are not a big name brand.  Through all of this, I have come to the realization that Promoted Tweets can only truly become effective if it is tied into your social media marketing mix. By this I mean if your social media department, person, or whomever is pushing an event, sale, or new release in Twitter through different hashtags, links, and other “Twitter stuff”, then using Promoted Tweets could present a great opportunity to expand your voice.

Here’s an example to better demonstrate what I mean:

DragonSearch’s social media department has been pushing a PPC conference in Twitter for several weeks using the hashtags #dragonsearch and #ppcconference while also building up a significant following. Because of this buildup in followers and awareness, use of Promoted Tweets for some previous Tweets dealing with the conference could increase both awareness and conversions such as signing up to attend the conference. However, if DragonSearch has done a horrible job and has no brand awareness what is the point of Promoted Tweets?

Sure you could bid on some generalized keywords but here’s the problem: pricing for Promoted Tweets is currently CPM based which means you’re paying on an impression basis and not by actual clicks. If DragonSearch bid on “PPC event” or “PPC conference”, think of how many impressions that could result in compared to the amount of clicks? I have a feeling Promoted Tweets will eventually become CPC based in terms of pricing, but until then very careful consideration and research should be put into what keywords should be used.

Going beyond this example, Promoted Tweets could be an excellent method of addressing and improving brand reputation. If I’m Best Buy and see there is a lot of backlash against the Geek Squad, then why wouldn’t I want to promote a tweet about the culture and benefits of the Geek Squad when someone searches on “Geek Squad” or “Best Buy”?


1. Excellent tool for brand reputation and promoting events, sales, etc. that have already built up some awareness and following so Twitter users are already searching for them. Think of the build up and awareness produced prior to the launch of the iPad as an example.
2. Promoted Tweets can only be tweets that have previously been tweeted meaning there is a separation between “organic tweets” and “paid tweets”. Essentially, you’re not paying for Tweets that followers would otherwise see in their normal Twitter streams.


1. Pricing is CPM based right now.
2. Tracking performance of Promoted Tweets; will there be an analytics or reporting tool within Twitter that shows impression and click data? If so, how do you then parlay that into a metric of success if your promoted link does not go directly to your website?
3. Promoted Tweets blend in and can be very easily overlooked (see example below) compared to Google with the sponsored links highlighted in yellow or Facebook ads being on the right column of a user’s profile.

A Little Unfounded Data

According to this excellent article put forth by Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land, Dick Costolo the COO of Twitter says the site  has “huge” search volume while citing no specific numbers. Hmm, where’d you pull that one from Mr. Costolo? According to comScore’s search rankings list in this same article, Twitter didn’t make the cut meaning either comScore is reporting inaccurate information or Twitter is putting out some inaccurate information. I think I’ll side with comScore on this one.


Promoted Tweets could present excellent opportunities depending on the strategy you wish to employ. If you’re looking to increase sales directly from Twitter, you should probably think very hard about that idea again. On the other hand, if you’re looking to improve your business’s reputation or promote a new product, sale, or event that already has some traction in terms of awareness on Twitter, Promoted Tweets could be an excellent tool in furthering this promotion or improving your reputation. It will be up to you to decide how effective Promoted Tweets has on your performance though.

If you have some experiences with Promoted Tweets and think I’m completely wrong, agree with me, or just want to let your voice be heard, I urge you tell us via the comments section of this post.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 and is filed under Integrated Marketing, Pay-Per-Click.

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