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After years of speculation, Twitter recently launched an advertising platform of its own. After nearly two months in the wild, some of the marketers who jumped on board to use it first are speaking out.

What they're saying is not entirely surprising: Promoted Tweets are wonderful.

Airline Virgin America sold 500 tickets within three hours. Bravo TV used Promoted Tweets to generate 300 retweets and 200,000 impressions for an Earth Day marketing initiative. Red Bull, which is using Promoted Tweets to connect the company's Twitter account with athletes it sponsors, has seen "engagement rates...higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising."

So is Promoted Tweets going to do for Twitter and marketers what AdWords did for Google and marketers? Not so fast.

First, it's worth considering that no marketer taking a leap of faith on a new advertising platform is going to come out two months later slamming it. After all, few marketers want to look dumb and most media buyers, like most of us, prefer to remain employed. Given this, I think it's wise to take anything marketers say about a new advertising platform they're using with a grain of salt.

There's no doubt that Twitter has the potential to do interesting things with advertising given the nature of the Twitter service. But I'm not convinced that the glowing reviews Promoted Tweets are receiving publicly indicate that Promoted Tweets is the holy grail Twitter and marketers have been looking for.

Virgin America sold 500 tickets as part of a promotion offering 50% off flights out of two airports in California. Question one: if Virgin America offered the same discount on its own website, would it have been able to sell 500 tickets too? My answer: probably. Question two: is such a promotion indicative of sustainable performance? Answer: no. More interestingly, Virgin America's VP of Marketing, Porter Gale, told Adweek that its involvement with the launch of Promoted Tweets created approximately $10m in 'media value' for the airline. As I've argued before, media value is a questionable metric at best and marketers often turn to it when they need to justify campaigns. In my opinion, it's a red flag whenever it's used.

For Bravo TV, it's unclear what the 300 retweets and 200,000 impressions did for the cable television network, and whether or not they contributed to the achievement of the goals associated with the broader campaign Bravo TV was using Promoted Tweets to support. For Red Bull, it's unclear what is meant by "engagement rates have been higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising" since 'engagement', as it's commonly used in the social media context, is not something that CPC and CPM advertising is designed to facilitate in the first place.

So do Promoted Tweets have potential or are marketers doing something they do very well -- tooting their own horns? It's far too early to say. The viability of Promoted Tweets will largely be determined by the ability of marketers to achieve a greater level of scale and their ability to correlate Promoted Tweets with real ROI, not other metrics like retweets, impressions and media value.

While it would be unrealistic to expect Promoted Tweets to rise to the level of AdWords anytime soon or at all, the number of marketers using the platform and the amount of money they're spending will offer the best insight into how the platform is performing. What marketers say about their buys is largely irrelevant.

Photo credit: carrotcreative via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 May, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2394 more posts from this author

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John Gallen

What a brilliant post, I couldn't agree more and may I add my bit to the horse's mouth.. 500 tickets sold in 3 hours - Virgin: Compared to what? How much was the set up cost? Those numbers mean nothing in isolation. Did Michael Jackson not sell 800,000 tickets for the O2 London in 2 hours some time back, they were'nt even discounted (granted, he never played). 300 retweets and 200,000 impressions - Bravo TV: Nobody knows the value of a RT yet. And how many of those RT's were negative or positive? and how many automated, etc. You can be sure that Bravo on Twitter has a lot of those dodgy twitter accounts, with porn hubs at the back, following Bravo and the young men who watch Bravo. What nonsense. "engagement rates...higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising." - Red Bull: And as for "engagement" not being compatible with the "commonly used" context of social media... "commonly used"? ! ? ! Everywhere you look is a different 'use' purported to be the meaning and currency of 'engagement'. Christ on a bike it's no wonder I have problems getting clients to go online, still to this day, never mind social media. Great post, thanks. John Gallen

over 6 years ago

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John Paul

I tweet out promo tweets 1-2 per day. and so far I'm happy with the results.

Simple way to make coffee gas money each week..the V8 gets hungry lol

over 6 years ago

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Mo

Great article Patricio.  I've been asked many times what my impression was of promoted tweets considering that it might impact my own Twittter advertising platform, http://www.pay4tweet.com.  I'm in agreement on the points about no sane marketer would put a negative spin on this.

I also agree with John Gallen's comment.  There's very little validating the actual success of the Virgin, Red Bull, and Bravo TV campaigns.  I could also add that, any success based on these roll-out campaigns may have had more to do with the media hype around Twitter having advertising at all.

However, if the founders of Twitter have proven anything, it's that they know and care about their users, and they have a keen understanding of how to create value for them in 140 characters.  Twitter has a huge ecosystem that goes beyond just Twitter.com.  Although the promoted tweets only appear there, the retweets can appear in any Twitter client, or API feed.  If you watch for anything, keep an eye on those metrics.  

over 6 years ago

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Asbar

In this digital age, Google AdWords have the magic to open cash fountains for businesses, much like Ali Baba’s magic line, “open sesame.” Google AdWords however, do not reveal a cave of gold treasures; instead it gives businesses so much more: consistent cash flow through ingenious online marketing, with the entire world as the audience and target market.

almost 6 years ago

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Niles

The reason debt settlements are surpassing insolvency is they are becoming
a better choice that insolvency.
It's called a liquidation method of discharging debts, however in most cases, the filer can retain all personal property.

about 4 years ago

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Gaddy

Informative article, totally what I needed.

about 4 years ago

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