With news in the tech, marketing and startup world dominated by Twitter’s impending IPO, many commentators and potential investors are asking themselves whether they should jump in feet first or wait to see if we have another Facebook IPO on our hands.

Up until recently, there were pretty much two common expressions to illustrate the idea of something that doesn’t exist: hen’s teeth and unicorns.  

In 2013 we can now also add 'advertisers that acquire new customers from Facebook' to this list.

That’s not to say that advertising on Facebook is a total waste of time and money. Getting your product in front of hundreds of millions of eyeballs has a value of course but for the performance marketer who cares only about spending $x and generating $x+y, Facebook can seem like one giant online black hole.

Just ask yourself when the last time was that you even looked at a Facebook ad, let along clicked on one. Can you remember the last time you spoke to a business or even read about one that has made a success of their Facebook spend?

And If you can find one, I can probably find you ten that have lost money advertising on Facebook.

Like Facebook, Twitter is an online tech company with hundreds of millions of users that makes a good chunk of its revenues from advertising but that’s really where the similarity ends.

As the online publishing industry has found out over the last few years, users and eyeballs do not necessarily equal dollars.

Twitter though - unlike Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr et al - is in a unique position to create a vast advertising platform that works for advertisers, consumers and of course makes a big pile of cash for Twitter itself.

Twitter is real-time

The demands that consumers place on  brands is getting ever greater and contact within minutes is becoming a minimum expectation. Twitter is the perfect place to communicate in real-time with potential customers as they express fragments of intent.

Consumers already go onto Twitter each day in their millions tweeting into the ether for recommendations and help with making purchasing decisions and when advertisers can respond quickly the cash registers start ringing. 

Twitter is public

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is generally accepted as a public forum and consumers are more than happy to be marketed to with an offer that is of value to them.

With more than 500m tweets per day and growing, the number of 'commercially addressable' tweets is set to increase allowing many more opportunities for advertisers to address consumers at the point of need or intent. 

Twitter is mobile

Facebook have made a lot of changes to make up lost ground on the ever increasing switch to Mobile and in fairness they have made some progress but Twitter is truly mobile.

From our own campaigns, we are seeing more than 80% of conversations coming from mobile devices. The short form of the medium and ease of response is perfectly suited to the modern mobile consumer. 

Twitter is complementary

Twitter is the perfect companion to other media such as TV. Doing things like enabling TV advertisers to promote their products to Twitter users that have just seen their adverts is already gaining some traction.

This is just the start and will be a hugely powerful route to revenue as it ceases to be a zero some game for advertisers when they choose to allocate their budgets across channels.

Twitter is already generating some strong revenue numbers from it’s current roster of advertisers predicted to be almost $1bn by eMarketer in 2014 but this is just the tip of the iceberg and don't be surprised if these numbers become a lot bigger very quickly.

This is good news for Twitter, good news for advertisers and good news for anybody that manages to get their hands on some shares when the IPO comes around.

Justin Rees

Published 25 September, 2013 by Justin Rees

Justin Rees is founder of Talking Customers and Cofounder of Currently.

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Comments (5)


Laurence O'Bryan

Hi Justin,

Great post. I'm a firm believer in the power of Twitter too. Examples would have been great. Are there any out there?

And there's a typo - zero some - should be - zero sum.

You can delete this comment after fixing. I don't want to seem critical, it just let down an otherwise excellent post.

almost 5 years ago

Justin Rees

Justin Rees, Cofounder at Talking Customers

Thanks for the comment. I proof read my articles quite carefully but I missed that one so thanks for spotting!

In terms of examples, as the spirit of the Econsultancy blog is to be objective I didn't want to use too many examples and case studies form our own experience at Leadfindr.

Have a look at our Youtube channel for a few case studies. We don't show stats but you can get an idea of how effective targetting prospective customers on Twitter can be.


We have had some campaigns where the CTR has been well over 50% which is extraordinarily high for any marketing channel.

almost 5 years ago

Andy Headington

Andy Headington, CEO at Adido Limited

Interesting post Justin, however, I'm not 100% sure I agree. If you look at the FB share price in recent months you will see it is only going in the right direction, clearly Zuck and the team are making some positive progress revenue wise for this to happen.

I've experienced many paid for tweets in my stream in the last few months and whilst some of them have been pretty useful, there have also been many which are completely off target - just look at this as an example from Argos!


I appreciate that there are improvements to be made but Facebook currently has a huge amount more personal information about its users which I believe it can leverage much more effectively than Twitter in the long run.

almost 5 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

Really interesting. It still feels like Twitter, like Facebook need to find a way of making their advertising more effective in terms of driving an ROI for advertisers.

That isn't to say they can't but at the moment irrespective of whether advertisers want to target a larger or small volume of people, there has been limitations as to how they can do this effectively and the resultant effect is unfortunately the mass marketing style that was highlighted above as being completed by Argos.

It feels like they are going to right way and I could honestly see Twitter advertising reaching a point where performance could come close to the likes of Paid Search in terms of the capacity to target not just content but also the person you want to hit however it's not quite there yet...

almost 5 years ago

Justin Rees

Justin Rees, Cofounder at Talking Customers

@ Andy: Thanks for your comment. I can't argue with the positive movement in the Facebook share price over recent months but it hasn't been the rip-roaring success that many expected.

On the "paid for tweets" comment, I agree with you that there is huge room for improvement but Twitter is just finding its feet in this area. There are some seriously smart people at Twitter so I am pretty confident that they're own advertising solutions will improve dramatically over time. Without wanting to do a sales pitch, I was also referring to our own advertising solution at Leadfindr where we target consumers based on their conversations and allow the advertiser to interact directly with the consumer. For many products and services this can be very effective. As you also have a human doing the outreach, it also allows you to avoid any howlers!

@ Matt: Thanks for your comment. Like my previous reply to Andy, I think there is a lot to come from both companies. They have some really experienced people working on these things so I expect things to improve significantly for advertisers over the coming years.

In reference to your comment about paid search, I think this is a very astute observation. There is a lot of anectodal evidence to suggest that many people now turn to Twitter first for search instead of Google. Also as search becomes more expensive social will start to become more attractive and as we have found at Leadfindr, click through rates can be huge compared to generic search campaigns - over 50% in some cases. However there is still a long way to go!

almost 5 years ago

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