Twitter's new Promoted Tweets ad platform may be new, but it's already gotten top ratings from advertisers. Online investment brokerage Zecco announced Promoted Tweets has increased the company's engagement rates on Twitter by as much as 300%. Why is the company so pleased?

According to Zecco CEO Michael Raneri, it has to do with engaging Twitter users:

"I think it's one of the first online brand engagement opportunities out there."

Since starting to work with Twitter two months ago, Ranieri told Econsultancy:

"Zecco sampled 50 Promoted Tweets and measured their effectiveness. In comparison to regular Tweets, Zecco saw an average 50% increase in engagement with Promoted Tweets and 200 to 300% increases in some cases. During this time, the majority of Zecco's tweets focused on financial market commentary and new product offerings."

There are many complaints about Twitter's new ad offering. Consumers might confuse the ads for regular tweets. Similarly, the success that advertisers are experiencing now could simply be due to the newness of the new platform. Not so, according to Raneri:

"It isn't so much a marketing acquisition story, but about brand engagement."

For starters, Zecco's Promoted Tweet content isn't the same as its ads in other areas. On Google and in display ads, the goal is conversions. Promoted Tweets are all about engagement:

"I think it's one of the first online brand engagement opportunities out there."

Promoted Tweets must be contextually relevant in order to work. Zecco's approach is to publish tweets related to popular Twitter content. With the BP oil spill occupying much of Twitter earlier this summer, Zecco wrote an editorial on BP and promoted it on Twitter.

"We did some research," said Raneri. "Most often, people get ideas or take action on the stock market when they're out browsing the internet, reading Yahoo Finance or portals. Then maybe they go read a news story, do some research, and then got to a broker and execute on that idea."

To attract consumers during that process, Zecco publishes content on topics related to investments, then uses Twitter to get readers to it. Zecco has also had a lot of success publicizing its business with Zecco Share, its 350,000 member social network of investors. They also created a ZapTrade plug-in that allows users to make stock purchases whenever they are reading content about a company online.

"That's the other thing we're doing in this space, reaching out to where customers are doing their research rather than trying to drive them to our destination. Again we do that too, but we don't have the $100 million to spend."

Zecco currently has 120 employees. As Raneri says:

"We're out of the startup phase, but we don't have the $100 million budgets of our competitors."

That's why they try to be aggressive with online marketing and social media. Raneri says the company spends about 20% of its marketing budget on banner ads, 60% on SEM, and the remaining 20% on "other," including social media, affiliate marketing and the company's "refer a friend" program. 

Competitors like eTrade, Scottrade and Ameritrade have bigger marketing budgets. Zecco tries to edge them out by being smarter about the money it does spend. Raneri doesn't believe the effectiveness of Promoted Tweets has to do with their novelty:

"If they get this right, it can be a powerful brand engagement tool."

Raneri's definition of "getting it right" has to do with brands finding value in the new offering, which comes from users actually reading and appreciating those relevant, promoted items.

Images: Zecco

Meghan Keane

Published 25 August, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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