Is Twitter Advertising For Large Advertisers Only? Is it Worth Your Money?

by Laura Thieme, CEO of Bizwatch


On the day Twitter launched its IPO to amazing success, while I’ll likely regret I didn’t throw in $1,000 to get an amazing ROI, what I did instead, sadly, was throw away $400 in Twitter ads.  Let me share what I learned from this initial Twitter ad research project.

For those of you who don’t know my background, I’ve been advertising and doing SEO since 1997.  I’ve spoken at over 45 conferences around the world on search marketing, advertising & analytics.  Everything I have done, I’ve taught myself.  All success comes from digging into the details, and it never works the first time.   Despite that wisdom gained over the years, as eternal early adopters, I felt I had to try the Twitter advertising first on our company before creating campaigns for other clients.  Sadly, I was very disappointed with my first four Twitter ad campaigns.  I’d say the only company that did really well with my ad campaign, was Twitter.

Here is Twitter’s ad measurement interface.  We spent $280 for 315 engagements, which on the surface doesn’t sound so bad – but wait till I tell you what they consider an engagement.  Twitter suggested I pay $1.85 per engagement.  Seems kind of high for a new advertising medium, but to test it,  I was willing to advertise at the recommended per click/engagement price.


First Twitter Ad Campaign Spend = $280


Our First Twitter Ad Campaign Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

I was watching my Google Analytics Real-Time data.  Here’s what I LOVED about Twitter ads.  Before I could even figure out where I was showing up and begin testing, I watched the live visitors dashboard light up.

But then, it did something I did not like.  It flat-lined.  Even worse, I ran through my first $50 in less than a few minutes.  I noticed Twitter showed I had received 155 clicks under their engagements.  But Google Analytics showed me less than 10% of that in my live visitor view.  Why were these numbers so different?

Twitter counts a click on an image, an engagement.  I went back to my Twitter ads, which included an image.  But Twitter doesn’t show that image, it shows…. And so, people click on to see the image.  Twitter that may have been smart, but it was just plain evil.  We were charged for that engagement. That ticked me off, in fact I’d use another word if I felt that was appropriate on a corporate blog.

I’d like Twitter to change that.  Do not charge for clicking on the hashtag or image, Twitter.  Unless, you are targeting a different audience, like large advertisers.   Who wants to pay for a click to an image or hashtag? Hashtags are in part how you target, so why would you charge for clicking on that?

Large brand advertisers, such as Victoria’s Secret who might have the budget to show off their Angels collection.  But would they be willing to pay $1.85 per click/engagement to a photo of their Angels collection? They’d lose their hats (or bras) over that one.

Or am I wrong? Tell me if you think I am.  I want to hear from others who have been early adopters and run a Twitter ad campaign.  Benefits and limitations.  Share with me what you liked & didn’t like about running your first Twitter campaign.

As of right now, I’ve told my clients do NOT advertise on Twitter.  I have on the other hand, said advertise on Facebook.  Of course, all of our clients advertise on Google, many advertise on Bing, but this Twitter thing – I’m holding until I see a change in the way they charge per engagement.

Here’s what we use as measures of success:

  • Visibility (okay, well, we were visible)
  • Traffic (we were not successful for the dollars spent)
  • Automated Audit Signups – call to action (we were not successful)
  • Sales (we were not successful)

Here’s how Twitter gauges your success:

  • Engagement – click, follow, reply, retweet

Here’s how Twitter charges:

  • Cost Per Engagement
  • >$1/Engagement

If Engagements are clicks on hashtags, photos – that could get very expensive as noted above, and deliver horrible ROI.  If anything advertisers who have deeper pockets, will learn and never do the above again, OR they’ll refuse to advertise on Twitter and share bad experience, which delivers poor ROI to today’s IPO’d Twitter new investors.

If I learn something else about that, I’ll update this blog post.  Remember this, Twitter charges per engagement.  An engagement is defined as any click on anything within your Tweet, which includes but is not limited to hashtags and photos.

Source Twitter: The total includes billed engagements as well as additional engagements you aren’t billed for across Retweets, replies, follows, card engagements and other clicks.

Personally, that doesn’t mean a lot to me, but try this:

Source Twitter
The total number of times a user has interacted with a Promoted Tweet. This includes all clicks anywhere on the tweet, including any hashtags, links, avatar, username, or tweet expansion; retweets; replies; follows; or favorites.

Should you use keywords or interests & followers, I’m still learning the basics.  I’ll post some more in the next few days.




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