As an online marketer, one of my biggest challenges is expanding my reach into new channels without exceeding my ad budget. About a year ago, we were approached by the folks at Twitter to consider an ad buy. While I personally love Twitter as a way to promote brands, offers and news, it did not seem economical for me to invest a sizable monthly budget on an unproven lead generation channel. Fast forward to May 2012 when Twitter invited us to participate in Twitter Ads, a pay-as-you-go advertising model similar to AdWords. This new program offers a great low-risk channel to reach millions of new, potential customers. In this post, I’ll be sharing my first impressions of Twitter Ads and what other online marketers can expect to see.

Promoted Accounts is a great tool for finding new followers at a relatively low cost. Promoted accounts show up in the “Who to follow” box on the left-hand menu. Twitter will promote your account to users that are similar to your existing followers or that may be interested in certain keywords associated with your business or industry. To get started, I simply set a maximum bid and daily budget. Since I only pay per follower, I’ve found Promoted Accounts to be fairly cost effective. I definitely started on the conservative side when setting my bids, but have gotten more aggressive as I’ve become more comfortable with a weekly volume and cost-per-follower that makes sense for my business goals.

Promoted Tweets allows you to expand your tweet’s reach past just your followers. You can select up to 5 of your previous tweets and promote them in 2 different ways. The first option, which also drives more volume, is promoting tweets to users who share similar characteristics with your followers. The second option allows you to promote tweets by targeting specific keywords that users are searching on within Twitter. Like Promoted Accounts, you set a maximum bid, daily budget and only pay each time someone clicks or engages with your tweet. Let’s say your original tweet went out to your 5,000 followers. With promoted tweets, you have the ability to deliver your message to 50,000+ users over the course of a few weeks. In addition to the added impressions, you can expect to see a bump in followers and re-tweets, further expanding your reach. I’ve been changing up my promoted tweets on a regular basis to keep the content fresh and playing around with my bids to find the right balance between volume and daily budget.

Setup and reporting is a cinch. It only took a credit card and approximately 10 minutes to select the appropriate tweets, keywords and budgets to get my account live. Over time, I’d like to see new targeting features and recommendation tools built in to help grow and scale my account for reaching new, potential customers. On the reporting side, Twitter provides some insightful metrics. I can report on the impressions, clicks and re-tweets my campaigns are receiving and dissect analytics data collected about my followers, including: common interests, location, gender and other companies they tend to follow. I’m sure Twitter will include additional metrics in the future, such as devices and points of engagement, to give marketers a greater understand of what’s working and what’s not.

While still in its infancy, Twitter Ads already provide a cost effective channel for expanding my reach towards new, potential customers. However, I expect costs to rise as more advertisers enter this emerging market. Over time, I imagine Twitter will offer additional ad formats and tools for making smarter business decisions, faster. But for now, this easy-to-use, low maintenance marketing vehicle provides great value towards expanding my online marketing reach.