There is no question Twitter is the 21st century version of the world’s water cooler, a place where people gather to share stories, news, photos, and opinions.

twitter advertising

It has also become a platform where brands connect with customers—and people voice concerns about service issues and product disappointments.

Now, with a successful IPO under its belt, Twitter will also be the place where you will see more advertising options. In fact, just last month Twitter Canada announced its self-serve advertising is now open to small and medium sized businesses in Canada, the UK and Ireland.

There are three primary types of Twitter advertising:

  1. Promoted accounts
  2. Promoted tweets
  3. Promoted trends

Basically, these opportunities are pay-per-click style ads. They allow you to target the right people so your ads appear in front of Twitter users who are most likely to be interested in your product. Promoted Twitter content is labeled ‘promoted’ so users can easily distinguish between ads and organic content.

Here is the short and skinny on each type of Twitter ad to help you decide if this type of advertising is right for your business, and if it is, which option is the best choice.

1. Promoted accounts

Promoted accounts help your business:

  • Attract more Twitter followers
  • Expand your “social proof”


If your goal is to attract more Twitter followers and expand your “social proof” consider promoted accounts.

This type of Twitter ad is part of the “Who to Follow” section you’ll find on the left hand side of your logged-in homepage.

Twitter who to follow

Promoted accounts are suggested to users based on who they follow. When an advertiser promotes an account, Twitter’s algorithm looks at that account’s followers and determines other accounts those users tend to follow.

If a user follows some of those accounts, but not the advertiser’s account, then Twitter may recommend the advertiser’s promoted account to that user.

There are several benefits to attracting a larger following on Twitter. A larger base of followers helps to maximize the benefits of your social media marketing. The more followers you have, the more people are potentially exposed to your tweets.

Lastly, the more followers you have, the more credibility and authority of your account.

2. Promoted Tweets

Promoted Tweets help your business:

  • Generate more awareness for a campaign, offer or event

pepsi promoted tweet1

Promoted tweets will give more exposure to a marketing campaign, an offer or an upcoming event.

If your goal is to promote a webinar or ebook, take a look at Promoted Tweets. These regular tweets have the added bonus of reaching both current and potential followers you wish to target. If you decide to use promoted tweets, use your very best content and calls to action to get in front of the audience that matters to you.

Promoted tweets show up at the top of relevant search results, within search results for a promoted trend, in users’ Twitter feeds (when relevant), and in home timelines. Twitter uses a variety of signals to decide if a promoted tweet should appear in a user’s timeline such as who that user follows, how they interact with a tweet, what they retweet and more.

Twitter says it’s conservative about the number of promoted tweets people see in a single day. Any promoted tweet people see in their timeline will appear just once at or near the top, then the promoted tweet will scroll through the timeline like any other tweet.

3. Promoted trends (only for large enterprise brands)

Promoted Trends help your business:

  • Create broad exposure for a marketing campaign

Twitter promoted trends

If you want to get mass exposure and kick start a conversation, consider promoted trends. But be careful: promoted trends are expensive. I only recommend them if your business is a large enterprise.

Promoted trends appear to ALL Twitter users at the top of the trending topics list on Twitter. When someone clicks on a promoted trend, they see Twitter search results for that topic, along with a promoted tweet from the advertiser. Your trend appears on the trending topic list for everyone for 24 hours.

The case for Twitter advertising

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In a sense Twitter acts like a search engine, showing your ads to the type of people you want to target.

With promoted tweets, you can target users using keywords, target your followers or target users who share similar interests to your existing followers. When you include a link in your tweet (highly recommended), you can then tailor your landing page to be consistent with your ad and target audience.

On a pay-per-click basis Twitter advertising is typically cheaper than other PPC options.The major search engines are saturated with ads, so costs can be at a premium. While Twitter won’t always be less expensive, it can serve as a cheaper alternative for certain verticals, and running a small test to compare its effectiveness is relatively easy.

You can build and own your audience. When using a feature like Promoted Accounts, you will attract new followers, and targeting can be set up based on interests. Interest targeting could be as broad as, say, “marketing,” or as specific as you can think.

Twitter advertising can help you build the exact audience that you’d like to market to in the future. As you attract new followers, you also “own” those followers and can organically tweet out to them as you see fit at no charge. This approach is a bit of a hybrid between PPC and SEO as you pay to get users that you will then be able to organically reach at any time in the future.

The case against Twitter advertising

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If you are more familiar with Adwords, the tracking and reporting within the Twitter ads interface are not nearly as robust. For example, you can’t pull a spend-by-day report or geo report from Twitter’s UI.

The downside about Promoted Tweets is the lack of advanced targeting options such as you would get with Facebook. Twitter automatically targets your Promoted Tweets towards people with information in their bio that matches your account and your tweet. It is critical your profile and tweet are keyword optimized to hit your target audience.

Another downside of Twitter advertising is the speed at which your budget will be exhausted. Depending on your keyword and the size of your target audience, you could easily go through $100 in less than an hour. Promoted Trends are rumoured to cost $120,000/day—definitely not a good option for smaller businesses.

Is Twitter advertising the right option for your business?

My personal opinion is that Twitter advertising is a better option for larger businesses, not small to medium sized enterprises.

SMEs should try building their Twitter audience organically by following best practices: engaging with others within the platform and tweeting other business’ content.

If your small business decides to use Twitter advertising, run a couple of tests first to see if the investment helps reach your business objectives and pays back within a reasonable amount of time.

If your business needs help with Twitter or other aspects of social media, contact us to find out how we can help.


The pros and cons of Twitter advertising for small business

What are promoted tweets?

What are promoted accounts?

What are promoted trends?