9 Lessons Learned From Trying Twitter Ads

I’m an unabashed “Facebook guy,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t mess around with the other social networks, and Twitter is at the top of my second tier of social attention.

A while back, it was announced that American Express was teaming up with Twitter, giving AmEx members a $100 test drive of Twitter advertising. Never one to pass up free money, I gladly signed up.

It had to be two solid months, but I finally heard back with my $100 coupon. I immediately took a spin.

It took me two days to plow through that $100, though I meant for it to take longer (more on that later). Let’s go through what I learned…

1. Twitter Ads Are Simple

It really doesn’t get any simpler than this. Facebook ads are complicated. That’s not all bad due to all of the targeting you can do. But it’s a major time commitment to create and monitor ads on Facebook.

This was so simple that it was almost too simple. But it felt right.

With Facebook ads, you have all kinds of targeting options based on age, location, interests, gender, job history, on and on. With Twitter, you can target by geography.

Twitter Ads Target By Geography

You can target to everyone, by country or by major metropolitan areas in the US.

There are only two types of Twitter ads. The first is a Promoted Account.

Twitter Promoted Account

With Promoted Accounts, Twitter will display your account prominently in the Who to Follow section to users that are most likely to be interested in your account. You only pay for new followers that you gain.

The second option is Promoted Tweets.

Twitter Promoted Tweets

With Promoted Tweets, Twitter will prominently display your most engaging Tweets to your followers and those with interests similar to your followers.

That’s it.

For each, I had options for daily spending limit and both minimum and maximum bids (nothing less than $.50).

For Promoted Tweets, Twitter then selects the five “promotable” tweets that it will make into ads automatically based on their magic algorithm. You can remove certain ads from rotation, but you can’t manually select them.

Really… There’s not a whole lot else to tell. That’s basically the extent of your options. This isn’t necessarily bad, just way different than we advertisers are used to. Not a lot of control, but no maintenance whatsoever.

2. Twitter Ads Are Controlled in Real Time

Anyone who manages Facebook ads knows that there is lag time between starting or pausing your ads and seeing the results. There is no such lag time with Twitter ads.

Within seconds of turning an ad on, the stats start piling in. It’s actually quite amazing. The stats aren’t at all revealing, mind you (Impressions, Click Rate, Clicks and Spent for Promoted Tweets; Impressions, Follow Rate, Follows and Spent for Promoted Account), but they are immediate.

3. Bid LOW on Twitter Ads

If I could have bid lower than $.50 I would have, but that’s not an option. For what I was doing, I saw no advantage to bidding high. There was no problem getting my ads into rotation, so spending $1 or more would have been a waste of money. I learned quickly to set both my minimum and maximum at $.50.

4. Promoted Account Brought Little Value

Now, I turned these off pretty quickly so take my results with a grain of salt. I only spent $3 to get six new followers. But it just seemed that this was a waste of $3. Most of the people seemed either spammy or like users who wouldn’t necessarily be all that interested in what I have to say. And since I can’t really modify the targeting of these ads, I just turned it off.

5. Promoted Tweets Brought a High Click Rate

Of nearly 20,000 impressions, my Promoted Tweets were clicked 428 times for a Click Rate of 2.15%. I’m sure the rate would differ if I tried to focus my ads on selling something or driving signups (again, hard to control this anyway), so it should be understood that my tweets were simply lightweight link shares, driving people to my site. But that’s 428 clicks to my site.

6. Run Promoted Tweets SLOWLY

Maybe this is manipulating a flawed system. Maybe it was a coincidence or I imagined this. But from my experience, you benefit greatly by having only $1 of budget outstanding at a time. Let me explain why…

You are only charged for clicks, so Twitter doesn’t seem to limit the number of impressions based on your budget. They simply turn off your ad once your budget has been reached. And like I said, this is like a fire hose as soon as you turn it on. Once Twitter displays your ads, they can’t bring them back.

In other words, let’s say you turn on your ad with a $1 budget and it’s immediately displayed to 400 users. Based on my click rate, eight people would then click on those ads. After the first two clicked, my budget was used up. But since the ad was already shown to 400 people, the other six people clicked as well. That way, I essentially got six free clicks.

I found that when I promoted $1 at a time, I got much better value. When I promoted in $5 increments, Twitter seemed to do a better job of keeping me to my budget. When it was all said and done, I got 428 clicks for $125, or $.29 per click. You’ll recall that I bid $.50 (the minimum).

7. Twitter Does Play Catch Up

That said, I’m not particularly happy with the fact that I was charged $125. I turned it off when it was at $100. Apparently, they decided I got too much for my money and charged me an extra $25. So I don’t know if there’s a delay in the off switch or they find a way to charge you a bit more if you’re getting more clicks than you should, but they found a way to get more money out of me.

I no longer got something for free. Twitter got what they wanted — my $25. This is different from Facebook since if you set a limit there, you don’t exceed it. So not cool.

8. Stay On Top Of It — OR PAY

As I mentioned in the beginning, I wanted to keep this campaign running for a few days. I was going at $1 at a time. But there’s no “Lifetime Budget,” only a “Daily Budget.” Sneaky, Twitter. Sneaky.

At the end of the first day, I was smart enough to turn my ads off. At the end of the second, I forgot. So once I hit my limit for the day, I didn’t think to turn them off. By the time I woke up the next morning, I had already hit the daily budget I had set for the previous day.

So if you’re going to run these ads and micromanage them the way I did, you have to be very careful to turn them off at the end of each day and restart with a fresh daily budget the next day.

9. Value of Twitter Ads Not Clear

I had a lot of fun managing my Twitter ads. It was so simple to do that I can see how easily someone can waste some money promoting their tweets or account. But the simplicity also makes Twitter ads limiting.

I’m not convinced that Promoted Account advertising is all that valuable, though I can’t say that definitively due to a small sample size. And while I got a very high click through rate on my Promoted Tweets, was it worth $125 to get 428 views of my site?

Honestly, no. I get multiples of that in a day for free. A 428 swing is not noticeable or valuable.

What you are promoting also matters. For me, I was only promoting tweets that weren’t all that likely to result in conversions or revenue. So $125 for those tweets wasn’t worthwhile.

I guess if I had created five tweets about a product or newsletter that had been retweeted and replied to, Twitter might choose those as my Promoted Tweets. And in that case, I may get value if I spend $125 to drive 100 purchases or 100 new subscribers.

So I can’t say definitively that there isn’t value, but the limitations of Twitter ads make it difficult to create a campaign that has value. Just make sure that before you shell out a chunk of change that you plan this out properly and promote something that will return significant value.

How About You?

These are my impressions based on a pretty limited test. Have you tried out Twitter ads yet? What do you think?