Understanding Ads on Twitter: Part 2

From opening an office in Canada to making a play for TV-adjacent ad dollars, 2013 has already been a big year for Twitter, and it’s about to get bigger. The company is preparing for its initial public offering, widely expected this week. The latest projections have the shares opening as high as $25, which would […]

From opening an office in Canada to making a play for TV-adjacent ad dollars, 2013 has already been a big year for Twitter, and it’s about to get bigger. The company is preparing for its initial public offering, widely expected this week. The latest projections have the shares opening as high as $25, which would value the company at around $15.6 billion.

To sustain that value, Twitter needs to sell its suite of ad products – currently its main driver of revenue  – and expand as it has with its venture into the TV ad market this year. So as the English web’s favourite microblogging service prepares to go public, Marketing is taking a look at Twitter’s ad offering and how it has been used by Canadian marketers.

Yesterday we explored Twitter’s first ad unit, promoted tweets, and how they have been used by Telus. Today we’re looking at the second ad unit Twitter introduced: promoted accounts. Watch MarketingMag.ca this week for more on promoted trends, Twitter Amplify and a look at its approach to targeting.


At Twitter Canada, they call them the WTFs.

“It’s not the one you’re thinking,” laughed senior account executive Ivan Pehar, explaining the acronym is Twitter-speak for Who To Follow, a feature that suggests accounts consumers may want to follow based on their interests.

Housed on the left hand navigation bar and the “Discovery” tab on mobile, the feature is also home to Twitter’s “promoted account” ad unit. Introduced in October 2010, promoted accounts were created as a tool for follower acquisition, allowing marketers to invest in developing an audience.

While promoted tweets increase the number of eyeballs on a specific marketing message, such as a promotional offer or copy that relates to a campaign, promoted accounts help increase the number of consumers brands can communicate with on an ongoing basis.

Like promoted tweets, promoted accounts are sold on a cost-per-engagement basis, meaning brands only pay when a consumer clicks the follow button. And once a consumer follows a brand, they’re likely to stick around, according to Pehar, who said Twitter’s own studies have shown 95% of a brand’s followers will still be with them a year after acquisition.

“Twitter users are very selective in who and what they follow,” he said. “They’re not going to follow a brand that’s not of interest to them.”

For brands new to Twitter, promoted accounts are a way to target consumers in their key demographic in hopes they’ll follow, either through keyword targeting, location or by targeting the followers of their competition.

“Promoted [accounts] are for brands just starting up, usually, or for people who may have started their account a while ago but had been inactive on it,” said Kirstine Stewart, head of Twitter Canada.

They can also be used to amplify campaign efforts or attract a new audience, she said. “It brings attention prior to a big campaign you might be starting, when you’d want to acquire new followers to your account,” she said.

That was how Kraft Canada used the ad unit last winter during its Twitter-focused #KDPocalypse campaign, which offered a free package of Kraft Dinner to consumers who tweeted about eating the product for their last meal ahead of end of the Mayan calendar.

Ahead of the launch of the Taxi 2-created campaign the brand’s media agency, MediaVest, purchased a six-week run of the promoted account ad unit, driving 10,000 paid followers to the account.

According Bruce Neve, CEO of Starcom MediaVest, using the promoted account ad unit set the brand up for success in the next two waves of the campaign, helping to increase the number of consumers it could reach with the promotion.

Neve said Kraft Dinner used all three of Twitter Canada’s current ad options throughout the campaign. After acquiring new followers with a promoted account, Kraft purchased a one-day placement of the promoted trend unit for #KDPocalypse on Dec. 6, driving almost 7 million impressions that day.

Between Dec. 5 and 18, it ran promoted tweets for the final phase of the campaign, leading up to Dec. 19, the final day of the campaign and, according to Mayan mythology, the world. (The campaign did end, the world did not.)

Like Kraft, most marketers use a combination of Twitter’s ad units. American Express, for example, uses both promoted accounts and promoted tweets to accomplish separate goals, according to Lauren Dineen Duarte, director of public affairs and communications for American Express Canada.

Duarte said that since December 2012, American Express has used promoted tweets to reach a larger audience with marketing messages and the promoted account feature to grow a fan base willing to communicate with a brand on an indefinite basis, through organic, unpaid efforts.

“Promoted accounts have brought together a community of active Twitter users who are interested in hearing from Amex every day,” she said.

Keith McArthur, vice-president of social media at Rogers (which owns Marketing), said he sees promoted accounts as a good way to build a following, but has found using promoted tweets also brings new consumers into the fold.

“One of the benefits we’ve found is that when we do promoted tweets we increase our followers at the same time, so we get the benefits of both,” he said.

Neve said most Starcom MediaVest clients have at least experimented with Twitter Canada’s current ad units. However, he sees it as a “relatively new medium” in Canada and believes many Canadian marketers are still unfamiliar with using it as an advertising platform.

“With Twitter just launching a Canadian office in June, I think there’s more conversation about it than actual activity,” he said. “The opportunity is still yet to come. Next year there should be a lot more clients and agencies experimenting and using Twitter.”

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