Working out how to reach and engage with target customers via Twitter is one of the many marketing challenges facing owners of SMEs, but the social network has now launched an advertising service designed to make the task simpler.
Promoted Tweets have become a familiar sight to Twitter users, but until now they have mainly been to publicise large companies. That changed last week when the company opened its self-serve advertising platform to SMEs in the UK.
It is easy to see the move as little more than an attempt by Twitter to generate revenue in the wake of its recent IPO - and the company certainly needs to find new income streams, having been valued at $24.9 billion, despite having annual revenues of just $500 million - but the advertising service appears to have significant potential benefits for small businesses.
There are two forms of Twitter ad available to SMEs. The first is Promoted Accounts, which appear in search results and ‘who to follow’ recommendations, and are designed to help firms build their follower counts. The adverts can be targeted by location, gender or interests.
The second is Promoted Tweets, which appear in search results and user timelines, and can be used for advertising products, services, events and offers. They also come with a selection of targeting options, including location, device, keywords in timeline, interests and similarity to existing followers.
Both types of ad operate on a pay-per-click-style pricing model, complete with bidding and budgets. Advertisers are only charged for Promoted Accounts when people follow them, and for Promoted Tweets when Twitter users retweet, favourite, reply or click on them.
On the face of it, the new ads are a straightforward way for SMEs to use Twitter to identify prospective customers and develop relationships with them. But will the new system actually deliver results?
Twitter’s marketing for the service includes some impressive case studies from small businesses that have successfully used the ads in the US. However, it is clear from them that while the targeted adverts can be an effective way to attract the attention of potential customers, a lot of thought and effort needs to be devoted to the subsequent engagement in order to generate conversions.
In that respect, Twitter ads are no different from Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Facebook adverts. They can be a useful and cost-effective way to reach a new client base, but they work best when they are just one element of a comprehensive online marketing strategy.