It’s been four months since Twitter announced its long-awaited Promoted Tweets advertising platform, so it seems a good time to assess the service’s initial campaigns.
Early participants included Virgin America, NBC Universal’s Bravo and Red Bull.
Virgin America used Promoted Tweets to announce an expansion into Toronto and a 50%-off promotion for the first 500 travelers who flew from two California airports into the Canadian city. Adweek reported that the promotion sold out in 3 hours.
Bravo used Promoted Tweets to highlight an Earth Day promotion whereby consumers were invited to find out their “green IQ” on NBC Universal’s website. In 2 hours, the promotion hit 300 retweets, the maximum allowed under the program.
And by the end of the first day, Bravo had received an estimated 200,000 impressions, according to a company representative. Red Bull did not provide metrics but reported “engagement rates … higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising.”
It all sounds positive, but to put these numbers in perspective, 500 tickets does not seem like a huge volume for an airline the size of Virgin America, especially considering that the routes involved the most populous state in the US and the largest city in Canada.
The same could be said of Bravo’s promotion. Its site received more than 1.1 million unique visitors in May 2010, according to Compete. That 300 of them retweeted the Earth Day promotion does not point to a huge success.
And the company did not give details of what it meant by “impressions.”
Similarly, Red Bull’s statement of high “engagement rates” was nonspecific. And none of the companies revealed how much they spent on the promotion.
All of this translates to a service that’s flapping its wings but has yet to take flight. When you consider that Facebook is on track to produce $1.3 billion in ad revenue this year, Twitter has lots of catching up to do to monetize its audience.
But there is hope. The three top motivators for US Twitter users to follow companies are to get updates on future products, to stay informed about the activities of a company and to receive discounts and promotions, according to an ExactTarget study.
If brand marketers can use Promoted Tweets creatively to achieve these goals, they will find a receptive audience at the other end of the Twitter stream.
Twitter also launched its @earlybird Exclusive Offers program. This is a Twitter account that tweets limited-time deals and discounts from participating advertisers to users who follow the account.
Twitter has teamed up with some of its potential competitors in the online deal space, including Groupon and Gilt Groupe.
Disney used @earlybird to promote its film release “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The movie opened July 16 to mostly negative reviews and is already considered a flop, so it’s not a good barometer of the effectiveness of @earlybird to get the word out about a film premiere, or any other product launch for that matter.
A better gauge of @earlybird’s early momentum is the number of followers. In its first month as an active account, it has already racked up 164,000. As more companies experiment with the service, some of them are bound to hit pay dirt.
This should create a virtuous cycle of more consumers jumping on board, thereby enlarging the addressable audience for future promotions.
The question is whether Twitter can use these platforms to transform itself from a social phenomenon to a revenue generator before its investors run out of patience.
It will take some big success stories to turn these baby steps into giant strides.
26 August 2010