This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
Are you among the one-third of small businesses in the U.S. using Twitter to promote your products and services? If so, you’re on the right track: Research from digital intelligence firm Compete shows Twitter followers are more than 60% more likely to visit your website and more than 50% more likely to make a purchase and recommend your company.
Many companies are content to allow Twitter accounts to grow organically, but some are looking to accelerate growth of their follower base and increase the reach of promotions. To that end, Twitter recently rolled out two new paid advertising options for small businesses, currently available via invitation: Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets.
According to Richard Alfonsi, VP of Global Online Sales at Twitter, “Promoted Accounts are best for growing a loyal follower base, while Promoted Tweets are best for getting tweets in front of a larger audience to drive more clicks and engagement around a promotion, product launch or event.” Alfonsi notes that businesses of all types see success so far with these new products, from local businesses (such as bakeries, restaurants and photographers) to purely online businesses, such as online retailers and digital publications.
For both offerings, you can control how much you spend each day by setting a daily budget — you bid how much you are willing to pay for a new follower or an engagement, and an auction determines the price you pay. There are no minimum monthly spend requirements and you can stop your advertising at any time. You also only pay for results, meaning you will only be charged when someone follows your Promoted Account or engages with your Promoted Tweets (an engagement with a Promoted Tweet can be a click, a retweet or a favorite).
When Should I Use Promoted Accounts?
If you’re primarily looking to build a relevant follower base, Promoted Accounts may be for you. Twitter will study your current followers to look for people with similar interests, and when they find a match, they’ll suggest your account in the user’s “Who to Follow” section. Promoted Account campaigns can also be geo-targeted at the country and city level to reach users in specific locations.
Los Angeles-based photographer Drew Ressler used Promoted Tweets to accelerate his follower growth and find more people who would be interested in his photographs of electronic dance music DJs. He set a maximum budget of $7 per day and targeted Twitter users all over the world. Twitter automatically took care of the rest, identifying other Twitter users who were interested in the electronic music scene and who would be interested in Drew’s work. Drew gained over 1,300 new followers for @Rukes in just two months, at less than $0.30 per follower.
“I just set a budget, and I constantly get 17 to 20 new followers each day,” says Ressler.
When Should I Use Promoted Tweets?
Small businesses wanting to expand the reach of their message plus increase follower base should consider Promoted Tweets. Promoted Tweets are generated directly from your own tweets; Twitter will monitor your account for engagement and promote your best tweets to the top of a user’s feed.
“I’ve used Twitter ads for several months now, and they’ve helped me get to over 37,000 followers,” says nutrition blogger Tom Corson-Knowles. “I tried both Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets, and I recommend promoting tweets hands down — it’s had a much higher ROI for me. With Promoted Tweets, you can get targeted traffic to your website by paying per click, and then you get the added benefit of followers and tons of brand exposure on Twitter.”
Amelia Lerutte of luxury dog product company i Love Dogs, Inc. agrees.
“We started using Twitter ads earlier this year. Our initial strategy was to pay for both follows and retweets, but after a couple weeks, we only saw a slight increase in the growth rate for new followers. Since we’re a small business used to optimizing ads to suit our budget, we decided to stop using Promoted Accounts to pay for followers and instead focus on gaining retweets through Promoted Tweets,” says Lerutte.
According to Lerutte, the high volume of retweets the company has received has made the price point of Twitter ads well worth the investment.
“Through the use of Promoted Tweets, our company has a seen a positive increase in the number of natural followers and engagement with our brand on Twitter. We’ve even had our Promoted Tweets retweeted by celebrities. So even though we’re not paying for followers, Twitter ads have allowed us to become a big dog on Twitter, with more than 11,000 followers,” adds Lerutte.
How Should I Measure Results?
According to Alfonsi, the way clients measure results will vary by company and by each one’s business objective.
“Some businesses are trying to grow their community of advocates and measure success by the quality of engagement they’re seeing on Twitter, while others are trying to drive sales and store visits,” says Alfonsi.
Followers and clicks are beneficial, but you’ll see the most impact from your paid Twitter programs “if you think about the ongoing conversation, not just the immediate payoff,” says Tom Burg, head of North American marketing at advertising technology company Criteo. Burg recommends small businesses think about Twitter ads as a way to create a “funnel” for their business that eventually leads to a particular action, whether that’s a store visit, a coupon download or a purchase.
“Eventually it’s all about getting to a call to action,” adds Burg. “With Twitter, you’re paying if someone clicks, but you should measure based on a cost-per-action model. Once they clicked, did they do the action you wanted them to, like download a whitepaper or a coupon?”
To measure beyond followers and engagement, in addition to using Twitter’s results reporting, you can also use Google Analytics to see how much site traffic is coming from Twitter. You might also consider creating a special landing page where you can drive Twitter users, or develop Twitter-specific codes or coupons to track customers who find you through these funnels, writes Lisa Barone inSmall Business Trends.
How Can I Get Started?
While these two offerings are currently available on an invitation-only basis, businesses can request access by filling out this form. Alfonsi says Twitter expects these products to eventually reach millions of small businesses, and the company will steadily increase the number of participants in the program in the coming months.
Just remember: Prior to kicking off your program, make sure your overall Twitter presence is robust.
“Before you spend money to promote your tweets or your Twitter account, you better be certain that there is something there worth following,” adds Barone. She recommends first creating a solid Twitter strategy and letting it run for a month or two to build up a history of quality tweets and engagement. This will not only help you to attract people but will also help Twitter match you with the right kind of users.
Also be prepared to make the most of each click: What offer or content awaits users on the other side? Make sure what you’re offering is compelling, so it’s worth paying to get people there.
Have you tried advertising on Twitter? Share your experience in the comments section.