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4 Suggested Twitter Ad Formats

Putting those Lessons Learned from Google to Use!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Posted by Aaron Goldman

Posted In: Digital Marketing / Press / Press Mentions

Twitter Ads

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Last week, Twitter made changes to its Terms of Service including a provision that allows the company to "leave the door open for advertising." Per Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, "We'd like to keep our options."

MediaPost has a good recap of the news as well as some speculation from "industry insiders" on what's in store from Twitter as far as advertising is concened. This was my contribution. More thoughts on the flip-side...
Despite the fact that advertising on Twitter appeared inevitable, Connectual Managing Partner Aaron Goldman says it makes sense that Twitter would change the ToS now rather than wait until the ads go live. "That's a lesson learned from Facebook who changed their terms in tandem with implementing Beacon and we know the uproar that caused," he says.
I didn't share a POV with MediaPost on what type of advertising Twitter might introduce although I've explored the topic of Twitter monetization from other -- non-advertising -- sources on my digital marketing blog.

Here are 4 ad formats I think would be quite successful for Twitter…

1.    In-Text. Similar to Vibrant Media, keywords in tweets could be purchased by advertisers and hyperlinked to marketer websites or trigger video-plays on roll-over. Pricing here would be CPC for click-outs and/or CPM or CPE (engagement) for roll-overs.

2.   Contextual In-Stream. Sponsored tweets could be embedded within the Twitter stream -- and therefore pushed out to Twitter apps like TweetDeck-- attached to “regular” tweets and targeted to keywords within the tweets. Eg, a Tweet about pizza could trigger a Dominos sponsored tweet and both tweets would appear in a stream together. The sponsored tweet would be clearly labeled as an ad and include the keyword that triggered it so there’s no confusion. And these would have to be capped at a set number of ads delivered per user per day to limit the annoyance factor. Pricing could be hybrid CPM/CPC/CPA.

3.   Contextual On-Site. Similar to Google AdSense -- perhaps even using AdSense -- text ads would appear on the right rail of pages on with targeting based on keywords within tweets. Importantly, because a single Twitter stream may include tweets on a variety of topics, each ad would appear adjacent to the tweet that triggered it with the keyword highlighted. Some sort of design treatment would separate church and state but very clearly show the tweet aligned with the corresponding ad. These ads would be priced on a CPC using a Google-like quality score to factor in CTR.

4.   Sponsored Hash-Tags. Twitter could give its users the ability to use special advertiser hash-tags that would link to a branded Twitter page. Right now when you click on a hash-tag, it takes you to a search results page for that keyword/phrase. Sponsored hash-tags would take you to a page branded for the advertiser with a column showing all tweets referencing the brand but include other elements like images, video, maps, contact info, etc. Almost like a Facebook fan page. Advertisers would then tag all their tweets with their sponsored hash-tag and encourage their followers to RT or use the hash-tag as appropriate when discussing their brand. To encourage participation, advertisers could run contests and pick winners from among everyone who used the sponsored hash-tag in a tweet that day or that week. Advertisers would be charged either a flat fee inclusive of a branded search-results page or a CPC based on clicks on sponsored hash-tags.

As you may have noticed, each of my suggestions falls in line with the marketing lessons learned from Google that I’ve laid out in my recent Search Insider columns  -- "Everything I Need to Know About Marketing I Learned from Google" and "More On: Everything I Need to Know About Marketing I Learned from Google." 

Here are 7 worth highlighting…

1.   Relevance rules. Ads should always be targeted to the content of the tweets. And, over time, they should be tailored to individual users based on their behavior – what ads they click on, what topics do they tweet about most often, what registration data have they provided, etc.

2.   Don’t interrupt. Twitter ads should never disrupt the experience. They should be there for people to interact with on their own terms.

3.   Tap the wisdom of the crowds. Using quality-scores to determine ad effectiveness and, in turn, placement and pricing will ensure the people have a voice in what ads they see. And enticing them with contests or other rewards for interacting with ads and brands will only stimulate the almighty WOM that advertisers are hoping for.

4.   Act like content. Ads should feel like tweets, be embedded in hash-tags or otherwise appear as familiar Twitter features.

5.   Test everything. Twitter should not just try one ad format. It should experiment with multiple models and see how the ecosystem -- advertisers, agencies, users, etc. -- responds.

6.   Let the data decide. The response of Twitter users -- via feedback thru tweets and feedback thru clicks -- should determine which formats to use and which ads to show within a given format.

7.   Mindset matters. Fortunately for Twitter, many people its platform to talk about brands they like and don’t like and solicit input from others. Accordingly, the mindset on Twitter is often commercial – similar to Google and unlike Facebook, where the mindset is mostly social communication and entertainment. This should bode well for advertising effectiveness.

There’s no doubt Twitter has a difficult task ahead when it comes to introducing ads into an environment that has been mostly ad-free. I say “mostly” because there’s no shortage of brands who have set up self-promotion Twitter accounts.

That said, Twitter is showing signs that it understands this challenge and is willing to take things one step at a time. That first step, of course, was changing its Terms of Service. As I told MediaPost, that was a lesson learned from Facebook. What comes next is where the rubber meets the road. To that end, let’s hope Twitter takes into account the lessons learned from Google.



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