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Twitter is Ready for Advertisers, but
are Advertisers Ready for Twitter?

By Caroline Dangson
Consultant at Dachis Group

To help communications professionals amplify their messages, Twitter has created a new hybrid model of paid and earned media it calls Promoted Products. Promoted Products is Twitter's foray into advertising and includes three main products: Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends, and Promoted Accounts.

Since the company began rolling out its new ad platform in April 2010, Twitter has expanded Promoted Products from six to 40 advertisers. Compared to the less than one percent of people who click on a typical display ad, Twitter recently reported that on average, five percent of people who see Promoted Tweets are clicking on, replying to, or forwarding the ads. During Advertising Week, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said Twitter has moved beyond the experimental stage and "cracked the code on a new form of advertising" he called a "hit."

The key ingredient to Twitter's Promoted Products is that a brand's presence must resonate with users. While Twitter has not unveiled (nor will they) the metrics that comprise its resonance formula, there is enough data available to brands to project how their tweets will perform. Hopefully, the obsession with the number of followers has finally passed for most brands, as we know the number of followers for a brand does not equal influence. Brands should look at a combination of engagement metrics, including how many users answered (@ replies), promoted (retweets), and/or interacted (clicks) with a brand's tweet, in addition to overall impressions. A number of free tools exist to help calculate influence, including Klout, Twitalyzer, Twitter Analyzer, and Tweet Reach. Of course, Twitter is creating a formula so that resonance decays overtime; therefore, tweets must be relevant to the current context of conversation.

The importance of resonance means there is no shortcut around earning an audience that engages with your brand on Twitter. What is concerning about this arrangement is the low level of replies and retweets on Twitter today. According to research conducted by Toronto-based social media monitoring company Sysomos, only 29 percent of the 1.2 billion tweets it examined in July and August 2010 received a response (@ replies or retweets), and 85 percent of the tweets that received a response received only one. Sysomos also found that the window of opportunity for Twitter engagement is within the first hour of the original tweet. According to the research, 92 percent of retweets occur within the first hour.

Posting a tweet that receives interaction requires high relevance to the current mood and conversation on Twitter. This means the content tweeted must be informed by and related to the conversation of twitterers who are likely interested in what your brand has to say. I suspect many communications practitioners lack the organizational structure (people and technology) and processes to support this type of 24x7, near-real-time listening and engagement.

Furthermore, I doubt practitioners know how to justify paying for media in this environment (a promoted tweet allegedly costs tens of thousands of dollars). While large brands have the luxury to devote experimental budget to be an early participant in Twitter's Promoted Products offering, I advise smaller brands to focus on mastering the earned part of Twitter (regular tweets) before making investments in the paid (promoted tweets).

Are you using (or do you plan to use) any of Twitter's Promoted Products in 2011? Please let us know by taking the instant poll below. Please vote only once. Thanks!