How to Craft a Killer Twitter Advertising Campaign

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In terms of granular targeting of your messaging, few platforms are more effective than Twitter. Using its various advertising tools, you can boost your posts to place them in front of your targeted demographics, create a trending hashtag, or even target users who are watching a particular piece of live television programming.

Matt Deluca is an account supervisor heading up all digital paid media for Edelman, one of the world’s largest PR and marketing firms that services Fortune 500 companies, major non-profits, and politicians. Before that he worked on the Republican National Committee during Mitt Romney’s 2012 election run. He and I spoke about the ideal advertising campaign for Twitter, how to target Twitter ads to live television viewers, and the perils of running a promoted hashtag.

What is the ideal campaign for Twitter? What instances would you advise a client to spend money on Twitter advertising versus Facebook advertising or display advertising or even print advertising?

It’s not necessarily based on the advertiser, but rather the audience. What we always do at Edelman is look at the target audience — there are certainly clients and issue campaigns where their audience is heavily online. If we were for example doing a campaign that’s really focused on 18 to 34-year-olds who are looking to buy sneakers — guess what? They’re going to be on Twitter, they’re going to be on Facebook. But they’re definitely on Twitter to follow athletes. If there’s an ad or live event on TV, we’re going to have corresponding ads on Facebook and Twitter, especially Twitter because they have really good TV targeting. When we’re defining an audience, we’ll see how they index on Facebook and Twitter and when they’re really highly indexed on one or the other, that’s how we choose which platform to focus on. We’ve also seen cases where it’s a little less proactive and more reactive, where companies are using Twitter to target and influence media in particular, and there really is value there since just about all journalists are on Twitter.

Speaking of the media, a relatively small percentage of Americans are on Twitter, at least compared to other platforms like Facebook. With Twitter, would you say you’re more trying to influence the influencers rather than reach the mass market consumer?

I’d say there are many times where you are going to be reaching the influencers. For a lot of clients, especially those that want to use it as a media relations channel, it is very effective for the media. It’s no secret that the media has an outsized population on Twitter, particularly in New York City, DC, and Silicon Valley where they discuss and formulate stories. And there are certainly folks on Wall Street who look to see what brands are saying online, particularly around earnings. And then we see other industries whose biggest influencers are on Twitter. That’s something important for clients to keep in mind.

What’s the ideal case in which you’re trying to run a Twitter ad campaign alongside something that’s happening on television?

What I’ve seen work are Twitter ads that are run concurrently with national television advertising buys. I’ve seen it be effective when there’s bleed-over onto Twitter of people talking about what they’re watching on television. A major sports apparel company running alongside the Super Bowl or a playoff game, we’ve seen that be effective on Twitter. Or American Idol if you’re a soft drink company or a consumer package goods product, that’s where you integrate. You line up your major audiences on Twitter along with the TV buy. I think you’ll start seeing that on the political side as well. A lot of people are using cable buying to hit audiences who aren’t necessarily in that prime time timeslot. I’m sure they’re going to take that TV data and match it on Twitter, and they’re getting better at doing that in real time. It’s a good way to bolster your online presence against your TV presence.

So let’s use your hypothetical of the sports drink product running during American Idol. What kind of ad would you be running on Twitter?

Matt Deluca

Matt Deluca

What I’ve found to be effective is the use of images and also video now that Twitter is really integrating video more and more into their platform. The other thing that I’ve seen really good engagement on is their website cards, lead generation cards, video cards, and image cards, which are in-line tweets that contain multimedia that’s fitted for Twitter. It looks really good on mobile. And what you do is redirect people offsite. With email cards you can collect emails from users. What I do is align my content to both my audience and whatever targeting method I’m using. If it’s TV, folks will be talking about the big game, so you try to make allusions to that game. You’ve got to provide some type of value to the end user, not just a “Check us out!” There needs to be some apparent benefit to that interaction.

How important is it to include a photo or hashtag in a promoted tweet?

I would say a photo is one of the most important components. A hashtag…I think you always have to be very careful with hashtags. We’ve seen all sorts of brands have issues with them. But I’ve seen them work as well. I’ve found multimedia to be extremely effective on Twitter. It’s a component I really try to push all our clients to have across the board. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and when you only have 140 characters, that can be a real critical component to extending your message online.

Would you say if your client is in any way controversial, like a major cable company or something like that, you would steer away from hashtags because people might try to hijack that hashtag?

Yeah, you have to think about all the positives and all the negatives. You have to weigh one against the other. And you have to figure out what your response is going to be. It doesn’t have to be a hashtag, it can be anything you do online. It’s really just important to think about any potential blowback. Hashtags are very hard for a brand to control. Once you set it down in the sand, it really does become something folks may skew out of proportion. You also have to be careful about using someone else’s hashtag as well. We’ve seen both success and massive crises that occur out of it. A lot of the time what we’ll do is if we’re going to use a hashtag you have to think about all the possibilities of what could happen and how you’re going to respond. That’s something we caution all our clients to think about.

How difficult is it to convince a client to advertise on Twitter versus Facebook or Google? Do you find that if the client isn’t active on Twitter themselves, they’re less likely to value Twitter?

Everything’s a pilot for us. We go to a client and say, “Hey, we don’t need to start in the deep end. Let’s try a couple things out. Let’s see if it’ll work. Let’s test it out. We’ll work with you to determine what your key performance indexes are going to be, what matters for you. And then we’ll sit down and figure out what went wrong and what went right. And how we can do better next time.” I’ve had clients who say we’re just not going to do it. And that’s fine. I’ll say for the most part it’s been fairly easy to work with clients in terms of at least talking about the pros and cons. It comes down to the budget. While you can do pretty small buys, you have to think about your scale. Sometimes marketing budgets need to go into what’s clearly most effective dollar for dollar. And that’s why we like to do the tests.

A lot of people are consuming Twitter on mobile. Does that impact what kinds of products or services you want to advertise on Twitter? I’m guessing people would be less likely to order a product on Amazon while on their mobile phone rather than their desktop. Or am I wrong in assuming that?

I think we’ve begun to see more and more consumers making purchases on mobile. I remember seeing an article that on Black Friday, a large percentage of Amazon’s sales were made on mobile and tablet devices. So I think we’re starting to see more users feel comfortable, particularly if Apple Pay takes off. It may not be the predominate way of making purchases online, but it’s much better than it was two years ago. We’re certainly seeing clients begin to think about their mobile strategy. Especially with any millennial targeting, which is a critical demographic, they’re going heavily mobile. You have to constantly think about what your website looks like on a mobile device and is my purchase funnel optimized for mobile.

Making sure there’s a mobile ready site waiting for them.

Yeah, if it’s not mobile friendly, then we have to be very judicious with what we do online with our Twitter advertising, including just targeting desktop users.

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Twitter through a political lens. What’s the best kind of content for politicians to run Twitter ads against? Is it issue-oriented tweets targeted toward people who care about the issue? Tweets on election day targeting voters?

It’s a completely different platform now compared to what we were seeing in 2012. There are a lot more options for a campaign between generation cards — to get email signups — to video and website card features that drive people to specific landing pages within Twitter with a native looking ad. They’ve done a lot with their targeting mechanisms and have introduced better email integration — being able to match up your voter file, your in-house email list, and being able to do targeting off that. They’ve done conversion-based tracking and retargeting. The TV targeting is certainly something worth testing out. Both the Romney and Obama camps would be salivating now over what can be done on Twitter if they had access to what’s available now. From the content side, I think it’s critical for the next one and a half years that campaigns are using Twitter to talk about the candidate in an effective way, share their messaging, inform their supporters, challenge their opponents, and work with the media. It’s not just putting up pictures at a state fair anymore. You need to be testing constantly. I think the one thing I find interesting is what happens when you have candidates who actually tweet themselves. A lot of times they’ll hand over the keys to the car, but Chris Christie has been well known to be tweeting himself. Rand Paul has as well. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes at all. I’ve always found it to be pretty fun.

What kind of research are you doing beforehand so you know where to target your Twitter ads to maximize ROI?

A lot of that is driven through your first and third party data. The analytics backend is helpful. Looking at prior messaging and prior content. If you’re just starting out, it’s always good to look at crosstabs and target using that. There’s not much targeting you can do from an organic side. You can’t geotarget or interest target without paying for an ad. I use email list and our in-house CRM data to target people who have shown a propensity to be engaged on an issue. On the organic side you have to think about what everyone is interested in, because it’s like a megaphone. And in terms of micro-messaging, that’s where you want to get into paid ads so you can target them just to who will care about them.

Twitter is known as a real-time network and the marketing world is known for there being a lot of red tape in terms of getting things approved by a client. Are there ways to deal with the immediacy of Twitter with this slow approval process?

We don’t really struggle with it. We believe in the creative newsroom approach, and the critical component is being agile and pre-planning the process. Asking ourselves: if we have a piece of content show up, what’s the approval process and making sure somebody is available to discuss and approve as quickly as possible? On the political side there were rumors about the approval process of tweets [for Mitt Romney]. You have to think about all the legal implications of what a tweet can mean and what it says. And you have to do that from the consumer side as well. There’s trademark, copyright, and other things you need to think about. So you want to set up that process early on and set it up with the client so the client is onboard. Walk them through what it would look like and what the process is — if this scenario happens, here’s how we’ll respond, etc. A lot of it is about establishing a level of trust, and that needs to be done ahead of time, not the day of.


This article is excerpted from my book: Your Guide to Twitter Marketing. I sought out some of the world’s most powerful marketers and grilled them on their subject matter expertise. This book gives you direct insight into how the world’s top marketers approach Twitter and use it to drive sales and influence.

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Image via Mashable