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Integrating Twitter into Ad Campaigns

  |  June 16, 2009   |  Comments

Brands are testing out sponsored postings and incorporating live tweets into rich media ad creative. A look at who's doing what.

Twitter is the media darling du present. But how does Twitter, which is an ad-free platform, factor into a discussion about online media planning? Because brands (or their agencies) looking to capitalize on the popularity of Twitter have developed innovative ad campaigns incorporating Twitter in several forms.

Let's talk about what Twitter-integrated campaigns entail, what the value is, who's doing them, and how to measure a campaign.

Advertising Options and Benefits

There are two primary formats for leveraging Twitter for advertising:

  • Sponsored postings (known as "tweets" on Twitter), whereby solutions providers match-make advertisers with willing Twitter users. Companies such as Twittad, Magpie, and Izea offer these services.

  • Incorporating live tweets into rich media ad creative.

There are also a few experiments underway using Twitter to generate sponsorship advertising dollars:

  • Google has purportedly tested a new form of its AdSense unit that streams in an advertiser's last five tweets.

  • Glam Media has developed an ad-sponsored technology that aggregates multiple forms of online conversations, including those on Twitter, into a module.

  • Federated Media is collaborating with Twitter on a Microsoft-sponsored site called ExecTweet.

All of these ads can be fairly low- to moderate-cost, relatively easy to implement, and present a new way to reach people, as well as generate awareness, brand buzz, and site traffic.

Who's Doing It?

The automotive category has gotten in early on the Twitter advertising act. Both Land Rover and Volvo have executed campaigns, though very differently.

Using Twittads, Land Rover ran a campaign in May 2009 to promote the debut of its newest vehicles at the New York International Auto Show. Based on the use of a #LRNY hashtag -- a topical bookmark of sorts uniquely devised for Twitter's platform that uses the # symbol before characters to anchor all same-subject tweets -- the campaign paid Twittad users to tweet about the event. The hashtag was also incorporated into billboard ads, in-taxi TVs, and other out-of-home venues.

Volvo took a different tact. Its ad was a 950x250 rich media YouTube banner ad that incorporated live tweets from the VolvoXC60 Twitter account to promote its new XC60 model. Volvo then used the Twitter account to provide live updates during the same New York auto show -- the result was really two ads in one.

Blockbuster has tested the new Izea platform to promote its online movie service, and Universal Studios plans to mimic the Volvo type of ad to promote summer movies. Intuit's TurboTax has participated in Google's experiment.

Requirements for Successful Execution

Twitter, as part of the social media space, is a place that opens brands up for exposure. Brands trying to use this platform must both trust the Twitter community as well as establish their own trust within the community.

The brand first must assess if Twitter is right for them, develop and put into place some kind of Twitter strategy and the means to evaluate if Twitter + advertising is even a good idea for the brand. Campaigns involving live tweeting must be regularly fed and maintained -- who'll manage that responsibility?

Finally, if the campaign's objective requires a follow-through plan, that should be in place before the campaign even launches. There'd be nothing worse than spending money on an ad campaign that ends up being a public relations fiasco in the long run.

Measuring ROI

In the past, I've explored challenges to measuring direct response outcomes related to social media. Trying to associate social media with direct ROI (define) is doable, but with different kinds of metrics.

Twitter + advertising concepts, however, offer a little of both worlds. For rich media ads like Volvo's, ad engagement and click-throughs can be measured. There are also tangible metrics associated with Twitter, such as:

  • Changes in follower count. Is there an increase or decrease?

  • Number of retweets (people re-posting someone else's tweet in order to "forward" it to their followers).

  • Number of tweets using the designated hashtag. This provides a sense of the campaign's popularity.

  • Changes in Web site or blog traffic -- traffic spikes should be expected and referral data should show Twitter as a source.

Just a reminder: combining Twitter with advertising is in its infancy state. More people are making money off of Twitter than is Twitter at the moment. There are plenty more ideas yet to come.

Addendum: I have been contracted to write a book about Twitter marketing and it's scheduled to publish in mid-fall. Please sign up at "HollisTwitterArmy" on Twibes if you would like to assist, and I'll be in touch.

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Hollis Thomases

A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."

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