Even if Twitter does accept political ad dollars, a lack of targeting could prevent campaigns from flocking to Twitter ads.
Many political candidates and their campaigns have embraced Twitter, but when they've come calling about advertising there, Twitter has not reciprocated. Twitter has only recently begun rolling out its paid products for advertisers, gradually opening services like Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends to big brands including Starbucks, Disney, and American Express.
But despite the growing emphasis on Twitter for driving fundraising efforts and pushing out campaign messages, political advertisers aren’t exactly welcome - at least during this heated midterm election season. Even if Twitter does begin accepting political ad dollars, a lack of targeting capabilities could prevent campaigns from flocking to Twitter ads.
"Twitter is not accepting political advertisers right now," said Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist at Republican consulting firm Connell Donatelli. He said when he inquired about buying Promoted Tweets on behalf of a current candidate's campaign, a Twitter ad salesperson told him, "that could change any minute, any day."
Twitter spokesperson Sean Garett indicated that the company won't open the door to political advertisers this cycle. "It's a moot point for this political cycle because...we only have a limited group of brands currently using and testing the platform," he told ClickZ News.
Garett would not address whether Twitter will allow political advertisers to buy its paid products. "Twitter is currently working with a limited number of advertisers during the initial rollout of our Promoted Tweets advertising platform," he said. "We are testing carefully with this select group before rolling the platform out more broadly. During this time there all sorts of companies, organizations and categories that aren't yet able to advertise on Twitter."
Still, as media outlets and social media researchers keep a close watch on candidates' Twitter followings, campaigns have a growing need to attract as many followers as possible. Frenchman, for instance, was looking into Promoted Tweets as a possible way to build his client's Twitter following. A large follower base is considered by some observers to indicate strong support or momentum, and it helps propel fundraising efforts as well.
Many political advertisers may not be interested in Twitter's current ad offerings, even if they're allowed to join the party, for one specific reason: the lack of geo-targeting.
"Right now, they told me they couldn't target to the country level, so in politics, I don't think that would be useful," said Frenchman. "I think that eliminates a lot of advertisers.”
Garrett confirmed in an e-mail, "We don't currently geo-target Promoted Tweets (or any other promoted product), but further refining our location-based capabilities is important to Twitter."
Meanwhile, Facebook has become the latest online darling of political campaigns, more and more of which have been buying ads targeted geographically and based on interests on the platform to build up likes for candidate pages.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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