Posted: Tue 22nd Jul 2014
Think advertising is just for big brands? Think again! Twitter advertising can be used by small businesses to cost-effectively grow audiences, amplify messages and cleverly target new and existing customers.
I tried Twitter Ads last week, out of curiosity - and, far from killing this cat, it left me purring with satisfaction. I found it easy to set up and rather effective with the small budget I invested.
So, what is Twitter advertising?
Twitter's advertising tool for small businesses is 'self service'. It allows you to do three things:
Promote your Twitter account
2. Promote individual tweets
3. Analyse your Twitter ads and followers
When you choose to promote your Twitter account, it appears in Twitter search results and in Twitter's "Who to follow" recommendation engine on its website and in mobile apps.
Promoted individual tweets are like regular tweets, except they're shown to both your existing and potential followers - in user timelines and search results.
You might have seen both kinds of Twitter ads in your timelines, in search results and in the "Who to follow" feature. They both appear with an upward arrow in an orange box and the word 'Promoted'.
Twitter Ads also provides analytics, so you can see how your Twitter ads and tweets are performing and also what your existing followers are interested in, where they live and how they use Twitter, so you can better engage with potential followers like them.
How can I set up a Twitter ad?
The first thing you need to do is pick a location. You can choose to advertise locally, nationally or globally. You can even pick multiple locations - let's say you have a market stall in two different areas.
Then you need to narrow down the audience you'd like to reach. You can target potential followers by interest - and Twitter provides lots of proven keywords to get you started. You can also target by gender or device - let's say you want to reach people on the move or people at their desks. Or you can choose to target by similarity to your existing followers.
Then you need to decide whether you want to promote particular tweets, your account or both. Promoted Accounts are a good way to quickly attract new followers before, say, a major promotion or event. Promoted Tweets are a good way to amplify your message, or to promote a particular event, deal, product, competition or service.
How much do Twitter Ads cost?
The beauty of Twitter Ads is that you only pay for what works - and you're in charge of the budget. It lets you set a daily spending limit, then you only pay when someone follows your Promoted Account or when they retweet, favourite, reply or click on a link in your Promoted Tweet.
To give you an idea, I used Twitter Ads to promote a blog post I wrote about Google Glass - just as an experiment. I spent Â£30 in total, with a spending limit of Â£10 per day. My promoted tweet received 7,770 impressions and the link was clicked 218 times. That's an engagement rate of 2.81% and an effective cost per engagement of 14p.
Now, bear in mind the blog post was very broad and not promoting anything in particular. If I were to do it again, I'd promote something more specific and, crucially, include an incentive to click or a call-to-action, so I could really capture those leads.
Overall, the experiment was positive and I was able to see that with slightly more budget and a clearer business objective I could reach lots of new people.
San Sharma (@sansharma) is a writer and marketer, specialising in technology and business.