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This past Friday, the Wall Street Journal had an article on its site detailing Twitter’s recent successes with its advertising options.  By way of quick recap, while social media has exploded during the past few years, it has lagged behind in the area of advertising sales, which is widely perceived to be the main way that social media companies will be able to monetize their products.  Facebook has found some success with its advertising platform that includes a hybrid display/text ad as well as socially promoted stories designed to show you other companies and fan pages that your friends like.  But Facebook suffered a tremendous blow when GM announced it was pulling its $10 million ad campaign from Facebook due to “ineffectiveness.”  Google, through its YouTube platform has done a good job of incorporating layover ads and display ads into its platform.  Even LinkedIn, sometimes considered the forgotten social network, has done a solid job of incorporating text and display ads into its platform.  But the one thing missing from each of these networks is a solid mobile advertising strategy.  And with more and more users migrating to smartphone and tablet devices, it is a very competitive area that each of the major social media players wants to figure out so that they can capitalize on this potential market.

To be fair, incorporating advertising into a mobile platform is a tremendous challenge.  There are a wide variety of devices, carriers and screen resolutions that make creating online display advertising difficult.  Text ads, while very effective on Google, have proven less so on mobile.  So, it is not as easy as dropping in a few ads and talking with some major advertisers.  But this is where Twitter is changing the game.  Earlier this year, Twitter began to put a real push on for its advertising platform which, as it just so happens, seems to be a good fit for mobile (60% of Twitter users access the platform via mobile).  Here’s a quick look at the types of advertising options available within Twitter:

  1. Promoted Tweets.  This is just as it sounds.  An advertiser can have its tweets promoted to specific audiences.  The segmentation can be done by geography or by mobile v. desktop.  The ads appear in a Twitter user’s stream, which makes them appear as content (like a Tweet), though there is an indicator to show that it is a promoted tweet.
  2. Promoted Trends.  Trends are the top topics being discussed on Twitter at any given moment.  Trending items are given prominence within the Twitter platform so as to serve as a type of barometer of what’s happening in the twittersphere.  Using this product, an advertiser can get their trend placed at the top of the pile, again with a designation to show that it is a promoted trend.
  3. Promoted Accounts.  This option will place a twitter account front and center in the Twitter platform to targeted users to recommend that they follow this account.  This particular option buys your account exposure that you may not have otherwise.
  4. Enhanced Profile Pages.  This is a profile page that includes additional content, as well as the chance to spotlight specific tweets within the page.  Currently, the enhanced profile pages are limited to select advertisers.

Each of these options is strong, but the promoted tweets in particular seems to be a solid fit for the mobile platform since it is included into a user’s stream to appear alongside other tweets.  And thus far, it appears to be working.  Since Twitter is a private company, they do not release actual advertising numbers, but eMarketer Inc. projects Twitter’s advertising revenues to reach $259.9 million this year.  That’s a significant increase over last year’s estimated $139.5 million.

Now comes the real question: is Twitter advertising right for your business?  Like most things, the answer is dependent upon your marketing goals. Do you want to increase your influence (i.e. find new customers)?  Do you want to motivate potential customers to act right now (or fairly soon) on a specific offer?  If so, then Twitter advertising is worth a try.  You can start with a small campaign and control the daily spend so that if you are not finding satisfactory results, you can stop it immediately.  If, however, you simply want to engage in brand building to show that you are a player in your industry, you’ll probably want to take a pass as there are other platforms better suited to helping you accomplish that goal.