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Twitter debuts new ad platform

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Twitter's new Promoted Tweets ad platform, announced last month, lets advertisers pay for tweets that appear at the top of search pages on Twitter.com. The tweets, based on keywords on which advertisers bid, can be retweeted by Twitter users to their own followers, just like ordinary Twitter posts. “We wanted to do something that enhances the conversation that companies are already having with their customers on Twitter,” said Dick Costolo, chief operating officer at Twitter, who announced the service at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York last month, hosted by BtoB sibling publication Advertising Age. Twitter is now testing the service with advertisers including Best Buy, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America. Advertisers bid for keywords on a CPM basis, and the tweet with the highest bid appears at the top of a Twitter search results page, clearly labeled “promoted.” In the future, Twitter may develop a performance model based on “resonance,” which will factor in user interaction with the ad, Costolo said. (Futher information about pricing details was not available.) B-to-b marketers said they are still evaluating whether to use promoted tweets. “I definitely see the value of promoted tweets and understand why Twitter is doing it, but I am not sure if I will actually use it to reach my government customers. I think it may be more useful at the corporate Microsoft level instead,” said Kristin Bockius, state and local government marketing manager at Microsoft Corp. Media buyers and analysts said that while there are benefits to Promoted Tweets for b-to-b advertisers, the real value will come from integrating these messages with other efforts—such as real-time search and geo-based targeting—to build longer-term relationships with customers. “Ultimately, I think the value of that kind of platform will not be from paid advertising but from the b-to-b marketer who builds an authentic presence and is driving top-line revenue,” said Michael Greene, an analyst at Forrester Research who covers interactive marketing. Dell Inc., for example, has generated more than $2 million in sales from @DellOutlet, a Twitter channel it established in 2007. Dell uses Twitter to tweet about special offers and drive users to a microsite where they can purchase Dell products. Media buyers and agency executives were uniformly positive about Twitter's new ad platform, which they said b-to-b marketers should look at as a way to engage with customers, build loyalty, get feedback and eventually drive sales. “I think Twitter has definitely proven itself to be a breakthrough and innovative platform for b-to-b marketers,” said Fran Powell, senior VP-digital at Wahlstrom Group, a local and directory marketing agency that is part of IPG's Mediabrands unit. “It is a very viable local opportunity for a b-to-b person who wants to learn how to break through and do [Twitter] on a much smaller scale and engage with their own community,” she said. “It could be another gateway for them—even if they don't have time to manage a full Twitter program—to use this service and rise to the top of search results.” Ryan DeShazer, global practice leader for search at GyroHSR Cincinnati, said the applications for Promoted Tweets go way beyond the paid advertising platform. “I think the really interesting piece is in respect to real-time search,” he said. “This will enable b-to-b marketers to put their toe in the waters and begin to asses the viability of real-time search. They can select keyword terms, bid on them and have a presence for those terms in a real-time search environment.” “If it proves to be worthwhile,” he added, “the question becomes: To what extent do we need to allocate part of our marketing investment toward creating real-time content?” DeShazer said the agency has had conversations with several clients, which he declined to name, about the new Twitter platform and how they can incorporate it into their overall marketing strategy. Matthew Don, director of digital strategy and innovation at Doremus London, said the new service has the potential for expanding marketers' geographical targeting. “I would like to see how Four-square and Gowalla [location-based social networks] and Twitter will expand their location-based advertising,” Don said. “We are doing experiments now using Twitter updates that contain embedded location data to mine and visualize geo-based information on a map. The problem is, there is really a lack of tweets that have geo-encoded information.” Don said it makes sense for b-to-b marketers to test Promoted Tweets to determine the effectiveness of the platform. “Brands and agencies that are setting up to respond to media in a changing landscape need to take into account that things are moving a lot quicker,” he said. “The ability of Twitter to capture the moment is appealing and worth looking at within an experimental budget. You can test and trial these things very quickly.” M
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