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Twitter sprints to take over the social advertising lead

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Twitter Inc. has always been a b-to-b marketing favorite, virtually tied with LinkedIn and Facebook in the earned and owned categories of social participation. Recently, however, the microblogging service has unveiled a number of moves to make the third, paid leg of social activity just as valuable to marketers. This month Twitter launched a Lead Generation Card that activates when a viewer expands a Promoted Tweet. This generates an offer along with a call to action. The user's name, @username and email address are prepopulated in the card, enabling a single click to respond to the marketer. Also this month, Twitter announced a partnership with ESPN Network to expand its presentation of short sports videos intended to attract ads and paid social posts. ESPN will sell ads inside the video clips shown on Twitter, with advertisers having the option of paying for Promoted Tweets to highlight the ads. In April, Twitter forged a deal with Publicis Groupe's digital agency Starcom MediaVest Group to boost Twitter ad slots for Starcom clients. The deal calls for the Twitter ads API to be integrated into Starcom's analytics tool to help optimize ad buys for the agency's clients. And just a few weeks before that, Twitter introduced keyword ad targeting, allowing advertisers to target their Promoted Tweet ads toward users based on the words they use in tweets or retweets. “The ad part of this business has evolved tremendously in the last three years since we launched advertising,” said Richard Alfonsi, VP-global online sales at Twitter. “For advertisers, Twitter in the last year or so has gone from an experiment to something that's essential.” Twitter is certainly seen as essential for organic social involvement. “Social Media Marketing: Best in Class Marketers Rise to the Top,” a BtoB study released this month, found Twitter is used by 74% of b-to-b marketers, behind only LinkedIn (80%) and Facebook (75%) in ubiquity, and far ahead of video sites, blogging and other social sites. But BtoB's study—based on an online survey of 432 marketers conducted in January and February—revealed that Twitter is lagging among advertisers. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they use LinkedIn for advertising, and 53% said they use Facebook. But only 28% said they use Twitter ads; and, among best-in-class marketers, that figure fell to just 13%, well behind Google+ and YouTube. But Alfonsi noted how fast things can change in the world of social media. “Some things that we've launched recently have really enhanced how you can target users you want to reach,” Alfonsi said. “Now, being able to target based on keywords within the tweets in timelines, you can reach people at the right moment with an ad unit that is engaging.” Twitter's new Lead Generation Card is the latest in a series of expandable tweet formats that enable marketers to leverage so-called “native advertising.” “In Twitter's way of thinking, a paid strategy builds and amplifies an organic strategy,” Alfonsi said. “Being "authentic' on Twitter and connecting with your followers is a good start. Building on that with a native-ad platform based on interest and keywords is a natural progression.” Twitter seems to have an edge in lead generation, according to the “2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report” released in January by lead-generation technology company Optify Inc. The study, which analyzed 62 million visits last year to the websites of more than 600 small and midsize b-to-b companies, found that Twitter is the strongest social media channel for generating leads, outperforming Facebook and LinkedIn 9 to 1. Eighty-two percent of social media leads came from Twitter, according to the study.
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