Twitter has rolled out a subscription ad service that charges $99 a month for to automatically promote tweets to bigger audiences.
Called "Promote Mode," it gives subscribers up to 10 promoted tweets a day. It's designed for small businesses and brands that don't want the hassle of managing sophisticated ad campaigns.
Twitter's ad sales have been slipping, most recently in the third quarter, when its $503 million in ad revenue represented an 8 percent decline from the period a year earlier. Twitter does not disclose how many advertisers it has, but it is undoubtedly a fraction of the 6 million that advertise on Facebook. Promote Mode could be Twitter's ticket to attracting the businesses that don't spend as much as the big brands.
"Promote Mode is an always-on, amplification engine," Wook Chung, Twitter's director of product management, said in a blog post on Wednesday. "It automatically promotes your Tweets and profile, steadily attracting more followers and additional reach for a flat fee."
But it remains to be seen whether Promote Mode is worth the fee.
Boosting 10 tweets a day at that price can prove valuable, as one promoted tweet can easily cost small businesses $30, according to Darius Mohammadi, director of Elite Lucky Gamers Limited, an online shopping business that also helps ad clients with digital and social marketing. It has subscribed to the automated Twitter ad service.
"We got Twitter Promote Mode because we wanted to grow our social reach and because we offer advertisement services to other companies," says Mohammadi, in an interview conducted via Twitter direct messaging. "And we thought business customers might be more attracted to purchasing advertisements from us as their ads will not only be posted on our Twitter page but also be advertised even further on Twitter ads free of charge."
The biggest downside seems to be that Twitter's automated system decides which tweets to promote.
Twitter's subscription ad product also has limited targeting options. It mostly extends the reach of tweets, showing them to a wider audience, and promotes accounts.
Matt Navarra, director of social media at The Next Web, was tweeting about his Promote Mode trial last week. He had seen 2 new followers by day two, and only a 3 percent increase in audience size.
"It'll need to do a LOT more than this to justify its price tag," Navarra tweeted.
When reached for comment, a Twitter spokeswoman pointed to the help page for Promote Mode, which says the service is designed to help accounts with fewer than 2,000 followers. That could explain Navarra's experience with his 23,000 followers.
Twitter says Promote Mode would expand to larger accounts, too.
"Promote Mode works best for people who are promoting their brand or product and want an automated, always-on advertising solution," Twitter's help page says. "At our current price ($99 a month) accounts with up to 2,000 followers will see the most value. In the future, higher price and promotion tiers will be available for people with larger followings."