#Winning on Twitter: the Top 10 Promoted Tweets

VW, Papa John's -- and Twitter -- Win by Keeping it Real, Using Links and Launching New Products

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Ads on twitter are a funny hybrid, a combination of paid and earned media. You can buy a bunch of keywords on Twitter, but a promoted tweet won't do much unless it resonates with consumers and they are inspired to pass it around.

Five Rules to Rule Twitter
BE TWEETING. The best advertisers are already using Twitter organically.

USE A HASHTAG. It connects the ad to the broader conversation.

INCLUDE A LINK. Most of the top 50 paid tweets used one.

KEEP IT REAL-TIME. About 70% of top tweets connected to something happening now.

LAUNCH A PRODUCT. Most of the top 10 were revealing something new.

From the start, Twitter has charged for promoted tweets on what it calls "engagement" or user action -- a retweet, response, click on a link or when a user marks a post as a "favorite." Marketers don't pay when the tweets go nowhere. Twitter also only charges for the first retweet of the original; subsequent retweets are "earned" and free.

As sales chief Adam Bain says, "Marketers are rewarded if they are good, not just if they're loud." While ad spending on Twitter is expected to grow to $150 million in 2011 from $45 million in 2010, according to eMarketer, brands are still working out how to use the platform effectively. Twitter provided Advertising Age with the top 20 tweets of the past year, and we pulled the best from each of the top 10 marketers on that list based on the rate of engagement.

The top marketers represented a broad cross-section of auto, tech, fast-food and media marketers with a wide variety of products and messages. Some were obvious (the Old Spice Guy), some weren't (Papa John's). Some had repeat hits: Google, for example, had four tweets in the top 20; Conan O' Brien's production company Team Coco had three and Volkswagen had two.

From those, we drew some lessons. Twitter has said publicly that the average "engagement" on promoted tweets is 3% to 5%, but for the top paid tweets engagement is eye-popping for any kind of digital ad. For example, the top tweet of the year, from VW, had a 52% engagement rate, meaning of all people exposed to the ad, more interacted with it than ignored it. VW's six promoted tweets for the New Beetle and one promoted trend reached 90 million people. No. 10 on the list is a promoted tweet from Twitter itself, with a 25% engagement rate, far greater than the norm.

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