Twitter Advertising Guide

How to Buy a Twitter Ad and Where to Place It

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Twitter illustration. Mary Turner/Getty Images
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Twitter advertising has grown up a lot in the years since the micro-blogging network first started allowing merchants to buy their way into the conversations occurring through billions of tweets.

Types of Twitter Advertising

Twitter offers many options for merchants wanting to advertise on its micro-blogging network, and these Twitter ad products are getting more powerful all the time. They include:

Promoted tweets -- This option allows merchants or companies to write a tweet and have it inserted into timelines of certain people or accounts, or in related search results, allowing the marketing message to reach a broad audience. Each "promoted tweet" is marked with a little yellow arrow that denotes ads on twitter (a yellow arrow appears in the image above.) In the spring of 2013, Twitter added keyword targeting to this tweet ad program. Keyword targeting allows merchants to target their sponsored tweets into users' timelines based on specific keywords the users have written in their tweets. In addition to keywords, merchants can target their ads based on geography, topical interests, gender and more.

Promoted Accounts -- Have your account/profile seen by more people when it appears in Twitter's "who to follow" listing of recommended accounts (as shown with the Verizon "promoted account" in the image above.) When you pay to promote your account, Twitter runs an algorithm that compares followers of the account you are promoting with the rest of its user base to find accounts that seem similar, so it can show your profile to those people in the "who to follow" tab.

Twitter allows a certain amount of targeting with its promoted account ads--you can show your account to users based on their geography, gender, topical interests, gender or type of computing device.

Promoted Trends -- Trends are keywords or hashtags that are getting enormous use on Twitter, and merchants are allowed to buy their way to the top of this list of trending topics.

When a merchant buys an ad to appear in the Trends list, it gets a small orange arrow next to it denoting the fact that it was sponsored and is not an "organic" trending topic, or one naturally getting a lot of conversation in its own right. The "promoted" or purchased trend phrase or keyword stays on the list all day. Advertisers often use a promoted trend ad to promote something new or timely that might pique the curiosity of users when they see it on this list. Advertisers should avoid using this option to tout older products that wouldn't be seen as new or different, which might seem out of place in a "trending" list.

Fees and Payments for Twitter Ads

Twitter's ad system is a mix of full-service and self-service. In the full-service system, merchants get help building their online ad campaigns.

In the self-service version, merchants create and activate their own Twitter ads online.

Both ad systems are performance-based, meaning merchants pay only if people respond to the promoted tweet by following the account or clicking, reply, favorite or the tweet itself. No clicking, no payment-- just like Google's text ads in search results.

Twitter's ad pricing system also resembles Google's in the use of online auctions, through which merchants bid against each other in real time on how much they are willing to pay for each click or other action taken on their promoted tweets.

Twitter Advertising Rules and Guidelines

Twitter advertising must follow all of the regular terms of service that governs content and use of Twitter. That means avoiding spam, not posting content that is banned such as ads touting illegal products or containing hateful content, obscene language or promoting violence.

Twitter ads must contain "honest, authentic and relevant content," the guidelines state. They should not imply a relationship or affiliation with another group or company without permission, and should not use other people's content or tweets without authorization.

You can read the entire list of guidelines on the Twitter Ads Policies page.

Getting Started with Twitter Advertising

To advertise on Twitter, you must first sign up for a Twitter ad account. It's easy to do. just click on "start advertising" or "let's go" button on the Twitter advertising page and fill out the forms, telling Twitter where you're located and how much you want to spend. You'll be prompted to give Twitter your email address and a credit card number or bank account number to make payment for your ads.

Next, you'll select the product you want to use. Promoted Tweets? Promoted Trends? And finally, you'll create your ad and decide where and when you want to run it on the Twitter network.

Other Twitter Ad Tools

Twitter introduced a tool for small businesses to help them use ad products on its network in February 2015. It's called "quick promote" and it basically simplifies purchasing ads on Twitter. 

To use it, you simply select a tweet, enter the amount you're willing to pay and let Twitter do the rest. It will automatically promote the tweet to users whose actions on the network suggest they will be interested in the particular topic addressed in your tweet. Read Twitter's announcement of the quick promote feature.

Twitter Ad Resources