Twitter gets serious about advertising, but who can put a value on a tweet?
TWITTER chief executive Dick Costolo’s standing-room only talk at the Cannes advertising festival last week came with the warm, fuzzy title Harnessing the Power of Real-Time Connections, but the message was clear: Twitter intends to become a major global advertising medium.
Costolo told the delegates that by the end of 2012, the social media site will have expanded its advertising products into 50 countries worldwide. Late last year eMarketer estimated Twitter advertising revenue would top $226 million in 2012.
A hefty figure from a low base, but that was before the company announced its expansion intentions and before it launched what is likely to become a lucrative advertising model – its self-serve platform selling a range of promoted products.
Aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, promoted products sell at a price- friendly entry point for companies to get in on the social medium. In the US at the launch date in February, for example, a promoted tweet cost a couple of dollars for every retweet, mention, favourite or click.
Before that, Twitter advertising was mostly attractive only to big players, with products such as trending topics costing as much as $100,000 for a 24-hour cycle being sold directly from the social media site.
“Twitter has a wide range of advertising products,” says Lauren Fisher, director at online and social media specialist, Simply Zesty, who says she’s surprised it took Twitter so long to roll out and expand its advertising offer. “There’s branded sub-pages, sponsored accounts, promoted tweets, it’s quite complex.
“The way the platform is built, it can be quite obtrusive for users though,” she adds, “much more obtrusive than Facebook, and that risks being simply annoying.” Irritation aside, the golden rule of advertising media spend, “measurability”, is also viewed as problematic. “Who can put a value on a tweet, how do you measure it?” she asks.
Peter Kennedy, head of digital at Magna Global is even more sceptical. “It’s the emperor’s new clothes,” he says boldly, adding that Twitter now is where Facebook was two years ago. “I’d be quite concerned about putting a brand in front of someone’s opinion.”
You have to be clear, is it a branding or a sales campaign, he says. “How much is a ‘like’ worth – no one can tell what it’s worth in a Facebook campaign – there’s just a feeling among some advertisers right now that they have to be on Facebook. It will be same for Twitter.”
Some brands have had success exploiting Twitter’s immediacy, or “real-time connections” as Costolo calls it, with the chief executive pointing out that from a media planner’s point of view, using it requires greater flexibility.
He gave some examples: Procter & Gamble’s instant response during the Daytona 500 race when one of its detergents, Tide, was used to clean up after a crash (P&G tweeted a photo of the clean-up and invited tweeted- back captions); and this year’s London Fashion Week when Burberry tweeted photos of models before they came out on the runway, so creating a buzz across traditional media and making fashion fans who couldn’t be at the exclusive show feel like instant insiders.
His speech, though, came in the same week as Nike became the first company to have a Twitter advertising campaign banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because it was not clear that the tweets, sent from footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire were, in fact, ads.
Rooney’s tweet to his 4.37 million followers went: “My resolution to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion” and ended with the hashtag and ad strapline, #makeitcount gonike.me/makeitcount.
In its defence, Nike claimed that the end line made it clear to followers that the tweet was part of the company’s campaign.
Not so, said the advertising watchdog, which argued that the average twitter account user scrolled through so many tweets a day they could not be expected to immediately guess that Wayne’s words were in fact an ad. “We considered that the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed,” the ASA added.
Something else for the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, already dealing with complaints about internet advertising, to get ready to consider.
Laura Slattery is away