After a wildly successful IPO last week, Twitter is the talk of the town with a market valuation to match. We know all about the hashtags, celebrity endorsements, and the infamous fail whale, but what about the ad system they are creating?
Should PPC practitioners focus on Twitter as an emerging ad channel that can drive direct response metrics, much like Facebook has evolved into? Or is the value of Twitter advertising largely brand in nature? Or maybe it's somewhere in between.
To best evaluate this, let’s look at some of the major opportunities and challenges of leveraging Twitter as a scalable PPC ad channel.
- Self-Service: Twitter has developed self-service capabilities, a requirement of any ad channel that will truly scale. There are some key differences to AdWords/Facebook that I’ll discuss below.
- Truly Global Audience: Some platforms claim to be global. Twitter truly is. If your client wants to advertise globally and doesn’t want to identify local publishers for ad buys, Twitter could be a great outlet.
- High CTR: Twitter engagement rates seem to be very high relative to Facebook and are reasonable compared to Google. At this level of engagement, it's easy and quick to understand the quality of that engagement such that you can start optimization cycles quickly.
- Building a Network Through MoPub: With the recent acquisition of a leading mobile ad server, Twitter can easily expand its reach beyond its own walls. For a marketer, knowing that someone follows a particular band could be a very valuable bit of data enabling him or her to sell concert tickets or merchandise.
- Geo-Specific: Much of Twitter’s inventory is geo-tagged which offers marketers significant opportunity to deliver locally relevant ad messages.
- Mobile First: The majority of Twitter’s ad inventory and revenue is mobile, which in terms of Wall Street valuations is a good thing, but given that conversion rates on mobile are generally a lot lower than desktop, it is more difficult for direct response marketers to ascribe value to Twitter engagement than they can to a desktop search on Google.
- Limited Inventory: At IPO, Twitter’s unique users were around 200 million, which is less than one-fifth of the audience of Facebook and Google. While that is still sizeable, it will be more difficult to achieve similar conversion volumes in the short run. With limited bandwith to explore emerging channels, hardcore direct response advertisers might leave this one alone for a bit.
- Unfamiliar Targeting: Twitter has defined or redefined the words "tweet", "hashtag," and "followers" for the general population. However, that doesn't mean that most advertisers understand the implications of buying a specific hashtag or a group of followers. It took Facebook a while to find targeting criteria that were very familiar to marketers (e.g., retargeting via FBX) and you can xpect the same to happen for Twitter over its first few quarters as a public company.
- Native Ad Unit: Twitter’s core ad unit is truly native, in the form of a tweet. Creating engaging tweets is challenging and requires more creativity than developing a direct response to someone who has already visited your site.
Twitter is a fast growing channel with a lot of dollars behind it coming on the heels of its IPO. Much like Facebook, they will figure out how to make this marketing channel work for marketers, however at present, PPC marketers will have to approach Twitter very differently to drive measurable ROI in the near term.