Should you advertise on Twitter?

For each promoted tweet, Twitter measures (and charges for) several types of engagement, including clicks, retweets and replies, and it’s these that you’re setting a bid price for.

Should you advertise on Twitter?

Just to muddy the water a little, you pay only for direct engagements. For example, when someone retweets your promoted tweet, you’ll pay, but if that user’s followers then engage the tweet by clicking or sharing it among themselves, you don’t pay any extra. As a result, Twitter rather cheekily uses “effective cost per engagement” (eCPE) – which includes such freebies – as its main metric.

In many cases, you’ll be promoting a specific link to your website and including some sort of incentive to encourage the user to act before the tweet disappears from their stream.

Lead generation

However, Twitter has also introduced the Lead Generation Card, an entirely new way for users to interact with a tweet. The tweet itself invites the user to agree to share their email address with the tweeter, in return for an incentive.

The Lead Generation Card is by far the most interesting aspect of Twitter advertising

In other words, it’s a mailing-list opt-in form embedded in the Twitter stream. When the user clicks the link, the tweet expands to ensure they give explicit permission for sharing; if they agree, their email address is sent to the promoter.

Even more usefully, Twitter has set up integration with a range of services, including my favourite mailing-list provider MailChimp, which makes it possible to have these addresses added directly to your main email list. MailChimp is sophisticated enough to let you send different “welcome” emails to subscribers who arrive via Twitter rather than other sources, so the user receives a seamless, professional experience.

In fact, the Lead Generation Card is by far the most interesting aspect of Twitter advertising. I saw an instantaneous response, despite my low budget, and I achieved six sign-ups within a couple of minutes, followed by several more – some after my campaign had ended (and therefore free of charge). I can see from the control panel that 10% of the people who clicked the link to open the card agreed to share their email address, which is pretty respectable.

What’s profitable?

Unhelpfully, Twitter includes these clicks in its eCPE of 9p; a more sensible measure would be to divide the amount spent by the number of email-list sign-ups, including those that happened after the promotion took place. In my case, this would yield a real-world cost per email address of around 80p.

I could almost certainly reduce this significantly by experimenting with the wording of the tweet and the offer itself, but I wouldn’t expect much less than 50p.

The only way I’ll know whether that’s a profitable figure is by spending enough to attract around 100 Twitter email addresses and then analysing whether these people buy or not. Generally speaking, however, social media followers are less profitable than those who’ve been signed up via our blog or from within the shop itself.

I also ran a bog-standard campaign that offered a discount code and a link to our shop. Each click on that link cost us a promising 18p, but we recorded no sales using the code. Although this isn’t encouraging, I’d need to run the campaign for longer to acquire enough data to decide whether to add Twitter advertising to my arsenal.


Not surprisingly, Twitter isn’t set to replace AdWords as my primary promotional tool, although the platform has impressed me more than I anticipated (to be fair, my expectations were pretty low). Its user interface is well thought out, and makes it easy to add and manage campaigns, resulting in an experience that’s far less frustrating than Bing or Facebook.

You’re provided with no shortage of data on your campaign performance, although not all of its metrics are equally important, whatever Twitter might have you believe.

Twitter isn’t set to replace AdWords as my primary promotional tool, although the platform has impressed me more than I anticipated

As with all ad platforms, sticking with the default options is a fast track to the poorhouse, so if you’re not prepared to spend time working out a budget, targeting options and establishing the financial aims of your campaign, you’re best steering clear. That said, there’s an inherent advantage to being among the first to use a new platform, since you can capitalise before bid prices and user apathy increase.

I don’t recommend dismissing Twitter advertising out of hand: it may well have a part to play in driving traffic, sales and leads for some businesses in some situations.

For most online enterprises, however, more traditional forms of online marketing such as pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising and video promotion will remain far more important: don’t be distracted by the latest and shiniest.

This may sound like faint praise, but the fact Twitter advertising wasn’t dead on arrival is a surprise in itself. Who knows, one day it might merit being taken seriously.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos