My first foray into sponsored tweets. FAIL.
Ian Lurie Sep 20 2010
Note that I am using ad.ly as part of this test. I am not saying ad.ly is bad. They have a great site, a nice toolset and make no promises. I am suggesting (spoiler alert) that sponsored tweets rank in profitability somewhere below hiring alchemists to try to turn lead into gold.
Sometimes, I just gotta take one for the team. I’ve been skeptical about sponsored Tweets for a long time. Why on earth would anyone click an ad that says ‘Ad’ in it and zips by in a stream of 140-character messages?
But I wanted to see for myself. So I busted my piggy bank and took a shot. I figured, hey, maybe it’ll work!
I chose my SEO training, the Fat Free Guide, as the test subject. And I used ad.ly as my advertising platform. I signed up for an ad.ly account and bought a single ad for $370.
Ad.ly lets you select a particular Twitter celebrity for your ad, then write the copy (as long as it’s not in the first person). Their site’s super easy-to-use, and I had everything set up in a few minutes.
I selected Shoemoney as the publisher. That meant he’d send out my ad to his entire Twitter audience. In internet marketing, he’s got the reputation and the pull, plus he could kick my fanny in an MMA match, I’m sure, so I figured, why not?
I paid. Ad.ly approved my ad and Shoemoney posted it within a few minutes:
I wrote the ad based on three things:
- Most people who sign up for the Fat Free Guide search on my name at some point.
- The $7/month lifetime price has been a great draw.
To break even, I needed about 55 orders.
Right now, the Fat Free Guide site long on brains, short on looks. It has a hideous landing page:
But it does OK. 13% of people who read the ‘Join’ page sign up. Shoemoney has 112,000 followers on Twitter. Even if I my conversion rate plummeted to 3%, I only needed 1800 clicks. That’s a 1.6% clickthru rate.
That’s pretty high, but it assumed a big drop in conversion rate, so I figured my odds were good.
7 hours after Shoemoney sent out his Tweet, guess how many clicks I got? Just guess!
Wooooow that took me back to the good old days, when I created banners using CorelDraw and Comic Sans.
75 clicks?! Are you fracking kidding me?! I could’ve gotten my kids’ school to click the ad and gotten more than that.
I’m OK. Not thrilled with the results, but OK. This was all in the name of science, after all.
Who sponsored tweets might help
There is an audience that could use sponsored tweets: I think political organizations, sports teams and folks in need of a fast media hit could capitalize on ad.ly and similar tools. Even if the tweets have [ad] inserted into them, organizations and politicians, etc. can still get their name out in front of a few more people for pennies per impression.
Sponsored tweets feel a lot like display ads to me: Potentially good for branding, but a conversion nightmare.
Oh, also: ad.ly has solved the Twitter monetization problem, though: Sell Twitter ads!
If I did anything wrong – if there’s something I should change to get a better result – tell me. I’ll do another test, on my dime.
The one thing you can’t tell me to do is change my landing page. I want to see better clickthru – at least .5% – before I change anything else.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More