Should I Be Running Ads on Twitter?

Alex Deleon Headshot

To say Twitter is in a rut may be the social media understatement of 2017.

The company struggles to make money, despite having 320 million actively engaged users. Stock is down 16% in Q1 2017. Executives, who appear to see the writing on the wall, are leaving millions of dollars of stock on the table to abandon ship. Rightfully, many users are wondering how long Twitter has left.

For marketers, a different question rears its head.

Should I still advertise on Twitter?

The answer is a resounding “no” for many of us. And that makes sense.

Even if we set platform longevity aside, Twitter ads have proven to be more expensive than their counterparts on Facebook, Instagram, or even Pinterest. The drop-off in marketer participation in their ad platform has forced Twitter to float the idea of charging for a “premium” experience (meanwhile, Facebook just posted 8.8 billion dollars in ad revenue at the end of 2016…).

I’ve promoted my fair share of campaigns on the platform over the years, everything from ecommerce to influencer marketing support, and I can vouch for the sticker shock encountered by many clients when the results begin to pour in. My own personal pet peeve is how difficult the ad interface is to use when you compare it to Facebook Ad Manager, or even LinkedIn Campaign Manager. They’ve taken some steps to address this, but it’s still a convoluted mess in many respects.

Given all of this, you probably think I’d tell you to run screaming from Twitter.

I won’t, but truthfully, you need a darn good reason to advertise on Twitter.  Like… I’m talking unassailable, can’t-miss reasoning.

Maybe 90% of your organic social conversions come from Twitter. Maybe your primary internal influencer has a huge following on the platform. Maybe you have SO much money, throwing it at the wall to see what sticks won’t mess with your bottom line (that’s a problem for a lot of us, I know). If you have a good enough reason to throw ads on the platform, the budget to test and learn, and the patience to deal with Twitter’s awful user interface, then you’re probably safe to dip your toe in the water. Otherwise, run the other way… and run fast.

To their credit, Twitter has iterated decently on what they offer from an ad unit perspective.There are options available to those of us who do want to spend money on the platform. They’re at least trying to create an ecosystem in which you could, theoretically, achieve a tangible campaign goal. You might experiment with traditional web traffic generation or brand awareness, or you could test newer campaign-types like their conversational ads, or even run with promoting something like a Twitter card. Do your research before picking a campaign-type, but know there are options there for most approaches.

Years ago we cautioned that Twitter ads were worth evaluating, but weren’t likely to drive conversion or result in anything hugely worthwhile for your organization. Ultimately our 2017 advice echoes what we saw way back in 2012: it may work… but, you know, it also probably won’t. And if Twitter keeps going the way it’s going now, we probably won’t need to worry about this too much longer, anyway.

Alex Deleon Headshot

Alex DeLeon

Director of Search & Social
Director of Search & Social

Alex oversees the search, social, and small business teams at Portent. A graduate of the University of Washington, he spent the first five years of his career in public relations and communications, including time in two of the largest PR agencies in Seattle. Alex's experience spans multiple verticals, including technology, sports entertainment, health tech, eCommerce, non-profit education, and the gaming. He maintains an unhealthy obsession with the NBA in his free time, and enjoys showing off his poor man's poor man version of the Dream Shake while posting up on the low block at local pick up games.

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