First Take Analysis: What Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” Means To The Ecosystem

The Altimeter Group was pre-briefed by Twitter COO Dick Costolo last week about this upcoming launch, we’ve had some time to think over what it means to the industry.  Help your boss fight through the clutter, send them this post.

Summary: Twitter has launched Promoted Tweets, combining paid and organic media. Brands can now advertise promoted tweets on search pages, however the community has power over which tweets will appear measured by Twitter’s new metric called “resonance” which factors in behaviors like the retweet, at, hash, avatar clicks. Brands can now purchase CPM based ads to promote these popular tweets at the top of a Twitter search term –even in categories they aren’t well known in, influencing awareness.  Marketers beware: unlike traditional advertising or social marketing this is both a combination of earned media and paid media.  For Twitter this experimental move makes sense as it taps into deep pockets of online advertisers without jeapordizing sanctity of the community as users will self select which tweets will resonate and thereby become promoted ads.

How it will work, a likely use case scenario:

  1. Twitter users will continue to interact with each other, and popular tweets will receive a high ‘resonance’ score from Twitter.  Some of these Tweets will be created by brands, and some by the users themselves.
  2. Tweets with heavy resonance can be purchased by advertisers in a CPM basis to appear as the first ‘sponsored’ Tweet on a search term. (Update: Just saw Dick’s recent video suggesting that promoted tweets will appear in other locations beyond search)  The sponsored tweets will be clearly labeled and have a different background color.
  3. These promoted tweets will only stay if users continue to resonate with them, those that don’t will disappear and a different tweet with resonation will appear.

Matrix: What Twitter’s Promoted Tweets Business Model Means to the Ecosystem
This has several implications to the ecosystem as a whole, we’ve broken down the impacts to the various players in this matrix:

Player Direct Impacts What They Will Do What No One Tells You
Twitter Finally gets a business model beyond search deal partnerships with potential to scale.  Taps into deep pockets of online advertisers. Experiment. Expect black and gray hat marketers to try to game this system, in order to obtain resonance. Twitter will constantly tune algorhythm like Google does. Expect this to cascade to their partners and grow into the ecosystem as Twitter aggregates resonation on other 3rd party sites
Twitter Users Have power over which promoted ads will stay visible Initially be shocked by changes, then learn they can help self select tweets that will be promoted.. In the real time resonace world users have a lot more power Power tweeters like celebs and digerati will be targeted by marketers to engage and resonate tweets. Twitter users that retweet tweets may be surprised to see their promoted tweets in search engine results ads.
Social Marketers The conversation is now being monetized, with changes to the outcomes of whats expected of the online conversation and engagement. Educate traditional marketers. These folks will try to increase resonance of tweets by interacting with community. Will build an inventory of top promotable tweets Don’t go overboard, make sure you think of this in the larger context of integrated marketing. Avoid shiny tool syndrome.  Must pay close attention to what terms are resonating with community to build inventory
Direct Marketers and Advertisers Finally traditional advertisers and direct marketers have skin in the social game in a way they know. Flail. Many will try to buy their way in and obtain resonation without asking why a tweet resonates.  Will fight over top searched terms in Twitter, expect a lot of contests to promote tweet engagement. Expect tension between this marketer and the social marketer if education is not completed.
Developers and Agencies A clear goal (resonation) has been put forth, with opportunity to get a cut of the incoming advertising dollars. Developers are waiting with baited breathe for Chirp developers conference this week to see how this will be tied in.  Twitter has indicated that promoted tweets will spread to clients, expect revenue sharing to be offered Don’t buy the first ‘resonation solution’ that comes around, expect half a dozen vendors and agencies to approach brands in the next quarter offering the ability to increase ‘resonance’ and case studies will show increase in resonance.
Competitors and Search Engines A new player being in town a new form of advertising is afoot changing the game. Expect nervous deals to come to the table on how search engine results can factor in Twitter’s resonance.  Expect players like MSFT and Yahoo to quickly launch their version of defining how the social web should be categorized. They will have the advantage of built in ad base of advertisers and millions more users.  Expect existing Twitter partners Google Search and Microsoft Bing will fold this in and reward resonance and combine with page rank, or will create their own metric to reward social engagement

For Resonation, Brands Must Pay Closer Attention To Users –This Isn’t Traditional Spray And Pray. Power continues to be in the hands of the users, however brands that pay attention to why tweets resonate will have a leg up.  here’s how you should approach this new space:

  • Change your mindset, as organic and paid merge: This is a combination of organic and paid ads, you’ll need skills from both worlds to be successful. Direct marketers should educate social marketers, and social marketers should explain how resonation occurs in the conversational web. Remember, this gives top tweets staying power beyond the constant stream of chatter.  In the end, remember that users have power over which advertising inventory will be created, chosen, and allowed to stay as a promoted tweet.
  • Remember Twitter users have power over which promoted Tweets will work: Remember that users they get to choose which tweets can be put into the advertising inventory as their interaction will self select which tweets can become promoted. Secondly, promoted tweets that don’t yield community engagement will also fall off the stream. is that in the real time resonance world users have a lot more power. Brands must analyze what works for users first before promoting tweets.
  • Then, carefully pick tweets to be promoted by analyzing the conversation: First, monitor which tweets are already resonating with your brand, take note of what is causing it to resonate and in what context. Secondly, recognize that these tweets should have long term impact, not a daily special as the tweet is promoted, users will interact with it, forcing it into a viral loop.  For best results, experiment with promoting tweets from your customers –not just those that you create.
  • Recognize that ‘Resonance’ is the page rank of microblogging: Advertising agencies and social marketing agencies will come out of woodwork with “resonance solutions”, yet most will do it wrong.  Instead, look for a sophisticated partner that knows the value of social conversational marketing to create an inventory and the long term experience of an advertising agency. Expect resonation to also cascade to other social networks like Facebook and even community platforms and content management systems to derive what content should surface.  Twitter has made nods to new dashboards to appear, expect your agency partners to align around resonation as the new ROI.

This post is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Altimeter team including Charlene Li (Leadership), Alan Webber (Web User Experience/Government), Michael Gartenberg (Mobile and Devices) and Christine Tran (Customer Strategy Research), learn more about the Altimeter Group. For more news, see Twitter blog, AdAge, we’ve cross posted on the Altimeter blog, and NYT for details.

90 Replies to “First Take Analysis: What Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” Means To The Ecosystem”

  1. Jeremiah – wow is this helpful. I think this is really going to start to also make marketers care much more deeply about *which* link is used in a tweet. It will be interesting for marketers to track which content outlets produce “great ads” and which don't. Very interesting new life for PR practitioners – “we can get you on x site” they average x% Resonance ads”. I can see new sites tracking “resonance” as a service. Thanks so much for the great analysis

  2. I am extremely excited to see how this will affect marketing campaigns. You point out succinctly, once again, that rushing to get into the fray needs to begin with a thoughtful strategy. Hope the market can contain itself and take steps toward specific goals and not flail in the stream.

  3. There are more questions that answers for me at this point. From brand protection and hijacking to the relevance of tweets over time. I assume the brand issues will work themselves out, but I'm curious to see how a “stale” tweet can continue to resonate in a real-time search scenario. There is a convergence of real-time and validated by page rank content. Real-time is good for trending and checking the pulse, but the searches with real meaning will still be handled by page rank. Should be interesting to watch.

  4. Brooks

    As I understand it, 'stale' tweets won't have a high resonance, and will fall off the promoted tweets inventory. Meaning: Only tweets with high resonation will be able to be sponsored tweets.

    Yup, brand jacking can happen, but this is no different than brands already buying keywords of their competitors to be in consideration as prospects consider competitors.

    Agreed, will be interesting to watch.

  5. The pray and spray marketers will quickly realize they need a new strategy as their tweets will *not* even be considered. The tweets and content must be compelling to the users. Thanks Carol!

  6. Great post Jeremaiah! Thank you.

    The model WIIFM – whats in it for me has now given way to what I've been sharing for a while and that's a paradigm change in thinking to WRWM (what resonates with me). This is a gestalt approach to how to address the new ad platform from Twitter where tweets can be the signal and a frequency at the same time. It's contingent on how the tweeter chooses to tweet and what the end-user chooses to see.

    The new filter is us. Actually it's always been us. The new ad platform will create more pressure to ensure we (the users) uphold the integrity of our tweets. Are we going to be walking billboards by tweeting content to manufacture resonance and get paid for it? or will we keep on tweeting the best content we love being fully agnostic to the placed ads? Time will be the great revealer here.

    The CPM game is nice, the referral from our friends is nicer 😉

    Thank you.

  7. It will be very interesting to find out which tweet becomes the 'Superbowl' of Twitter. Potentially millions of dollars for a presence in a single conversation? Let's hope marketeers are creative using the opportunity to add some value to the discussion at the same time!

  8. Jeremiah, as usual, your team helps us wade through the clutter. I would like to add however that you may be leaving out a major player–PR companies. Yes, PR companies are social marketers, but we have addtl responsibilities for Crisis Comms and Brand Reputation Management that pretty much extends online now. A) Twitter is suggesting these new messages are more than ads–that they are content. Content contributes to sentiment. B) Content can be used proactively to amplify positive sentiment, respond to negative comments, and convert skeptics and therefore promoted tweets could also be a brand reputation tactic. C) Thinking of promoted tweets as “inventory” may be outdated (an ad model), not necessarily a social model which is more “timely” (compared to stocking up in advance). D) PR agencies still control brand reputation–and if all manner of agencies come out of the woodwork purporting to be able to drive messages that increase resonance–they will quickly see that they aren't prepared to develop messages that mitigate risk. Yes, promoted tweets blur earned and bought media–but what is also blurring is the manner of managing a brand's reputation–and that's a skillset a direct agency or ad agency just doesn't have yet. Ultimately, as PR agencies transform into social agencies, they are going to have to start engaging media budgets and get involved in planning–get better at making buys to balance conversations online. The blurring of boundaries makes the case that PR agencies need to sit closer with media and digital agencies, and that clients (brand and PR managers) will need to share accountability for brand reputation to be truly effective. I write more about these implications on my blog here: http://bit.ly/ckI6hl

    Joel Johnson
    Porter Novelli

  9. I always love the matrices that you put together. They really give a great overview of the impacts. I'm not completely sold on the idea of Twitter ads, but to be honest, Twitter had to monetize their business somehow, so I'm not surprised. I do hope that the ads do not negatively impact the true power of Twitter. Only time will tell.

  10. Very helpful and thoughtful. This move from Twitter should help companies and brands that have already taken the time to build a community. I imagine it will also make Twitter much more cluttered and possibly less useful as brands and agencies try to game the system. I need to do some more reading but I'm unclear how Twitter users are self-selecting. I'm hoping this is part of the natural RT, @ interaction we do now. Otherwise, like sites like Digg, you will have a mix of self-promoters and dedicated community members but may not reflect the entire community that doesn't take the extra step to select/share/etc. Lots to think about here, thanks for the great summary.

  11. Jeremiah – It seems that twitter users have a significant impact on the success of the sponsored tweet. Do you expect a user to think twice about a re-tweet, either to help or hinder a sponsored tweet? It seems that the natural flow of conversation might be slightly influenced in some ways under certain conditions. I'm not bothered by this but wonder if this was discussed at Altimeter.

  12. Joel, good point. We never intended to leave out the PR folks. They do sit however in between the social marketer (if they're savvy) and the developer and agencies row in the matrix.

  13. An individual consumer that is tweeting may not realize the ramifications that interacting with a tweet could help it become inventory worthy for a promoted tweet. It's likely users will think once about it, but maybe not twice, why? It'll take the large community as a whole to increase the 'resonation rank' of a tweet.

  14. One thing that jumps out at me is that understanding expertise, influence etc is going to be vitally important for advertisers to properly use this. This understanding goes beyond the simple “audience” metrics (i.e. number of followers). I know most people are focusing on the ads but the resonance aspect is probably far more important than the ad concept itself. This can be considered a major advance on the PPC and associated metrics of Google et al.

  15. Great post. I am glad to see twitter finally making some moves at revenue creation. I'm not sure how well this will work because I question if enough people do searches to make it worthwhile. However, they would know better than I that info.

    I like your advice for brands too. Good stuff. Thanks.

  16. Great Summary: Here is a use case that is particularly interesting…

    Your software/hardware needs a bugfix/patch. Users are scrambling for the solution. You post it and tweet it, but it gets buried in the mountain of complaint-tweets. Promoted Tweets would be a way for you to surface the solution. People would want to retweet your solution, as it solves their problem. Paid and organic media blend. Everybody gets what they want. Promoted Tweets = surfacing solutions.

  17. If accurate, that's cute. So I'm guessing that the placement rate for paid tweets will depend on the resonance. Neat.

  18. Good summary. I think Resonance is much more like Google's “Quality Score” for AdWords than it is PageRank. It also smacks of Facebook's news feed algorithm. How are likes and comments driving feed placement different from Resonance? I'm also not sure I concur that ad agencies would be the best bet for helping brands increase resonance. I'd be looking for a partner that really understand linguistics, time of day, and link placement. Science of memetics and virality type folks, which seems more like a Razorfish angle, than an ad agency angle.

  19. Great read Jeremiah. My one concern is that by letting the cat out of the bag on what factors into resonance levels that there might be people trying to game the system…obviously they don't go into explicit detail, but it sort of serves as a spring board for people trying to figure out their algorithm.

  20. Once a tweet is purchased, from a legal perspective, who owns the content (and the intellectual capital) in that tweet? Is it the purchaser? If so, will Twitter make this explicitly clear to users that their tweets may no longer be theirs? Currently under Twitter's terms of service, whoever posts the tweet owns it. If the potential exists for a third party to own an individual's tweets, that could potentially have a negative impact on how Twitter is used.

    What if someone tweets a published news story about a product or service? Can an advertiser purchase that tweet and then use it in an advertisement? Wouldn't the news media who published that story still own the content? If so, how can an advertiser then publish that tweet without the news source's consent?

    “Twitter users that retweet tweets may be surprised to see their promoted tweets in search engine results ads.”

    Does this mean that Twitter users who may not want their names associated with a possible advertisement because of personal or perhaps even legal reasons may think twice about what they tweet or retweet?

    Will Twitter provide an “Opt Out” feature for those users who do not want or cannot have their Tweets associated with advertisements?

    My initial impression – subject to your answers – is that this new Twitter business model has very real potential to turn Twitter from a real “What's happening” social media platform to a “Monetization Opportunity” platform.

    My perspective is that Twitter is a great platform for not just sharing but to see what ideas are resonating across diverse interest groups without regard to the monetization of those ideas. It appears that this is going to change, whether for the better or for the worse remains to be seen.

  21. I'd like to see how this works in practice.

    For the sake of argument, let's say the resonance scale is 0-10.

    Is there some lower threshold on resonance? where you can't pay to promote it. Imagine 0-2 is considered to low.

    Is there a variable rate. So does promoting a tweet with a 3 cost more than a 10?

  22. if someone else can host a more meaningful interaction about your brand than you can, you have much bigger problems than tweet-hijacking to contend with.

  23. I think the term gaming is mis-used. The whole concept is after all a game – the people are the hosts, and the brands are the players.

    By gaming, we could refer to it as cheating, scamming, deceiving, fraud.

  24. “Tweets with heavy resonance can be purchased by advertisers in a CPM basis to appear as the first ’sponsored’ Tweet on a search term.”

    Who gets paid – the tweeter or Twitter?

    “Twitter users that retweet tweets may be surprised to see their promoted tweets in search engine results ads.”

    Does this mean that Twitter users who may not want their names associated with a possible advertisement because of personal or perhaps even legal reasons (a government employee tweeting their impression of a product) may think twice about what they tweet or retweet?

  25. Interesting. I read from the original article that 'resonance' is a bit like Adwords 'quality score'. A high resonance could, therefore, result in a lower placement rate compared to a low 'resonance score'. This would make sense so that advertisers would be rewarded for good resonance. Good for (good brand) advertisers and good for consumers.

  26. This is important because it will force marketers to further the shift toward earned opportunities, by tying in even this paid media with quality and relevance even further than AdWords' Quality Score does. I go into more detail about what types of tweets will be most effective at building resonance, and how to shift marketing strategies, here: http://bit.ly/cLIbR6

  27. Extending the thought, paying more may have an adverse effect on the incentives for advertisers.

    If I could pay$$ to make up the difference in lower resonance – because I am relatively not as useful to people, then I will. That's how advertising works today, brands are happy paying to have the attention of people, regardless of their relevancy/value/resonance..

    I wonder if it makes sense to give people the power to control the level of resonance they care about – e.g., don't show me anything less than a 7.

  28. Joe, clarification.

    Twitter will get paid, as advertisers will pay for promoted tweets to appear on the search engine results.

    However what's interesting is that the promoted tweets *may* be tweets created by consumers (as I understand it)

  29. What hasn't been asked is “how much traffic is there to search results?” Seems like a cautious place to release this initially. Resonance is a good metric but can be gamed… so gaming the engagement with a tweet could become just part of the process of “placing an ad”.

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  32. I'd love to see how “resonance” becomes the Quality Score for social ads. Yet I'd think Facebook has the lead on that, being half like social ads and half like traditional PPC metrics.

  33. Great analysis. Big props to the group that wrote this piece.

    I tweeted 10 comments inspired by this post:

    1/1 the better your tweet, the more likely it will become “Promoted” i.e., monetized by Twitter & Advertisers

    1/2 knowing that 3rd parties will turn your best tweets (highest ‘resonance’) into an ad, will alter behavior in unpredictable ways

    1/3 like everything on Twitter, ‘resonance’ is short-lived, quick activity spike, then fade out–complex ad inventory dynamics

    1/4 after novelty wears off, your brain will quickly learn to tune out ‘promoted tweets’ & the CT rates will be low, very low

    1/5 sadly, streams will be full of ‘contests’ (which will usually be illegal sweepstakes) and obnoxious viral games

    1/6 bots, bots and more bots, I shutter to think of the scripts being written to juice up ‘resonance’ –when in-stream, lots of noise at 1st

    1/7 what ‘resonates’ in Twitter’s trending topics is often antithetical to what resonates in your curated Twitter world

    1/8 Twitter should match ‘resonance’ to the user types that populate the ecosystem Psychographic/Social Grid/Activity, etc. dimensions

    1/9 for brands to “carefully pick tweets to be promoted” there will be a heavy reliance on algorithms-Tweets resonate for seconds to minutes

    1/10 peel back the layers of two mantras: “conversational marketing” & “users have the power to choose which tweets get sponsored”

  34. I'm kind of having mixed thoughts about this. Businesses today are already using Twitter as a form of advertising. I want to say that 75% of the tweets I see everyday are in some shape or form, advertising. Now that Twitter wants to cash in on their business, will this increase and encourage more businesses to participate or will this reduce the amount of spam we see?

  35. Promoted Tweets isn't solving anything. Google's advertising business was based on reinventing advertising targeting…giving people a way to contact their customers and not waste money talking to non-customers. Promoted Tweets is just trying to leverage Twitter's massive traffic, but it doesn't add any value from an advertiser perspective.

    One of the hardest things in marketing is knowing where to find your customers:
    http://www.sixsimplequestions.com/2010/04/a-que

    If they're not solving a tactical question around 1) finding customers, 2) reaching them at decision time, or 3) converting them, they've got a long road ahead.

  36. ‘stale’ tweets won’t have a high resonance, and will fall off the promoted tweets inventory. Meaning: Only tweets with high resonation will be able to be sponsored tweets.

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