Self Serving: New Details On Twitter Ad Platform Beta Tests

By John Capone Comment

Twitter has begun quietly testing a new self-serve ad system, rolling it out to few beta testers, according to a report which the service refutes. The arrival of such a system has been speculated on for months: In October, shortly after taking the CEO reigns, Dick Costolo confirmed that the company was planning a self-serve ad system that would eventually deliver ads based on location.

The rumored system serves ads in the same manner as the current Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts, with the difference, or course, being that small businesses and individuals can buy these ads themselves. At present, a small group of advertisers are experimenting with the using platform, purchasing ads on behalf of clients. These advertisers have made a three-month commitment to Twitter, and the system will roll out to larger beta group in February, according to one beta tester who spoke with MediaPost. The beta tester is from a smaller marketing agency and is promoting a book by author Guy Kawasaki.

The system uses the existing Promoted program, in which the two types of ads differ in that Tweets show up in a user’s Twitter stream and Accounts show up on the right-hand side as suggestions of accounts to follow highlighted as “Promoted.” The former is intended for those with the goal of getting clicks or views on a particular tweet and the latter for those who want to build their number of followers.

The mechanics of buying the Promoted Tweet and Promoted Account ads will be familiar to anyone who has used Facebook’s self-serve ad platform. The potential audience for ads are narrowed down by interest (based on what a person writes in their bio, through searches and potentially what they have tweeted about).

The buyer sets parameters based on what type of person they want to reach and, soon, location. Although the geo-targeting feature is not yet available, when it does roll out, the possibilities are intriguing, with the location based on where a person is sending tweets from, making this a way to hit a narrow geographical area and hit moving targets. Ideal for, say, a coffee shop that wants to promote a special to people passing through the neighborhood. According to a recent report from Twitter, about 30% of tweets are posted from mobile devices.

Promoted Accounts are served to users who are following similar accounts and those who have shown an interest in related kewords. In both cases the ads can be purchased on a cost per impression or cost per engagement basis (with costs starting at .10 cents per engagement). In the cost for engagement model the advertisers pays only when a link in the tweet is clicked, or the message is retweeted, @replied to, or favorite.

Twitter rep Matt Graves has stated that the program discussed is not a self-service platform, though he confirms it’s coming this year. However the MediaPost reporter has independently confirmed with the beta tester that he controls the ad placements himself and not through an in-house Twitter rep, as Graves claims.

Surely since this is a beta program there will be significant changes before release. The discrepancy may arise out of the fact that Twitter is beta testing self-serve tools on its Promoted Tweets program and has another program in the wings. Regardless of whether you choose to call the system Twitter is beta testing self-serve or not, a self-serve platform from the service is an inevitability and necessary to scale its ad model, and obviously they will test elements of it little-by-little.

Image: Courtesy