Coming Soon to Your Twitter Stream: Brands

Adam Bain discusses cautious launch of 'Promoted Tweets'

Twitter today unveiled the third leg of its “promoted” products: Brands can now pay for prime placement of individual tweets within their followers’ feeds. And yes, a brand’s tweets would already show up in the feed regardless of promotion, but how many Twitter users read every single tweet? Promoted Tweets ensures a tweet won’t get lost in the constant refresh of Twitter’s real-time feed. 

It’s not an all-systems-go kind of launch. “We’ll be focused on getting it right versus getting it right away,” said Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain. The initial Promoted Tweets rollout is carefully measured. For example, they're clearly identified as "Promoted." They appear seamlessly (magically, even!) in one's feed. They only appear once. And they only appear in the feeds of a brand’s existing followers.

Even better, they’re priced just like Twitter’s other promoted products: it’s a bidding marketplace, priced on engagement. Brands only pay if users engage with a Promoted Tweet via click through, retweeting, an “@ reply,” or marking the tweet as a favorite, Bain said. It’s an important distinction as Twitter strives for profitability without annoying the users of its free, and onetime free-of-advertising, service.

Perhaps most important to the cautious, calculated launch of Promoted Tweets is its exclusivity. The first round of campaigns is from a limited selection of brands identified by the company for their Twitter-savvy. That includes Best Western, Dell, Gatorade, Groupon, HBO, JetBlue, LivingSocial, Xbox, Red Bull, Sephora, Starbucks, Summit, and Virgin America.

Bain said the brands, which have previously run Promoted Accounts or Promoted Trends campaigns on the platform, understand that marketing on Twitter requires high quality content like exclusive offers, deals, and contests that a fan of the brand would be disappointed to miss. They follow the Twitter-endorsed rule of “first, best, or only,” he added. All of this, of course, to avoid turning users off with spammy brand messages.

That’s assuming a brand has oodles of followers to spam. When Twitter opens the program to all brands, the company will encourage brands with small followings to start with a Promoted Account before graduating to Promoted Tweets. And either way the policy stands: No engagement, no cost.