Twitter Plugging Away at Self-Serve Ad Platform

McDonald's and Pixar score most-shared tweets

  Twitter’s monetization officer has an unenviable task. The micro-blogging company, valued anywhere from $7.7 billion to $10 billion, needs to, at some point, back into some revenue. To do so, Twitter has a suite of relatively new ad programs, including promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trends. In the last year, it’s scaled these programs from an initial six clients to more than 600. It’s hired client-focused professionals in regional offices, bringing headcount on its monetization team from three to 60, said Adam Bain, President of Global Revenue, at Monday's Conversational Marketing Summit.

     Twitter’s next move is to roll out the self-serve ad platform that it has alluded to developing since last year, Bain explained. Currently, Twitter offers its marketing clients a content dashboard that tracks the causes and effects of individual tweets, including how many follows and unfollows an account gets based on a tweet. Marketers can also get detailed data on the interests and demographic makeup of its followers. 

     Bain touted the success of Twitter’s promoted marketing options, noting its high retention rate of 80 percent. “Marketers don’t repeat something that doesn’t work,” he said. More important is the ability of brands to scale their messages on Twitter. The number four and five most-retweeted messages of all time come from brands, he said. A well-timed McDonald's tweet combining McLobster, McSushi, and McWinning, published just on the cusp of Charlie Sheen’s Twitter explosion, earned it the number four spot. Disney’s Pixar is in fifth place with a Toy Story tweet asking Twitter users which “buddy” they’d bring along to the theater.

     McDonald’s and Pixar are in powerful company—they’re only topped in “RT”s by Barack Obama’s winning “Yes We Can” tweet, a Steven Colbert tweet about the BP Oil Spill, and a Japan earthquake-related tweet. Still, even with Twitter’s potential to quickly scale a message and create memorable brand interactions, neither of the top branded tweets, both generated organically, required any help from Twitter. Why would an advertiser pay when it can start something viral for free?

     The argument in favor of Twitter’s promoted spots is that not every brand can strike Charlie Sheen gold. More directly marketed messages, such as the launch of the redesigned Volkswagen Beetle, need promotional help to find success on Twitter. That campaign, which launched on Twitter, experienced 52 percent engagement, meaning more than half of those exposed to the message clicked through to learn more. “That’s a really powerful signal,” Bain said. 

     Beyond scaling the company’s current marketing plays, Twitter plans to offer robust data services to its marketer clients. “We’re not even talking about inventory,” he said, when meeting with brands. The company’s analytics and data will eventually be a part of the Twitter self-serving ad platform, he added.