By Eric Van Buskirk
“Promoted” vs. “sponsored” content is easy to mix up– in fact the term “sponsored” content is more widely used, though it is frowned upon, depending on the context (sponsored blog posts cause a website to be devalued in Google search if the algorithm or company catches on). My last piece looked more generally at the value of twitter accounts and tweets for marketing and promotion. Here, the two main options organizations have to pay for promotion on Twitter are discussed.
Sponsoredtweets.com is number one on Google search for the term “sponsored tweets.” Their website is winning in the SERP (search engine result pages) when people are looking to run a promotional campaign on Twitter. No Twitter page makes the first page of Google search results for “sponsored tweets.” Yahoo! fills its entire page with results from sponsoredtweets.com, with the exception of the #1 result, which is the search result page from Twitter.com for the term (Sorry Yahoo!, but when search results produce search results, something is not quite right under the hood with your engine).
Twitter, Inc. may force sponsoredtweets.com to change its name now that they own the trademark “tweet.” A trademark request for “sponsored tweets” was filed 7/5/2010 by the owners of Sponsored Tweets, Izea, Inc. in Orlando, FL, but the application was abandoned. Twitter may also need to look more closely at their SEO for search terms related to their main revenue stream: promoted tweets are their path to profitability.
For campaigns run with Twitter’s Promoted Tweets there is no grey area as to the connection between the person/entity tweeting and the product or service promoted: these campaigns typically run directly from one of a company’s branded tweet handles. Sponsored Tweets connects marketers and individuals, typically with a pay per tweet model. A sports equipment manufacturer might be able to find a pro athlete willing to endorse and tweet about a product line.
Sponsored tweets are most effective when the paid individuals are well known—not just by number of followers—but by other means of verifying there “following,” especially when it is also offline. It’s not difficult to build a following of over 10,000 people on Twitter if that is a user’s sole goal. Prominent Internet marketers simply don’t believe that follower numbers assess a person’s social media standing. They look back to the early days of the “social web” to understand Twitter trends and know online influence comes from the quality of sharing and interacting. I wouldn’t brag offline about a party I threw that 100 people attended. Who attended? Did they come just to be seen, and counted, or did they attend because they were looking to mingle with interesting people, irrespective of the “bragging rights.”
The “grey area” may be a benefit to those paying for the sponsorship, but there is no question that many people clicking on a sponsored tweet which links out of Twitter will not realize that a hashing-tag is the only disclosure. Adding #Ad to the end of a Tweet is something very few people will click on to read the disclosure, and simply reading the tag will say nothing to all but the most savvy hash-tag geeks. Advertisers might make their disclosure more transparent by using a hash-tag like #sponsoredtweets.
When you watch a sporting event, do you know which piece of equipment an athlete uses is from a sponsor manufacturer? Do you know what brands are product placements in a movie? No. In fact, it’s surprising more companies don’t have PR problems when product placements stray into an area that prospective customers find deceptive.
Paying for affordable “spokespeople” using a social media is highly effective: add it to your budget for Twitter marketing in 2012.
If you are interested in running a Sponsored or Promoted Tweet campaign, please contact Eric Van Buskirk for reasonably priced strategy consulting.