Are Sponsored Tweets Really the Way Forward for Twitter?

By Riddhi

Unlike some of its competitors, Twitter has so far treaded extremely cautiously in the matters of advertising. The management team behind the microblogging site has maintained that traditional online advertising does not interest them. They have been trying to ascertain innovative ways of commercial usage of the Twitter platform.

Twitter introduced the concepts of ‘Promoted Tweets’ and ‘Promoted Trends’ in the first-half of 2010. In the second half of 2010 ‘Promoted Accounts’ was introduced, which basically meant that brands or individuals could pay to be featured in the “Suggested for You” section. They had also announced plans of launching an advertising platform on Twitter, which would enable just about anyone to advertise through the ‘Promoted Products’ concept. This self-serve advertising platform was finally made live this year, in the first week of December.

There were concerns among social media experts that the concept of ‘Promoted Tweets’ or sponsored tweets will not go down well with the users. Users may not be thrilled with the idea of getting their Twitter feed flooded with ads. Not every brand has the expertise to utilize this concept to promote with subtlety. There is no dearth of annoying marketers shouting ‘look at me’ through their ads. So, ‘Promoted Tweets’ was like a double-edged sword for Twitter.

At concept-level, ‘Promoted Tweets’ is great, but does it translate effectively into a viable advertising vehicle? If you go by what US Twitter users feel, then sponsored tweets do have a promising future. Lab42, a market research firm, conducted a survey of US Twitter users and found out that, a significantly large, 24.8% of the respondents have seen sponsored tweets from brands relevant to them. What will encourage Twitter more is that only 10.9% of the respondents said that they found ‘Promoted Tweets’ annoying or that it had a negative impact on the Twitter experience. A healthy 21.6% of the respondents said that they got a discount of some sort through Promoted Tweets and 21.2% discovered a new brand through these sponsored tweets.

Twitter has not yet become a household name in India, like Facebook. It is estimated that there are about 6 million Twitter users in India, which is significantly lower than the number of Facebook users. Keeping in mind that the total number of users on Twitter is much lower than that of Facebook, 6 million is quite a big number. Indian brands are rapidly adapting to the social media space and have realized its potential. UTV Interactive have associated themselves with a well-known social media sponsorships company, Izea, and launched, an advertising platform to exploit the advertising potential of Twitter.

The number of Indian brands on Twitter is slowly picking up and some of the early adopters have met with a degree of success. Tata DoCoMo is one such brand. The brand has been on Twitter for quite some time now, but only recently they designed Twitter-specific campaigns and have been rewarded with more than 5000 new followers in the first month itself. Like in US Indians brands can also utilize the popularity of celebrities on the microblogging site to reach out to their consumers. There are a number of Indian celebrities who could become the next Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen.

Twitter is committed to Promoted Tweets and as of now it seems to be paying off. But the real success of this platform can be determined only after a longer period has passed. Emerging markets like India, Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia is where Twitter needs to concentrate on.

Have you come across any sponsored tweets by Indian brands or celebrities? What did you think of it?


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