Paid social: Guide to advertising on Twitter

James Mortimer

Paid Social Director

Twitter is unique for reaching people in real time. Have something to say, and you can spark real conversations, too. 

We think this really sets Twitter apart from the other social platforms, as does its comprehensive product list.   

The perfect ad format is waiting for your campaign – learn more about them with our expert guide. 

Demographic factfile

More than 300 million active monthly users

80% of users active on mobile

77% of accounts outside the US

The iCrossing view:

“With Twitter we’ve found you can reach niche influencers with really knowledgeable audiences who are really into what they’re saying – particularly in a sector like fashion. Then you’re right in the thick of it… just make sure the content you’re offering is good when you get there.”

Why choose us?

“We run activity at a big scale, so we have a good relationship and a direct line to Twitter. This means we get access to new features before others – improving our optimisation – along with special insight and data from our Twitter account manager.”

Pros – what’s good

Accurate targeting: Like Facebook, you can target your Twitter ads to users based on their interests, accounts they follow, location (which now works like Facebook), language and gender. One thing you can’t target is by age. Another effective feature is TV ad targeting: promoting tweets to users who engage with specific shows. 

Great ad choice: Twitter’s ads are tailored for specific objectives. Setup is trickier for the novice, but the bespoke options give more relevant ads with higher click through rates. Read down for the full list at: Choose your ad format 

Straightforward formats: Twitter wins out over Facebook here – there are no image size guidelines, and most ad formats stick to the standard text length of 140 characters.

Real time engagement: Users are very much ‘in the moment’ on Twitter. Reach them with a relevant message at the perfect time. For example, the highly effective Lead Generation Cards which lets users perform an action in situ.

Measuring success precisely: Accurately track campaign success and conversions – whether the objective was engagement, lead generation, clicks etc. As with Facebook, you can set up attribution tracking through Twitter’s own pixels – or also use enterprise level systems to get a much more accurate view of performance. 

Cons – watch out

High ‘minimum fees’: It’s true you can set up an account and pay for ads with a credit card with no minimum spend. But it’s more effective at scale to use a pre credited account. This involves a minimum monthly commitment of £5k – though you get a dedicated Twitter Account Manager too. Use an agency and this option is available for a lower cost, as we’re able to pool spend of several clients under one account, giving you more budget flexibility.

Choose your ad format

Promoted Account 

Use this to increase your followers. It displays as a standard tweet with a follow button in the top right corner:

Remember to give users a clear reason and benefit to follow you (and carefully target users who are likely to engage). 

This is how they’ll see your promoted account in home timelines and ‘who to follow widgets’:

Promoted Tweet 

A promoted tweet looks exactly like a normal tweet – it can include a link, hashtags and rich media. It’s the perfect format for promoting a particular piece of content or an event. 

Here’s how it looks in the timeline of the users you target:

Promoted Trends 

Want to start a conversation about your brand? Promote a trend using a relevant hashtag. It will appear under the trends column above other trending topics for a 24 hour window:

Remember: because users who click on the trends will see all relevant content, make sure they find something inspiring. Create great content before you promote and they’ll be more likely to add to it. Studies by Twitter suggest Promoted Trends help to build positive brand buzz, turning users into brand advocates. They recorded a 22% lift in conversion, 30% lift in positive mentions and a 32% lift in retweets from users exposed to a Promoted Trend.


Website card: This feature was introduced by Twitter in April 2014 aimed at driving clicks to a website. The content is similar to a tweet with an image and a link but the call to action is more prominent with the addition of a button, a full display URL and further text to explain the benefit of clicking. 

The benefit to you? Higher click through rates and a lower cost per click. 

App card: Promote your app by showing its name, icon, price and rating. Clicking on the link takes users directly to the app store to download it.

Lead generation card: Simple to use, quid pro quo – users can take up an offer by securely entering their email address into an expanded tweet, without leaving Twitter. When they expand the tweet, users see the offer and a call to action with their @username and email address already filled in – all they have to do is click for their details to be shared with a brand.

Player card: Promote your videos with this feature, which provides great analytics showing how many people watched the video and the percentage completion rate. Although cost per view tends to be more expensive than Facebook, this can be a great way to promote content relevant to Twitter – such as a hashtag or your own Twitter account. Users usually watch the video in situ, and you can also include a call to action link. And Twitter is currently testing auto play video ads, so watch this space…

Got some other media to promote? Try gallery cards for photo albums (on Flickr, for example), photo cards, product cards, player cards and summary cards.

Whitelisting:  Use the power of someone else’s endorsement. Whitelisting involves promoting a user’s tweet (with their consent) for your own brand awareness. It’s a great approach for increasing reach with celebrity brand advocates.

Twitter CPX

Originally launched as a beta for selected advertisers CPX was rolled out to all Twitter advertisers in May 2015. CPX allows advertisers to select an objective for their campaigns and then optimise towards that goal. For example users can select the goal of their campaign to be website clicks so when their ads are running they will only be charged for clicks to their website rather than other engagements on the tweets like RT’s or replies. This makes Twitter’s advertising much more cost efficient and easier to report on for advertisers.

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