Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Inside Twitter's Sales Machine: A Secret Guide for Advertisers (Video)

Twitter hopes to generate something like $100 million from advertising this year, but first it has to teach people how to buy its ads. Here’s how it’s doing that: A hand-holding how-to video, which walks through everything from pricing to dealing with angry users.

The tutorial, which runs 40 minutes, is up on YouTube, but it’s unlisted and is only accessible via a private link. Thanks to a helpful reader, I’ve been able to watch it myself, and I’ve uploaded it at the bottom of this post so you can see it, too.

But it is 40 minutes long–and most of you don’t need to watch all of it. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in advertising, technology and Twitter’s first attempts at making real money:

Promoted Tweets, Twitter’s first big ad product, hasn’t taken off.
Instead, at least for now, Twitter is pushing customers to spend most of their money on Promoted Accounts, its pay-per-follower product it rolled out at the end of last year. Twitter tells advertisers they ought to spend $4 on Promoted Accounts for every $1 they spend on Promoted Tweets–the original Google-style ad concept CEO Dick Costolo introduced last year. Twitter says that’s because it’s a lot easier to buy the former than the latter, because there’s a lot more inventory available. (And because Promoted Accounts will “turbocharge” Promoted Tweets.)

Promoted Tweets should get a big push in the next month or so.
Until now, the only way you’re going to see a Promoted Tweet is if you click on a search term that someone has purchased, or if you’re using Twitter app HootSuite. But Twitter says the ads will start running in users’ regular “timelines”–the primary Twitterstream they see–on its own site, by the end of Q1. That’s going to make them much more visible, and should hopefully help with the inventory problem noted above.

Twitter is telling customers to expect an “engagement rate” of 1 percent to 3 percent.
Ad buyers are usually trying to measure success by figuring out how many people looked at or clicked on an ad. Click-through rates for most Web ads are very tiny, and according to an ad buyer who has seen Twitter’s presentation, the company says a realistic click-through rate is 0.3 percent. But “engagement” rates–which measure when a user retweets an ad, or likes it, etc.–are supposed to be much higher. My tipster, by the way, says Twitter is requiring new ad buyers to make a purchase of at least $5,000 worth of inventory in order to participate in the company’s beta tests.

Twitter is warning buyers that some users will have a problem with their ads.
At the end of the presentation (around the 35-minute mark), the company takes time out to coach buyers about “dealing with negative user feedback,” which it more or less assumes they’ll be getting. “People are averse to change, especially when it comes to advertising, and this type of feedback is to be expected,” Twitter’s off-screen instructor explains. The company’s suggested coping strategy: Don’t worry! The complainers are an “extremely marginal percentage of the total.”

[UPDATE: So how do the ads actually work? A Twitter ads tester would like to share their experiences with the rest of the world, but can’t.]

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”