Are promoted tweets a good thing for PR professionals who use Twitter?

Ketchum Digital's Jonathan Kopp and Makovsky's David Rosen offer opposing views on whether promoted tweets are a good thing for PR professionals who use Twitter


Jonathan Kopp, partner, global director of Ketchum Digital
Oversees all aspects of digital and social media for the agency's global clients

Promoted tweets can be a great tool for PR pros who have a nuanced understanding of the channel, its users, and their expectations from the brands that seek to engage them. In the wrong hands, however, all bets are off.

At least for now, Twitter is approaching the paid model in a smart, measured, user-centric way. The first phase is limited to a short list of Twitter-savvy advertising partners whose ads only show up in Twitter's search results, a context in which users are already accustomed to seeing advertisements. Promoted ads are clearly marked and set apart from the rest of the search results. And unlike search ads on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, promoted tweets show up only one at a time, so the user isn't easily overwhelmed with commercial messages.

Importantly, promoted tweets are served up as tweets - limited to 140 characters, retweetable, and so on - which requires skill and knowledge on the part of the advertiser, shows respect for the Twitter culture, and puts brands on an equal footing with their fellow tweeters (aside from the pole-position placement, of course). The kicker: ads that fail to gain traction get booted off the island.

This merit system is a clear nod to the power of the crowd in the Twitterverse. It also challenges advertisers to achieve resonance by crafting good, interesting, and useful content - a win-win.

Just like any powerful tool, promoted tweets come with the responsibility for brands to use them wisely and exercise discretion. They are perfect for a crisis. People come to Twitter for real-time search, and your urgent message pops to the top. Promoted tweets also can't be beaten for users seeking time-sensitive deals from their favorite brands.

However, before PR people line up to spend their clients' money on paid Twitter ads, they need to develop and implement a smart, strategic, and earned approach to Twitter. Promoted tweets are a complement, not a replacement, for responsive conversation and personal relationships, which remain the currency of day-to-day social media.


David Rosen, group VP and chief of b-to-b social media at Makovsky & Co.
Manages Twitter feeds for several agency clients

The only place promoted tweets belong is in a "Don't do this in social media" manual.

PR pros who think they are a good idea haven't experienced the measurable ROI that authentic communication delivers. Promoted tweets enter a danger zone of "unpersonal" social media. Not "impersonal" - using your corporate voice over social channels - but "unpersonal," the sin of trying to automate conversation. It takes hubris to think anyone is smart enough to anticipate a customer's query, predict the circumstances that prompted it, and create the perfect response without being revealed as, well, a marketer.

Twitter founder Biz Stone makes four arguments for promoted tweets:  

1. Each tweet is "organic" because only an already-posted tweet can be used as your auto response. But what's more inorganic than an ad placed by an algorithm? Customers love interacting with companies over Twitter precisely because it's a real human on the other end. We shouldn't take that away.

2. Promoted tweets "engage" audiences because they appear in response to a search. Since when did engagement become a two-step process of "I search, you auto-respond?" Relationships can't grow in such shallow soil.

3. Promoted tweets are "relevant" in that they appear only in response to keywords. To date, there are no contextual analysis tools being applied to promoted tweets, meaning the algorithm can't tell if a searcher is mentioning a robbery at a Starbucks rather than a thirst for lattes.

4. Promoted tweets are a way for your company's tweets to be seen by more people. The result: you'll send more irrelevant messages to more people than ever, and crowd out your authentic messages to boot.

Companies are finally realizing that growing social media use means they must hire more people to engage their audiences. What many haven't seen yet is that - with the right approach - hires more than justify their salaries in bigger revenues and fatter margins. So skip the temptation to "unpersonalize" your Twitter feed with promoted tweets. Embrace authentic communication. Your followers and CFO will thank you.

PRWeek's View
Like any other ad vehicle, promoted tweets must be carefully considered before being implemented by PR pros. Yet, they can be very powerful during certain times, such as a crisis, so they should not automatically be discounted.

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