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What Are Promoted Tweets, and How Do They Work?

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Staff Writer

Promoted tweets are a great way to increase sales and boost engagement on Twitter. Learn what they are and how they work; then get nine tips to help you run a successful promoted tweet strategy.

If you're a Twitter user, you've probably seen tweets with a "Promoted by" label and wondered, "What exactly is a promoted tweet, and how do you make one?" There are several benefits of using promoted tweets as a part of your social media marketing strategy, and creating one is as simple as choosing an objective and a budget.

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What is a promoted tweet?

A promoted tweet is a tweet that has been paid for by an advertiser to reach a wider audience or to increase engagement from existing followers.

Promoted tweets are always labeled as such so that Twitter account holders know they are viewing a paid ad. But otherwise, they function just like regular tweets, allowing users to retweet and like them. You can also dismiss a promoted tweet you don't want to see by clicking the arrow in the top-right corner of the tweet and selecting "I don't like this ad."

Here's an example of a promoted tweet:

A promoted post might appear in several places on Twitter:

  • At the top of relevant search pages
  • In search results for a promoted trend
  • On your timeline (if you have an enhanced profile page, you can pin it to the top of your timeline)
  • In select users' Twitter feeds
  • On select user profiles

How do promoted tweets work?

According to Twitter, "Promoted tweets are shown when an advertiser pays for their placement on Twitter" and can be placed by anyone. The use of a sponsored tweet allows advertisers to get their best content front and center for their audience, which can help boost engagement, increase their follower count, drive more website traffic, and build brand awareness.

Promoted tweets show up on a particular user's timeline if the promoted tweet is relevant to that user and the interests they have demonstrated through their behavior on Twitter. Generally, Twitter will not show irrelevant promoted tweets to users, since this can have a negative effect on the user's relationship with Twitter.

Advertisers may also choose to pin their promoted tweet to the top of their timeline so that it is the first thing users see when they visit the advertiser's profile. [Read related article: 12 Twitter Best Practices for Business]

How to create a promoted tweet

Follow these five steps to create a promoted tweet:

  1. Go to your Twitter homepage, and select Advertise. You will get the option to choose between a Twitter ad campaign or a promoted tweet. A promoted tweet has a more narrow range of outcomes. Twitter will make your tweet more available to users it deems relevant. It may also add you to Twitter streams or search results. An ad campaign will promote tweets as part of a larger process that will also suggest your account be followed by many users. The ad campaign is a larger and more inclusive process. After you choose your advertising option, then you will choose your country and time zone.

  2. Choose your objective: awareness, consideration or conversion. There is a lot that goes into these categories, and subgroups expand on them. Your promoted tweet or ad campaign can be geared toward increasing followers, garnering engagement, converting app installs, acquiring video views, getting more clicks, re-engagement or general awareness. Each option serves a distinct purpose, and Twitter has already optimized their algorithms to help you achieve a specific goal.

  3. Fill in your campaign details, including your campaign's name, funding source, daily and total budget, and start and end dates. With this section, Twitter creates a "choose your own budget" approach to promotion. When you provide the details, the company can adjust the parameters of your campaign to best suit what you want and what you are willing to invest. Obviously, a larger investment correlates with greater outreach, but it is possible to get measurable results from a relatively small investment.

  4. Follow the steps to input your ad group details. The group details inform the algorithm and help it select a target audience. This section also provides ad-hoc decisions on your advertising campaign. You can select individual ads or groups that you feel best suit your business and your goals.

  5. Click Launch Campaign. You will get a final chance to review the details of your campaign before it is finalized and goes live. Double-check that everything is in order. Once you launch the campaign, Twitter will be promoting you. Prepare for the increased attention. 

Cost of promoted tweets

Twitter is one of the more cost-effective places to advertise, since it tends to be less saturated with ads. Twitter also helps you save money by requiring payment only when someone engages with your tweet by liking, retweeting, replying or clicking, so you won't have to pay for a failed promoted tweet.

You can also set a budget when creating your ad. The average cost of a promoted tweet is about $1.35 per engagement, according to ThriveHive.

Pros and cons of promoted tweets

There are many pros and cons of advertising on Twitter using promoted tweets:

Pros

  • Budget-friendly. Promoted tweets are often less expensive than other paid advertising options because Twitter doesn't have as many ads as Google and most other search engines.

  • Smart payments. Twitter also helps you save money by charging you only when a user engages with your promoted tweet, so you're protected if a promoted tweet isn't as successful as you thought it would be.

  • Increased reach and traffic. Depending on your ad's objective, the use of promoted tweets can drive more traffic to your website and increase reach or brand awareness, which, in turn, boosts lead generation and sales for your business.

  • Targeted advertising options. Twitter's ad-creation tool allows you to target your audience based on demographics – including age, location and gender – and user behavior.

  • Increased chance of engagement. Users can interact with promoted tweets by liking, retweeting, quoting and replying to them, the same way they would with regular tweets. Therefore, you have increased chances of high engagement rates, since your promoted tweets will be boosted and extra-visible on users' timelines.

  • Visibility on all devices. You can set your promoted tweets to be visible by your Twitter followers on both mobile and desktop timelines, which can help further your reach.

Cons

  • Less control over who sees your tweets. Although you can choose a target audience for your promoted tweets, Twitter has the final say in who sees them, which means your promoted tweet could end up on the timeline of someone who does not want to see it.

  • Possibility of getting lost. Users have a continuous influx of tweets in their timelines, which means they might not notice yours.

  • Possible alienation of some users. As with any ad campaign, you run the risk of losing followers who don't want to see ads on their timelines. To prevent this, try to make your promoted tweets as relevant as possible to your audience, and avoid posting too many.

9 tips for a successful promoted tweet strategy

Here are nine tips to help you create a successful promoted tweet strategy:

1. Make it stand out.

Twitter is a constant stream of content, so unless there's something eye-catching about your tweet, it will get lost in the shuffle.

"People must do something about the promoted tweet, and not just scroll by it," Matthews said. "Make it stand out."

2. Incorporate multimedia.

A great way to help your tweet stand out is to include media, such as images, videos or GIFs. These create visual interest, which can lead to increased chances of engagement with your post.

3. Start with an engagement campaign.

"My best tip is to run an engagement campaign first," said Steven J. Wilson, chief personal branding consultant at Steven J. Wilson & Associates. "Invest in getting people to like and comment on the post. You will get better results having a hundred or so likes on the post, since people will pay more attention when they see others have as well."

4. Use Twitter cards.

Using Twitter cards is a simple way to improve the efficiency of your tweet and help tailor it to your campaign. A Twitter card can automatically load pictures, media, metadata, and author details within your tweet, as well as gather leads, app download details, and website clicks.

5. Perform A/B tests.

If you're just starting out with a campaign and have multiple tweets, but you aren't sure which one will perform better, do an A/B test to see which tweet you should use in your official campaign. Try multiple tweets with differences in wording, content and multimedia. 

6. Know your audience.

The best way to ensure the success of any advertisement is to make sure it is relevant and engaging. If a promoted tweet doesn't resonate with your followers, they won't engage with it. Look at your audience demographics, customer behavior and Twitter behavior to help inform your decisions.

7. Include a call to action.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't tweet for the sake of tweeting; there should be a clear goal or mission behind your promoted tweet. Use this mission to create a call to action that you can include somewhere in your promoted tweet.

8. Make your tweet clear and to the point.

Twitter was built on conciseness; this is not the place to be wordy. Know what your goal is with each promoted tweet, and attempt to achieve that goal in as few words as possible.

9. Create your own hashtags.

One of the best ways to stand out on Twitter and encourage engagement is to use unique hashtags. Avoid generic hashtags, as those will be heavily populated with competing content. Instead, create your own hashtag that can be easily associated with your brand, and include that hashtag in all of your promoted tweets. However, avoid using too many hashtags in one tweet.

Image Credit: Chainarong Prasertthai / Getty Images
Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
business.com Staff
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Kiely Kuligowski is a business.com and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.