November 5th, 2008
So, you’re rolling along with Twitter.
Your organization has several hundred (or maybe even more than 1,000) followers. People love what you’re doing with Twitter and seem to look forward to what your paper has to say.
Your boss comes up to you and asks THE question: “Are we ever going to make any money off of this?”
The answer is, of course: “Yes and no. Maybe. Someday. We’re just planting our flag right now. We’re … I don’t know.”
At some point, you’ll have to be able to answer that question forcefully. Although the vast majority of people on Twitter aren’t out to make a buck, you likely will have to at some point. Not only will you be alone in your quest to try to make money, everyone could easily get annoyed by your efforts.
So, it has to be done right. Just as you should not just open the RSS spigot on Twitter without putting thought into it, you also should not put ads on Twitter without careful consideration.
Austin360 received only one complaint – someone who basically said, “For shame!” The Twitter account didn’t noticeably lose any followers.
I think there are some reasons it didn’t get hammered.
Here are my 5 rules for advertising on Twitter:
1. Sell it ONLY to someone who will provide relevant information to your followers. The ACL Fest after-party tickets are a good example. If they put a car dealer ad out there, they might have lost all of their followers.
2. Don’t insert the ad too much. I asked the followers of the @statesman account what they would think of advertising. Of those who said they wouldn’t mind ads, they almost all said, “Once or twice a day only.” I think you might be able to get away with an ad every 15-20 Tweets. The ACL advertisement was inserted (manually) 5 times a day over the three-day event. The account sent out 407 total Tweets, so that’s one advertisement every 27 Tweets.
3. Look for advertisers that would not only be relevant, but also fun and useful. Advertising on Twitter sounds horrible to most heavy users, but if you send out an ad that says, “Show this tweet at Jo’s Coffee shop for 1/2 price coffee today” then I don’t think they’ll complain quite as loudly.
4. Do not use a random third-party service. I’ve noticed a few of these pop up, most noticeably Magpie. This just looks like a recipe for disaster. Set this up, and watch your followers drop like a rock. If you rely on someone else to do this for you, they aren’t going to follow my other rules. Expect too-frequent ad Tweets, irrelevant information and more.
5. When in doubt, be conservative. Let’s say you’re going to live Tweet a political convention and you want to sell your stream to an advertiser. Negotiate with them to give you control over the wording. Tell them you can’t send it out 10 times an hour. Stand your ground. Don’t advertise if they won’t go with you. Give up the money before you give up your community.
This is a tricky subject, and I know there are many who say they’ll NEVER follow an account that advertises. In the @statesman survey, I learned that most of your community will stay with you – if you don’t abuse them.
What do you think?