American Semester Program on Social Media

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Twitter study: Hashtags and URLs can double engagement


Twitter’s research into how journalists can best grow their followings uses data to confirm what you’ve probably been told at a dozen social media seminars: Be a firehose of information about your beat, use hashtags and @ mentions as much as you can, and share what you’re reading.

Twitter will announce the findings, which follow a six-month study of 150 journalists and news organizations, at the Online News Association’s conference in San Francisco Thursday. The company’s Mark Luckie and Erica Anderson briefed us via phone beforehand.

One surprising finding, Anderson said, was that accounts using old-style retweets grew followers more slowly than those who retweet using Twitter’s built-in button. She cited BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray as a particularly adept user of this feature.

Here’s a little more detail on the study’s recommendations.

“Tweet Your Beat”

Be a source of info for people who follow what you cover — sounds obvious, right? But posting a “concentrated number of tweets in a short time span,” what Luckie calls “tweet burstiness”  — live tweeting an event, for instance — can increase your engagement 50 percent more than your expected baseline. Sara Ganim’s Twitter feed during the Jerry Sandusky trial is a great example of this, Anderson said.

Use hashtags

Those can double engagement for individuals, the study found, pumping their tweets into a conversation that might be taking place outside your immediate circles. Fox News and The Washington Post do this well, they said.

Cite sources

Mentioning people you’re citing by Twitter handle can help in the same way. “Brands that tweet 20% fewer URLs and 100% more @mentions grow followers 17% more than expected,” Luckie says in his presentation.

He cites this Guardian tweet as a good example:

Share what you’re reading

“Individuals receive 100% more (2x) active engagement (on good tweets) when a URL is included,” Luckie’s presentation says. It’s especially important to link outside your news organization’s content. “When individuals share URLs to non-company sources, they experience a bump in follows.”

Retweeting helps, too. People with larger than expected Twitter followings sent three times as many retweets as people with smaller than expected followings.

On our call, Luckie encouraged journotweeters to “really sort of be what journalists are, which is a repository of the best news.”



For those of us in the media buying game, we know that there’s something a little bit fishy with the numbers. Over at the Sysomos blog, Director of Communications Mark Evans recently wrote “In Social Media, Numbers are Truly a Game” and referenced the Paris-based analytics company Semiocast who announced that Twitter now has 500 million users, and also that just 27% of account holders are actually active, putting the real audience of Twitter at around 170 million.

Last week it seemed the Toronto Twitterverse exploded in controversy with a brand new tool for identifying users with high percentages of purchased fake followers (interesting, but about as reliable as no tool at all) and many conversations turned to real people, “influencers”, bloggers and media owners whose Twitter images were beefed up, with a high percentage of fake and inactive followers on their accounts (and they were enjoying the results of beating out others for jobs, contracts and swag).

On Facebook, nearing 1 billion users, they’ve announced that in an attempt to clean up their numbers they will be shutting down 83 million “dupe” profile accounts of fakers, pets, babies and companies who set themselves up as a profiles (meant for real people only), before Pages were available or before they knew how to set up a Page. According to reports, Facebook is taking this very seriously: if your profile is shut down by Facebook for violating TOS, you won’t be allowed to open up another account without their permission.

If you’re a business manager and you think you’re “doing it right” or saving yourself money by running your business’ brand activities on Facebook through a profile, but don’t know how to make the change, you can easily transfer your profile picture and all your friends to a new Page through this migration link. Do it now, before it’s too late!

For the small segment of us who are media buyers, responsible for allocating the largest portion of brand advertising budgets to traditional, digital and social media outlets, these are some scary numbers. Before digital media existed, our TV buys were usually our largest investment and I remember (years ago) predicting the audience #s of new television shows so that I could negotiate discounts with my network reps. In our post-buy analysis (where we document for our client the “actual” audience impact achieved for our buys, after the fact, we often had to be within a 5% +/- range or face reprimands from our bosses (for not predicting audience impacts properly) and possibly even renegotiating contracts with vendors to avoid having to pay a penalty to our clients from our next year’s budgets.

Facebook hasn’t said the deleted profiles will come off their user numbers, which in theory could account for as much as 10% of advertising investments advertising being shown to fake accounts, in CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) and roadblocks (where you buy all the impressions on Facebook within a geographic region, for a day, for a lump sum price). Babies and pets are probably still being run by humans, so I’ll presume they see the ads purchased and I’ll give them that.

On Twitter the problem is probably far worse, since their new promoted accounts and promoted tweets (available as self-serve advertising to all business managers), may be targeting as much as 70% or more bots and inactive accounts. I presume that they have a way of filtering CPM buys to only show to active users, but surely the number of 500 million is impressive to many advertisers who wouldn’t have otherwise considered investing a portion of their ad budget in Twitter advertising or a Twitter community (which can cost just as much in human resources and support).

While Facebook advertising is generally overpriced and we know it (especially given their investment value these days), Twitter advertising could be dangerously gamed and a waste of both time and money resources. As much as I enjoy Twitter and have used it to connect with countless relevant professionals for my own business and for my clients, I just can’t say that I have any sense of security in their paid advertising options right now.


Your Simple Guide to Launching a Twitter Advertising Campaign Read more:


So you want to start using Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, huh? You’ve weighed the pros and cons, and decided that experimenting with Twitter’s PPC advertising feature is a good move for your business.

Alright then — let’s get you started with this simple guide containing everything you need to know to make the most of your Twitter PPC campaign. Whether you’re just looking for more followers or you want to increase leads and customers, Twitter has some great paid options that can help you complement your organic Twitter marketing efforts.

How Do Twitter’s Advertising Options Work?

Promoted Accounts, Promoted Tweets, and Promoted Trends are Twitter’s advertising features, pay-per-click style. Through its various options, Twitter allows you to target the right people so your ads are appearing for Twitter users who are most likely to be interested in your content, products, or services. Your promoted Twitter content will be labeled as ‘Promoted,’ so users are able to distinguish between promoted ads and organic Twitter content. Twitter advertising can also be a less expensive PPC option than major search engines such as Google. In other words, you can generate great results with a smaller budget.

On the other hand, Twitter’s ad interface also leaves something to be desired (remember how we mentioned pros and cons?). It’s not as easy to use as Google AdWords, and you can’t set up automatic rules to change your bids. For example, if you don’t want your tweets to be displayed on weekends or after 10 p.m., you need to manually log in to your account and change your options. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re always aware of the activity in your Promoted account and make changes accordingly so you’re not wasting your ad spend.

That being said, setting up a campaign is easy, as long as you know what you are looking for. 

Decide What You Want to Promote

First, you need to decide what you want to do with your campaign. In other words, what is your end goal for using Twitter advertising?

I want to promote my account!

promoted accountThe Promoted Accounts option allows you to promote your brand name and will help you increase the number of followers your account has. You may be asking, “Why would I want to pay for more followers?” Good question!

In a nutshell, having a larger base of Twitter followers is critical for maximizing the benefits of your social media marketing. The more followers you have, the more people will be exposed to your tweets. Furthermore, your followers also have their own followers who will see any of your content your followers retweet. And trust us, the greater your social media reach, the more effective your social media marketing — even if those people never buy from you.

Finally, the more followers you have, the more credibility and authority your account will exude. If potential new followers see that a larger number of people are already following your brand on Twitter, they’ll be that much more likely to follow you, too. Ahh, the power of social proof!

Promoted Accounts are displayed (1) as part of the ‘Who to Follow’ widget on the left side of a user’s logged-in homepage and Connect tab, (2) on the ‘Who to Follow’ page, which users can access by clicking on ‘View all’ on the ‘Who to Follow’ widget or tab, (3) in ‘People’ search results, and (4) on users’ profile pages as part of the ‘Similar to you’ widget. A user may see your Promoted Account as a suggestion if your account is relevant to them.

I want to promote my tweets!

If you want to promote a specific tweet that came from your company’s Twitter account, Twitter gives you have a few options through Promoted Tweets. For example, you might want to get more exposure for a tweet about a specific marketing campaign or offer you’re currently promoting. Or perhaps you’d like to put some additional Twitter muscle behind an upcoming event your hosting.


promoted tweet resized 600


Promoted Tweets are visible (1) at the top of relevant search results pages, (2) within search results for a Promoted Trend, (3) in users’ Twitter feeds, when relevant, (4) in pinned tweets for ‘Enhanced’ profile pages, (4) in Twitter’s official desktop and mobile clients (e.g. TweetDeck, Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android, etc.), (5) and in some third-party twitter clients, such as HootSuite.

I want to promote a trend!

promoted trendsIf you’re interested in promoting a particular trending topic, you can contact Twitter to purchase a Promoted Trend. This is a way to get your name to a lot of Twitter users, but beware — it’s costly! To take advantage of this option, you will need to contact Twitter directly and inquire about your options.

Promoted Trends are visible to all Twitter users at the top of the Trending Topics list on Twitter — as well as on Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android, and TweetDeck — and they’re clearly marked as ‘Promoted.’ When a user clicks on a Promoted Trend, they’ll see Twitter search results for that topic accompanied by a related Promoted Tweet from the advertiser at the top.


twitter promoted tweet


Now that you understand your various options, let’s dive into Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets individually so you can understand how to leverage each to achieve your specific goals. On Twitter, get started here.

How to Promote an Account

Promoting an account is very simple. Simply indicate the ‘interests’ of users you want to target. In other words, think about the keywords that are relevant to your business and content. Your account will automatically be recommended to people who have those interests. Again, using Promoted Accounts is most beneficial to drive traffic to your Twitter account and increase your follower count.


twitter promoted tweet


You can then set your budget and timing. See “Dates and Budget” below for more details.  

How to Promote a Tweet

You have three separate targeting options for your Promote Tweets: search results, timelines (users’ Twitter homepage feed), and your own Twitter profile.


twitter promoted tweet


Targeting Search Results

When Twitter users search for a particular keyword, the tweet you chose to promote will appear at the top. This is just like Google AdWords — whoever is the highest bidder for a certain term will appear at the top. Here, you can select as many keywords as you wish.


twitter promoted tweet


Targeting Timelines

With this targeting option, your promoted tweet will appear in the timelines of the followers you want to target. You have the option of targeting the timelines of ‘Your followers’ and/or ‘Users like your followers.’ The latter are users with similar interests to your followers. 


twitter promoted tweet


Targeting Your Profile

This option will pin your Promoted Tweet at the top of your account’s profile page, visible to anyone who visits your page. This targeting option is beneficial if you’re trying to drive visitors to your page off of Twitter and onto a page on your website. For example, at HubSpot, we might use this targeting option to promote an upcoming webinar at the top of our profile, which can serve to increase awareness of the event and drive traffic to the landing page on our site where users can register to attend.


twitter promoted tweet


Choose Your Targeting Preferences 

Once you’ve chosen the type of Promoted Tweets campaign you want to run, you can also change your settings and modify your target audience to get the most out of your campaign.

First, select which geographic location you want to target. You can be as broad as ‘Anywhere in the world’ or as specific as ‘Atlanta Georgia.’


twitter location


You can then decide which devices you’d like your Promoted Tweet to appear on. Remember, if you’re promoting on mobile devices, make sure any links in your tweets lead to mobile-optimized web pages. You don’t want to upset potential customers with a difficult-to-use website!


twitter promoted tweet


Select Current (or Create New) Tweets to Promote

Now that you’ve specified your targeting preferences, you can decide which tweets you want to promote. You can either promote tweets you’ve already published or create new ones within the ads interface. You can also choose more than one tweet for each campaign to add some variety to your Promoted Tweets.


twitter promoted tweet


Wondering what kinds of tweets you should be promoting? Of course, this will largely depend on your goals for your promoted campaign, but promoting a variety of offers and content can boost engagement with your tweets and your profile. Here are a few great options to get your wheels turning:

  1. Lead Generation Offers: If you’re looking to generate leads from your campaign, promote tweets for offer(s), and include links to landing pages on your site. At HubSpot, we often promote our ebooks and webinar landing pages in our Promoted Tweets.
  2. Events: Got an event coming up right around the corner? Promote a tweet about the event your company is hosting or attending, and include a link to the registration page.
  3. Compelling Content: Do you want more people to read your blog or regard you as an expert in your industry? Use Promote Tweets to increase the reach of tweets touting particularly awesome content, especially considering the life of a non-promoted tweet is so short!

Specify Campaign Duration and Budget

One of the final things you’ll need to do is decide on the length of your campaign. Your Promoted campaigns can either be ongoing, or you can choose to run them for just few days surrounding a big event or campaign.

You’ll also need to set your campaign’s daily budget, which can be adjusted according to your needs. Twitter will never exceed your daily budget, and both the duration and budget of your campaign can be changed at any time when your campaign is running.

Remember, Twitter’s advertising is priced on a Cost-Per-Engagement (CPE) basis, so you only pay when someone retweets, replies to, clicks, or favorites your Promoted Tweet. You can also set a maximum bid, which is the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per engagement (whenever a user clicks, retweets, @replies to, or favorites a tweet). Twitter will suggest a bid based on your daily budget, but the actual bid may vary throughout the day. 


twitter promoted tweet


Track Your Analytics

Congrats! You’re now ready to launch your campaign! Be sure to track the results of your Promoted campaigns — you can easily monitor the daily spend of each campaign in the Twitter ads interface. For a more in-depth look at which campaigns and tweets are performing the best, you can look in Twitter’s Ads Analytics for your account.


twitter promoted tweet


Regularly check the status of your campaigns and make any necessary changes to ensure you’re getting the most out of your Twitter advertising efforts. In addition to Twitter’s own analytics platform, use your marketing analytics to determine how your Twitter advertising efforts are contributng to leads and customers as well.

Be sure you’re updating the tweets you’re promoting often to keep your promotions fresh, engaging, and reflective of your overarching social media marketing goals. Are your tweets generating the results you want? If not, make some changes. Every business is different, and you’ll need to do some testing experimentation to see what works best for your company. And if Twitter advertising turns out to be a subpar tool for meeting your goals, turn it off and trying something else. Now you know. Good luck!

Read more:

3 Social Media Lessons from the Olympics

Social media gaffes can happen to the best of us. Sometimes even to Olympic athletes.

Since the 2012 Summer Olympics kicked off in London last week, a small flurry of athletes — among them a Greek triple jumper and a Swiss soccer player — have been cut from their respective teams for sending offensive messages over Twitter.

While an Olympic team doesn’t operate exactly like a business, there are some lessons business owners can glean from these social media mistakes and apply to their own marketing efforts. Here are three tips from social media expert Scott Stratten, author and founder of Ontario-based marketing consultancy Un-Marketing.

Related: 5 Steps to Creating a Social Media Policy (Video)

1. Make it known to employees that social media is not to be taken lightly. 
That’s not say no one can have fun with social media. But owners and their employees should be aware that what they socialize — either from the company or, if applicable, from their personal accounts — is a reflection on your brand.

Stratten suggests creating a list of social media do’s and don’ts for employees. “Just realizing that they can change the brand perception with as little as 140 characters will usually make employees think before they tweet,” he says. Show both brand home-runs and strike-outs to give employees a frame of reference.

2. Have a human-resources plan for dealing with social media mistakes. 
The offending Olympic athletes were promptly expelled from competing for their social media transgressions. A business owner might not fire an employee for a minor misstep on social media, but should know what qualifies as a major mistake and the consequences employees could face if they make one.

Like many management issues, problems should be handled on a case-by-case basis, Stratten says. “Tweeting something mildly insensitive can be one thing, but being [undeniably offensive] is another,” he says. Any guidelines in place for governing employee interactions between co-workers or customers should be extended to the virtual world.

3. Act fast to repair the situation online.
Don’t wait too long before apologizing or addressing the issue online after the mistake is made. Reaction to social media fallout is measured in hours, not days or weeks, Stratten says.

“[A misstep] needs to be viewed as an opportunity to come out on top, instead of a chance to hide behind a press release,” he says. “You can’t change the fact that your brand is in the spotlight, but you can control how you react.”

Own up to any problem, show remorse and tell everyone what you plan to do or have done. “People are forgiving for the most part, as long as you do it swiftly and authentically,” he says.

Related: Finding the Best Time to Post to Social Networks

This New Tool Could Be the Future of Measuring Sentiment on Social Media


Business owners might soon have a new way to interpret content on Twitter that’s related to their brand.

Emoto 2012 — a collaboration between U.K.-based digital art festival FutureEverything and MIT’s SENSEable City Lab — is a new tool that is being used to interpret the global response to the London Olympics. It analyzes tweets for both specific content and the emotions behind the text, and categorizes them as anywhere from extremely negative to enthusiastic.

The technology then illustrates the emotion in a tweet stream using a visual design to show the ebb and flow of emotion over time. The intensity of feeling of a tweet stream is represented by varying colors. Thicker lines and shapes represent, among several factors, how many tweets and how many people are tweeting about that topic.

For business owners, tracking user sentiment on social media can be valuable for understanding public perceptions of their brand or measuring the effectiveness of advertising and social media campaigns. While still in the early phases, Emoto is showing glimpses of how tools will be able to chart what people are actually feeling about a product, a brand or even an entire company.

Here are three reasons why it might be smart for marketers to keep an eye on the Emoto 2012 and other tools like it:

Related: 3 Ways to Make Your Social Media Efforts More Productive

1. Twitter isn’t providing analytics.
After nearly five years since the microblogging service launched, Twitter has yet to offer users access to statistics anywhere close to the statistical detail of packages like Google Analytics or Facebook Advertising. Anyone who’s interested in tracking the sentiment of tweets is forced to use Twitter’s search to look for happy or sad emoticons, which isn’t very effective.

Emoto showcases useful information that exists on Twitter, including metrics such as tweets-per-minute, and the overall mood and sentiment of how posters felt about a specific topic. The tool scans for topics, the amount of content and the syntax of the tweet. Information can be viewed in granular detail, in the aggregate or for each day of the games.

2. Existing sentiment-tracking tools aren’t getting the job done.
The analytics gap at Twitter has opened the door for third parties to create social media sentiment engines, including Canada-based Social Mention and paid services such as Twendz, from Seattle-based marketing firm Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. But services like these still offer painfully basic data.

Emoto, on the other hand, can show that response to a tweet can be much more subtle. Not simply a positive and negative sentiment, but a complex emotion behind the tweet stream can be inferred.

3. Emoto is just the first step.
Emoto 2012 shows that there is capability and promise for a simple, graphics-oriented social media tool that businesses can use to get a deep, relatively immediate picture of their online brand value. And the potential is there for tracking competing ideas and brands as well.

Given the growing interest in social media marketing, the Emoto 2012 is likely just the first step, and only one of many tools that will aim to provide a deeper understanding of social brands — hopefully eliminating the need to collect and manage every individual tweet.

Related: 3 Social Media Lessons from the Olympics

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