Is Your Business Ready to Advertise on Twitter?

Starting this month, Promoted Tweets - those messages paid for by advertisers - will start appearing in users' timelines, according to this leaked Twitter advertising webinar. This is just part of an overall advertising push by Twitter to get the company to realize its multi-billion dollar value estimates both on the part of investors and the company itself.

Twitter is ready to woo small and medium sized businesses as advertisers and it appears they are training their staff on how to attract these ad dollars. And while Promoted Tweets will likely make the biggest splash in terms of user attention (or outcry), the company is instructing its sales force to focus on Promoted Accounts, its pay-per-follower system.

So which option might be right for your business? That's difficult to say and it will largely depend on the actual dollars and cents involved. However, your company's goals will also be a deciding factor.

If promoting an individual product or piece of content, the Promoted Tweet could be the way to go. This, however, will rely on the popularity and relevance of that product to the Twitter audience (and the copy of the tweet itself). Should more followers be the goal, Promoted Account advertising could be the way to go. The Promoted Account, though, is only worth the expense if your company intends on maintaining an active presence on Twitter to continue engagement long after the promotion ends. Of course, a combination of the two could be very effective for those businesses with a Twitter-inclined user base.

According to analysis by eMarketer, Twitter is expected to generate $150 million in ad revenue this year, up from $45 million in 2010. But according to The Wall Street Journal, just over 100 small and medium sized businesses are currently advertising on Twitter.

From the WSJ article: "Twitter has built an audience, but in order to achieve the scale and revenue that Google and Facebook are seeing it needs to show that marketing dollars spent on the site can perform well for mom and pops, not just big companies," said Jonathan Strauss, chief executive of Snowball Factory Inc., which tracks marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.

So, how is that going to happen? The Twitter sales force is certainly part of that mix. But perhaps even more important is the impending release of Twitter's self-service ad-buying platform - much like Google AdWords. Not only will this make ad buys more accessible but it will also be much more affordable than the early iterations of Twitter advertising.

What remains to be seen is the true value and expanse of the Twitter universe. Estimates place the number of registered Twitter accounts around 200 million. But, we all know that doesn't tell the entire story. For example, I have at least six Twitter accounts and not all of them are entirely active. EMarketer places the "active" number of Twitter accounts around 20 million or so, defined by users who access their Twitter account via any device at least once per month. But that also begs the question: If someone only uses Twitter once per month, what are the odds that person sees my Twitter ad?

There is plenty to be excited about as Twitter moves to beome a genuine business partner with global reach. But, there's also plenty of reason to take a wait-and-see approach. What will you do?