Steps to running paid social campaigns on Twitter

Triana Jarman
We’ve got a mix of knowledge when it comes to social media at Sift – some roles use it daily to promote content or events, others advise clients on best practice; but one area that seemed to be a bit fuzzy for a lot of our teams is paid social; whether it be boosting a post on Facebook, or doing a targeted email-gathering campaign on Twitter.
Never one to turn up an opportunity to get free sandwiches, I offered to do a Lunch & Learn to show people the basics of what basic options there are for paid promotion on our social media accounts. I had a few key aims:
1) Broaden social media knowledge across the business (a company-wide goal at Sift is to improve our digital skill sets).
2) Get consistency among our commercial teams in terms of what we’re selling and reporting for clients.
3) Start a conversation among teams regarding who should be responsible for setting up and reporting on paid social so that they can hone these skills & experience – depending on the area of the business this could sit with the client service managers, the editorial team or the community team.
Where are the gaps?
Soon after sending the initial event invites out it became apparent that this was a topic that many people wanted to learn more about – with over half of Sift saying they’d attend!
Before putting my presentation together, I sent out a short survey to gauge what people were looking to get from the session, as it was clear that there would be a broad mix of roles and responsibilities represented in the audience and I wanted to make sure the content was useful to everyone. Over a third of attendees responded, and here are some of the things people said they wanted to know:
With this feedback in mind, I decided to split the presentation between 4 key elements:
  • Key social media channels at Sift
  • Basic paid promotion options
  • Reporting options
  • General handy tools & resources relating to social media
Part one: Twitter
Creating an ad campaign is designed to be as intuitive as possible on Twitter, so rather than give a step-by-step walk-through of the ad building process, here are some overall tips, and then you can go in and experiment for yourself.
Getting started
Firstly, here is where you can find the ads area on your Twitter account:
And where you go to start a new campaign once you’re in the ads area:
The process once you start building your campaign is very straightforward, just make sure you know the following points before you start to save you having to keep stopping and starting:
  • Goal – do you want clicks to your website, email addresses, more followers? This will affect the type of cards you build for the campaign.
  • Audience – you can tailor this according to geographic location, age, gender, interests and the accounts they follow. Much of this information is gleaned from user profile data so isn’t always 100% accurate.
  • Budget – you can set daily allowances as well as an overall budget for the campaign. You can also change your budget throughout (as well as your ‘bid’ if you choose not to go with the automatic setting) if you’re not happy with results.
  • Creative – what will your tweets say? What images do you want to include? In most campaigns I tend to create 3-4 different tweets, as Twitter will then optimise the most successful tweets for you. 
Twitter cards
Most of our paid campaigns on Twitter have been regular tweets linking to content on our sites:
However, we have found clickthrough rates are much higher when we promote tweets containing clickable Twitter cards, which you can build during the setup of your campaign, or beforehand.
The cards are free to create and use in tweets – it’s only the extended promotion from Twitter that you pay for; so the cards once created can be used in regular tweets as well as in your ad campaign.
Here are some recent examples of promoted tweets containing cards:
These are much more eye-grabbing than regular tweets, and also have a larger clickable area to send the user through the promoted content, rather than just a link within the tweet copy.
Once you’ve created these cards they will stay in your ad account, so can be reused in other campaigns if needed, or referred to if you want some ideas for designing your next batch!
Lead generation
In addition to generating website clicks, you can also set up cards to collect email addresses, which we’ve been doing as a quick way to build subscriptions to our newsletters:
Rather than paying to promote these tweets, we instead posted them as regular tweets and also pinned them to the top of our accounts for increased visibility:
These email cards have generated up to 40 new email addresses each month but are quite labour intensive, as you have to download the list of email addresses and manually input them to our database, so we have now switched to cards which when clicked direct the user to our newsletter registration page on the site.
Of course, if you’re paying to promote your content you’ll also want to know how it performs.
Twitter has a simple but informative reporting dashboard, which you can view on either the main Twitter Ads overview page, or by clicking into the relevant campaign in the list to see specific stats. You’ll be able to quickly see how many impressions the promoted tweets have had, as well as the number of clicks.
It’s worth checking the campaign daily to see how things are going, and if you’re not happy with the results you can either go in and add more tweets and cards to the campaign to see if those are more successful, or you can increase your budget.
As ever, my main advice is to experiment and see what works best for you; make a note of what works (and what doesn’t) and feed back to your colleagues – share the knowledge!
As a final piece of advice, here are some things that tend to make our tweets that bit more successful:
  • Bright & simple images (not too cluttered)
  • Stats and quotations (these tend to work better in images than tweet copy oddly)
  • Try to include one or two hashtags in tweet copy
Good luck with your own paid social campaign and keep your eyes peeled for my part 2 blog which covers LinkedIn paid advertising.