While Twitter's latest earnings results failed to impress the market, there's still a lot to like about the platform and the opportunities it provides. In particular, it'll be interesting to see what Twitter's able to do with its new deal with the NFL to broadcast live digital streams of games, which could be a major step forward for the micro-blog giant.
But even without that, there's still a lot of opportunities in tweets. Despite the downcast narrative, there are still more than 500 million tweets sent, per day, and a great many people use the platform to stay up to date with the latest news and happenings. And within that, there's a lot of opportunity to locate and connect with relevant audiences to advertise your offerings.
If you're considering using Twitter advertising, Twitter's research team is keen to help you out - they recently conducted a study of over 9,000 direct response ad campaigns on the platform in order to identify the key terms, details and tweet copy best practices that generate the best response. And the insights they've uncovered extend beyond direct response campaigns alone, with some valuable data points that can help improve the performance of your tweets overall.
Here are their key findings.
1. Convey Urgency
The research team found that tweets with words like 'hurry', 'fast', 'quick' and 'limited time' had both a lower cost per acquisition (CPA) and a higher click-through rate (CTR) - yet only 13% of the tweets in the study included such terms. Of course, using an implied time restriction is nothing new, marketers and advertisers have been hitting us with messages of urgency since time began, but it is a particularly interesting aspect to consider in regards to Twitter and how fast the tweet stream moves.
The focus of Twitter is real-time - despite more recent efforts to uncover more value in tweets through an algorithm-defined timeline and additions like Moments, real-time is what Twitter does best. In that context, it makes sense that conveying immediacy and inspiring fast response leads to better ad performance, as people are scanning through their news feeds looking for relevant content. The data shows that inspiring a sense of urgency is an effective way to get users to stop and pay attention - worth considering in your tweet campaigns.
2. Percentages Beat Dollars
The research team found that tweets with percentage discounts displayed performed, on average, 40% better, in terms of CPA, than those which included dollar-based savings.
Again, this is a relatively common advertising trick (if you can call it that), but the numbers show that including a percentage is clearly more effective in your direct response tweets and is more likely to get Twitter users to pay attention to your copy.
3. New Opportunities
Given the real-time nature of Twitter, it makes sense that people come to the platform to stay up on the latest news and announcements as they happen. And given this, it makes sense that using the platform to advertise the latest thing - to showcase new products and offerings - is an effective way to gain attention via tweet.
Twitter's research team found that tweets that talk about new products or services have a 10% lower CPA, a 23% higher click-through rate, and 26% lower Cost Per Link Click (CPLC).
Twitter's advice on this is for brands to try and find a 'new' angle on their offerings, even if what they're advertising isn't new.
"It could be a new feature, usage, geo, or case study... just something new. If it offers value to your audience, it's worth communicating."
4. Shorter is Better
The general advice on tweet length has been that your tweets should never take up the whole 140 characters, as that leaves no room for people to add their own thoughts and notes if they look to re-tweet your message. This has changed somewhat since the addition of quote tweets, which enable you to attach your own tweet to the original, but the effectiveness of shorter tweets, according to Twitter, is still clearly evident in direct response campaigns.
According to Twitter's research, tweets of between 40 and 60 characters have the lowest CPA compared with Tweets of any other length. By comparison, tweets with 100-120 characters have the highest CPA.
Despite this, and as you can see from the chart, the majority of tweets studied were at the high end of the length spectrum, showing that even though response is better with shorter tweet copy, people still look to use up all the space they have available to better contextualize their message.
Again, the tweet stream is all about getting attention, and shorter, more concise messaging seems to do that more effectively. Of course, it depends on the text itself, but if you can master short form, high impact wording, you're likely to see better tweet performance, at least in terms of direct response.
5. Ask a Question
Twitter's research team found that tweets with questions had a lower cost per click and a higher click-through rate. This one more relates to the 'social' aspect of 'social media'. Social platforms give everyone a voice, and the brands that succeed are those that are able to hear it.
Given this, by facilitating response - through asking questions - you're giving your audience an opportunity to share their voice and have it heard, which is generally an effective tactic across all social channels.
6. Offer a Prize
This is another common, but effective, practice. Direct response tweets which promote a contest had a 40% lower cost-per-acquisition. Again, people want to be involved and have their voice heard - while a competition doesn't necessarily provide them a platform to share their voice, it does give them an opportunity to interact, to do more than just read an offer or ad, which plays into the active elements of the medium.
And despite the effectiveness of contest tweets, only 4% of the tweets included in Twitter's study included a prize, which could suggest there's significant opportunity on this front.
7. Calm Down on the Caps
Overuse of capital letters doesn't work.
"Promoted Tweets with 20% or more of their characters in caps had a 2% higher CPA and a 9% lower CTR."
Just don't do it. People are generally able to convey meaning and urgency from your copy - grammatical tricks and markers that attempt to push them one way or another, like overuse of capitalization, can come across as too aggressive and 'salesy'.
8. Handle Your Business
The research team also found that tweets which mention another @ handle within the tweet copy have a 6% lower click-through rate and a 3% higher cost per link click. Take it easy on the shout-outs in your ad copy - seeing another handle mentioned can reduce the individual relevance of your tweet as the reader, at a quick glance, may think it's aimed at that handle, taking the focus off them.
9. Less is More with Hashtags
There's been a heap of studies and research conducted on effective hashtag use, and Twitter's research has found much the same as all the others - too many hashtags doth not an effective tweet make.
The researchers found that tweets with one or more hashtags in it has a 24% higher cost per acquisition and a 3% lower click-through rate.
One or more, meaning even including one in your direct response ads is not particularly effective. While hashtags can be great for increasing your tweet reach and connecting with the right audience, moderation is key, as every one will impact the overall presentation of your tweets - as you've only got 140 characters to work with. This is particularly relevant in an ad context as you're already using targeting to reach a relevant audience - given this, you may not need to use hashtags, and they may come across as too promotional in the stream.
Overall, there's some interesting data points in Twitter's direct response research, and, as noted, the same points likely apply much more widely than just to DR campaigns alone. Even if you're not using Twitter for advertising purposes, the data highlights some good points to consider when composing your tweets. Through experimentation, maybe you'll be able to use the findings to refine and improve your general Twitter practices.