February 21, 2013, 12:09 PM

Twitter makes it easier to buy ads

The microblogging service launches an advertising API.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Twitter wants to make it easier for marketers to buy its ad units. The microblogging service announced it has launched an advertising application programming interface, or API. That means that marketing firms can directly connect to Twitter’s ad platform to manage their clients’ Promoted Tweet and Promoted Account ad units.

Promoted Tweets enable marketers to pay to increase the prominence of a post. A Promoted Account enables marketers to pay to show up in the social network’s Who to Follow box.

Twitter says that for now marketers can work with five vendors—Adobe Systems Inc. HootSuite Media Inc., Salesforce.com Inc., Shift (which is owned by Gearbox Software LLC) and TBG Digital—to help manage their advertising campaigns. The microblogging service says it has been testing the advertising API since January.

“We’re always working on ways to make it easier to manage campaigns and get more value out of advertising with us,” wrote April Underwood, Twitter’s product manager, revenue, in a blog post yesterday.

The move will enable advertisers to tie their Twitter advertising more tightly with their other marketing efforts, says Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst at consultancy Altimeter Group. “They’ll be able to coordinate their messaging better because they’ll be able to work with one vendor across different marketing platforms,” he says.  

The move also means that Twitter users will likely see more ads on the social network, he says. “But that doesn’t mean they’ll be effective,” he says. Key to success with Twitter ads is posting content that consumers actually want to see and engage with, he says. If consumers like the ad, they will likely follow the advertiser, in the case of a Promoted Account, or retweet or respond to the tweet, in the case of a Promoted Tweet. And that’s the goal, Twitter says.

“Our focus has been on delivering better ads for users, not more ads,” wrote Underwood. “We believe our system is working well because users like the ads experience on Twitter. Our system rewards marketers for being good, not for being loud. And this approach encourages ads that are engaging, relevant and useful.” 

Even with the ads API, Twitter is playing a game of catch-up since Facebook and LinkedIn have offered ad APIs for several years, Owyang says.

Twitter’s ad revenues last year reached $288.3 million, according to estimates by research firm eMarketer Inc., and the research firm expects ad revenue to reach $545.2 million this year. Facebook, for the sake of comparison, last year generated $4.28 billion in advertising revenue.

Even though Twitter may be important element in many retailers’ social marketing strategies, few retailers have used its ad units, according to a survey in the Social Media 300, a comprehensive analysis of e-retailers’ social commerce strategies that ranks retailers’ social skills on the percentage of web site traffic that merchants receive from social networks. The survey of 175 companies that sell online found 3.5% have used a Promoted Account and 4.7% have used a Promoted Tweet. 

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