How to Use Twitter Ads: The Complete Guide for Business

By Christina Newberry


Photo by @raisazwart via Twenty20

Since it launched in 2006, Twitter has become a key platform where people go to interact with brands, from contests to customer service, to Twitter chats and more. With 328 million active users, there are plenty of potential eyeballs out there for your brand messaging. But with 500 million Tweets sent per day, it can also be easy for your message to get lost in the noise.

While you can (and should) develop a Twitter marketing strategy to connect with users organically, there are several Twitter ad options targeted to specific business goals that can help get your brand  in front of the very users who have the most potential to bring value to your business. In this Twitter ads guide, we show you exactly how (and why) to use Twitter ads to promote your business, including some Twitter ad examples you can model when creating your first campaign.

Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 8 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.

Why your business should advertise on Twitter

Twitter’s brand-friendly environment is a great place to reach potential new clients and customers, and Twitter followers have been shown to bring real value to business: 66 percent of Twitter users have discovered a new small or medium business (SMB) on Twitter, and 94 percent plan to purchase from the SMBs they follow.

Read that last number again. That kind of purchase intent just can’t be ignored. Perhaps that’s why in a recent survey, 63.5 percent of social media managers listed Twitter as one of their top social media platforms in terms of ROI.

Bonus: Get Hootsuite’s Advanced Social Advertising training and certification and prove you know your stuff. 

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Types of Twitter ads for business

There are three different Twitter ad types: Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends.

Promoted Tweets

Promoted Tweets are simply regular Tweets that an advertiser pays to display to people who are not already following them on Twitter. Like regular Tweets, they can be Retweeted, liked, and so on. They offer a wonderful chance to extend the reach of great content that is already performing well on Twitter or other social channels.

Promoted Tweets appear directly in targeted users’ timelines, at the top of search results, and in the Twitter mobile app.

Promoted Accounts

Promoted Accounts allow you to get your Twitter account in front of targeted Twitter users to gain relevant followers. A 2016 customer insight study showed that 85 percent of people believe Promoted Accounts help them discover new businesses on Twitter.

Promoted Accounts are displayed directly in potential followers’ timelines, as well as in the Who to Follow suggestions and search results.

Promoted Trends

Trending topics on Twitter are the most talked about subjects on the social network, appearing on the left side of the page, on the Discover tab, and on the Twitter app. Promoted Trends allow you to promote a hashtag at the top of that list.

When Twitter users click on your Promoted Trend, they see an organic list of search results for the topic, with a Promoted Tweet from you at the top of the list. As people pick up on your hashtag and start using it themselves, you can gain additional organic exposure that increases the reach of your campaign.

Types of Twitter ad campaigns

The various Twitter ad products are used alone or in combination to create Twitter campaigns. Campaigns are categorized based on your campaign objective, and you pay for different results depending on the type of campaign you choose.

Tweet engagements

For Tweet engagements campaigns, you promote Tweets with the goal of starting conversations around your brand and pay only for the initial engagement with each user. You do not pay for impressions of your Promoted Tweet that do not result in engagement, and you do not pay for ongoing organic engagement with users who react to your Tweet.


For followers campaigns, you promote your Twitter account and pay per follower you gain. Impressions and engagement (other than a follow) are free.


For awareness campaigns, you promote your Tweets to a broad audience and pay for impressions (cost per thousand, or CPM). This is the only type of campaign where the Twitter ads pricing is based on impressions rather than engagements, so make sure your Tweet is compelling enough to cause viewers to take some kind of action.

Video views

Perhaps not surprisingly, a video views campaign aims to increase the number of users who view your videos. You promote your videos to a targeted audience and pay per video view. You pay once a user sees two seconds of playback in the timeline, clicks to watch in fullscreen, or takes the video off mute.

Website clicks or conversions

For both clicks and conversions campaigns, you promote Tweets to people who you want to visit and take action on your website. You’re charged per click in both types of campaign, but a conversions campaign has additional functionality to track conversions. Both of these types of campaign allow you to include a Website Card, which includes a preview of your website right in your Tweet.

App installs or re-engagements

For app installs or re-engagement campaigns, you promote your Tweets to users you want to download your app, or to users who have already downloaded your app but have not used it for a while. You can pay per app install or for both app installs and app opens, depending on your goal.

This type of campaign allows you to include an App Card, which shows a preview image of your app, along with the app’s ratings, right in your Tweet, and gives users the option to open or install the app with one click.

Lead generation

In lead generation campaigns, you promote Tweets that incorporate Lead Generation Cards to collect leads and pay per lead collected. Lead generation cards, which you can create in the Twitter ads manager, allow users to share their name, email, and Twitter handle with two clicks directly within the Twitter interface. The information is saved to your Twitter ads account, and you can download the list in CSV format.

How to advertise on Twitter

Now that you understand the types of campaign you can choose from, this step-by-step Twitter ads tutorial will explain how to get your first ad up and running.

1. Set up your first campaign

Head over to the Twitter Ads Manager. You’ll find the list of campaign objectives on the left side of the page. Based on the information above, choose the objective you’d like to achieve with your campaign, then click Create Campaign. This will take you to the Twitter ad campaign screen, where you can name your campaign, choose whether to start the campaign right away or schedule it for later, and decide whether to add third-party tracking.

2. Choose your audience

Twitter offers a number of targeting options to help you choose the right audience for your ad and maximize your budget. You’ll start with geographic targeting, getting as specific as a particular metro area or even postal code, or as broad as a whole country. You can also target by gender, language, device, platform, and even carrier.

The more detailed targeting options allow you to target based on specific user characteristics like interests, behaviors, and even the specific keywords and TV shows users Tweet about.

To help guide you, the interface provides an estimated audience size that changes as you add more Twitter ads targeting options to your campaign.

Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 8 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.

You can also choose to upload your own list of people (such as your email list), or choose to target people who are similar to your follower base.

3. Set your budget

You can set daily maximum and total campaign budgets for your ad campaign to control how much your Twitter ads cost. The interface will show you whether you’ll pay by impression or engagement, so you can get a good sense of how much it’s worth to you to pay for what’s on offer. The interface will also show you suggested bids based on what others are paying, or you can check out Twitter’s recommended bids for each type of campaign.

4. Choose your creative

Twitter will show you a list of your existing Tweets that you can choose to promote. If you prefer, you can choose to create a new Tweet specifically for your ad. As you work, you’ll see a preview of your ad on the right side of the page.

Finally, click Publish Tweet to launch your ad.

You can also manage Twitter ads using Hootsuite.

Twitter ads best practices

Introduce yourself

Since one of the main points of Twitter ads is to engage with people who are not already following you, you can’t assume that people who see your ads will know what your business is all about. Use an image or some of the copy in your Tweet to highlight your unique selling proposition so that people who see the Tweet know why they should bother to click, follow, or otherwise engage.

For example, since Twitter users might not necessarily know that UNTUCKit sells men’s shirts specifically designed to be worn untucked, the clothing company created an ad that showed the product (a shirt), explained what it was “Finally! Shirts designed to be worn untucked,” and included an impressive endorsement “GQ called us ‘Perfection.’”

That ad campaign came in at 12 percent under their cost-per-acquisition goal.

You should also make sure that your Twitter bio and profile page are in great shape, since users may click through to your profile before deciding whether to follow you. Keep the branding and messaging consistent across your Tweets, your profile page, and the landing pages you’re sending visitors to so that they reinforce a consistent brand personality.

Include a clear call to action

The key to any good ad is a great call to action, and Twitter ads are no different. Make sure users know exactly what you want them to do. A simple ask makes it much more likely that they will take action. Simply asking for a follow increases follows by 258 percent in timelines and 86 percent in search, and asking for a Retweet increases Retweets by 311 percent in timelines and 317 percent in search.

It certainly seems to be working for this Dallas Cowboys Tweet, which racked up 3,500 Retweets in just seven hours.

Since characters are in short supply, try something short and sweet, like “follow us,” “read more,” or “register now.”

And be sure your ad doesn’t try to do too much. Once you’ve made it clear what you want users to do, don’t distract from the message. Avoid including too many links (or any links if your Tweet specifically aims to get people to click the follow button), and limit your number of hashtags.

Include cards

You can now create cards directly within the Twitter ads manager. These powerful tools add extra functionality like website previews, app installs, and lead collection to your promoted Tweets, making the Tweets more engaging and interactive for users. Twitter internal data shows that Promoted Tweets that include a website card, for instance, see a 43 percent higher engagement rate than Promoted Tweets with regular links.

MVMT Watches used website cards with an enticing offer (“Free Shipping & Returns!”) to increase site traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year by 189 percent compared with the daily average for the rest of the quarter.

Choose a custom fit over one-size-fits all

Campaigns with different goals need different creative. Even campaigns with the same goals should differ based on the specific offer or idea you’re promoting at the time.

Likewise, if you target different groups of users, you should adjust your creative based on some competitive research (or lurking) to determine what is most likely to appeal to each group. That includes tweaking your ads based on geography, since what converts in Seattle may not in New Orleans.

For example, Ferguson Enterprises Inc., the largest plumbing wholesale distributor in the United States, ran a followers campaign to attract interior designers, contractors, and others in the building industry as new followers. Since interior designers and builders are looking for quite different things from both their plumbing fixtures and their Twitter feeds, Ferguson targeted these markets separately by building target follower lists based on the follower lists of relevant trade journals. They then tweaked their ad copy for each audience.

The result was a 3,000 percent increase in new followers and a 104 percent increase in Twitter engagements. Ferguson’s senior marketing manager also said that website visitors directed to the site from Twitter “spend more time on our website and visit more site pages.”

Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 8 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.

Test everything

Twitter ads are a great way to learn what resonates with your audience—from ad format to length of copy and tone of voice. Since testing is such an important topic, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to A/B testing on social media.

Use high-quality media and other visuals

Blurry or pixelated photos won’t do. Neither will grainy videos. Your words are important, sure, but visuals are what will grab the user’s attention and allow your tweet to stand out.

Make sure you comply with the Twitter ad image sizes for the best results. These free stock photo websites can help you source high-quality images to use in your ads.

If you sell a product, try using photos showing people using and benefitting from your product, rather than an image of the product all by its lonesome.

Learn from your organic tweets

Of course, many of the best practices that apply to organic Tweets also apply to Twitter ads—so make sure you incorporate what’s already working for you on Twitter into your Twitter ads.

Get more out of your advertising dollars by using Hootsuite to create, manage, and optimize your Twitter campaigns. Learn more and create your ad today.

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This is an updated version of a post that was originally written by Evan LePage.