Twitter's (Pricey) Promoted Trends Offer A Way Into The Conversation

One of the most exciting mornings I’ve had as a marketer was the morning I was part of the Claymore team that launched a solar exchange-traded fund (ETF). Day 1 is so important in an ETF launch and of course the firm’s Sales and Marketing was behind it. But, it was a time of heightened interest in solar energy and it felt like the ETF was part of a much bigger discussion.

I was remembering that yesterday afternoon while listening to a Washington Post Webinar presentation on digital media. We supported that 2008 ETF launch with every digital marketing tactic available. But Rochelle Sanchirico, the Post’s Digital Marketing Director, touched on a new tactic that asset manager marketers might want to consider for important theme-based campaigns.

Last November, the Post paid to promote a trend—#election—on Twitter from early in the morning the day before midterms Election Day to early in the morning the day after. It was a safe guess that people tweeting about the elections would use the #election hashtag and the Post assured that it would be in the mix.

The #election "promoted trend" was visible to all users on Users who clicked on it went to a page of #election Twitter search results with a related “promoted tweet” from the Post parked at the top of the page. The tweet was refreshed throughout the period. You can see a screenshot and read more about it on this page, and below is a grainy but good video explanation of this kind of advertising from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Sanchirico said the Post set three goals for the tactic:

  • To create awareness of the Washington Post brand around the elections
  • To drive conversations about the midterm elections
  • To refer interest to the Washington Post election coverage, thereby supporting advertisers

The campaign doubled the Post Twitter account average follows and account mentions and it doubled Twitter-referred traffic to the site. A positive outcome, although Sanchirico didn't go overboard about it.

Other brands have promoted trends, but the Washington Post was the first news organization to give it a go. I don't know whether any investment firms have tried it yet.

Communicating Within Context

What’s intriguing about this for investment marketing is that so often we communicate without context. In almost all cases, asset manager advertising is oblivious to the content it surrounds or interrupts. That's also true of product announcement emails or postcards.

But typically there’s a marketplace rationale for the communication, whether it has an institutional focus (retirement readiness, for example) or is product-based. The trick is connecting with the people for whom the communication will resonate.

Claymore’s product was the first solar ETF, with one expected to follow from another provider in just a few weeks. It was important to make sure that solar-focused investors (today, they might be those following a #solar hashtag) knew that there was a solar ETF before there was a second solar ETF.

The challenge was to quickly become part of a conversation already underway. That, I think, is the potential value of the promoted trend.

Your Research

In researching whether promoted trends are something to add to your box of possibilities, you’d want to consider:

  • Cost: Consumer brands are interested in these, which drives up the pricing. Early reports said advertisers were paying $70,000 for one day and those estimates have since climbed.
  • Conversation fit: Your trend must be related to something that’s already popular on Twitter or expected to be.
  • Control: “Tweets on the search results page for promoted trends are unfiltered, open and authentic,” says Twitter. Translation: Your firm might temporarily own the trend but it will have no control over what’s said on the trend’s search results page.
  • Content: With your trend secured and your prominent Twitter position assured, compelling but medium-appropriate tweets would need to be written to fully leverage your visibility. Wait a minute, I've just described an old advertising model which involves buying the space and then filling it. Consider this only if you have a rich, compelling, contemporary (others have to be talking about it, too, remember) story to tell over a series of promoted tweets.
  • Measurement: Yes, metrics had better be in place.

The entire Washington Post presentation, which was sponsored by Covario in conjunction with SES London SES New York and, is worth listening to, I’ll update this page when information about the on-demand presentation is available.