The DIY Guide to Twitter Ads for Small Business

The DIY Guide to Twitter Ads for Small Business


Twitter has over 200 million active users creating over 400 million Tweets per day. That’s a lot of people and a lot of tweets.

For business owners, Twitter has become an important tool for distributing content, providing support to existing customers and proactively reaching out to potential customers.

To make its platform more attractive to businesses and brands, In 2012 Twitter began slowly rolling out its paid ads platform, however it was only made available to certain partners on an invite-only basis. This past April that all changed when Twitter announced that they would be making Twitter Ads available to all users in the U.S.

That means no matter how big or small your business is, and no matter how many followers you have, you can now start leveraging Twitter's paid service to amplify your Twitter presence, gain new followers, create more awareness about your business and drive more traffic to your website.

Get $50 in Free Twitter Ads from Shopify

Get $50 in Free Twitter Ads from Shopify

We are pleased to announce that we have teamed up with Twitter to offer all U.S. based Shopify stores a free $50 Twitter Ads credit.

This is a great opportunity for merchants to get started testing some paid tweets and get familiar with the Twitter Ads platform.

Getting Started With Twitter Ads

Even if you don't use Shopify, you can still get started using Twitter ads by heading over to the regular sign up page and completing the on-boarding process.

Once you've created your account and entered your billing information, you're ready to create your first campaign. When you click the 'Create Campaign' button, you will be asked whether you want to promote your account or promote your tweets.

Note: At the moment, there are actually two Twitter advertising dashboards available on the self-service platform, Basic and Advanced. There is seemingly no difference in cost or how ads perform, but the basic dashboard limits you to a single target audience that will be applied to every promoted tweet or your promoted account. The advanced dashboard lets you target several audiences. All screenshots below are from the Advanced dashboard.

Getting Started With Twitter Ads

Promoted Tweets vs Promoted Account

Promoted Tweets: These will probably work best to extend your reach on Twitter and drive immediate traffic to your products, blog, or campaign landing page. That's because they (should) put a relevant message in front of users that don't currently follow you but are interested in the subject matter of your tweet.

When promoting a tweet you can choose to promote any of your existing tweets or create a new tweet to promote.

Promoted Tweets vs Promoted Account

If you choose to create a new tweet, you also have the option to set it up as a Standard Tweet which is delivered immediately to all of your followers, or as a Promoted-only Tweet which is not delivered to your followers, suppressed from your profile and only delivered as part of a Promoted Tweet campaign.

To enable this option, make sure you select the Promoted-only 'eye' icon when composing a new tweet.

Promoted Tweets vs Promoted Account

Once created, a tweet can be selected, bid on, and deployed at any point in the future.

The promoted tweet will appear at the top of related search results pages and on home timelines for users that might be interested in the promoted tweet's content.

The important thing to remember is that a promoted tweet should provide a relevant message that links to a landing page intended to get your prospect to take some form of action. That action could be buying a product or getting your prospect to enter their email so you can start a relationship and send future offers to them.

Promoted Accounts: These on the other hand are meant to start a relationship on Twitter itself rather than attempting to direct traffic elsewhere. This is more of a long term play that will help you build trust and a following over time that gets people seeing more of your tweets on a regular basis.

A promoted account will show up in the 'Who to Follow' widget positioned at the left side of the Twitter interface on the 'Home' and 'Connect' tabs. The promoted account will also show up in some search results and on a user's profile page in the 'Similar to You' widget.

It may be helpful to think of promoted tweets as being most similar to Google AdWords. Both are pay-per-click advertising intended to drive traffic. Promoted accounts might be thought of as the search engine optimization (SEO) done to improve results on Google or Bing. While you're still going to pay for each follow with a promoted account, the point is to increase the size of the audience that sees your posts naturally.

Targeting Strategies

The Twitter advertising self-service platform will allow you to target users by keywords, interest or through your profile.

Targeting Strategies

In addition to these parameters, you can also target further by location, device and operating system, gender, interests or username.

Targeting Strategies

When entering exact match key phrases that you want to target, it's important to keep in mind that in Google searches people tend to leave out small "connector words" like "a" and "the" but on Twitter people use conversational language so you may need to include these words in order to get an exact match.

In addition, Twitter will only deliver promoted accounts or tweets to users that it believes will be interested in your content. So selecting "fishing" as an interest does not necessarily mean that your promoted tweets or account will be shown to every Twitter user interested in fishing, but rather those interested in fishing that Twitter believes will also be interested in you.

An Auction Model

Twitter ads, like many other popular forms of online advertising, are based on an auction model, meaning that advertisers bid on their ads and the most profitable — not necessarily the highest bid — ads are likely to receive the greatest number of impressions.

An Auction Model

Twitter has said that it will not increase ad frequency, which might make the platform pretty competitive. For many small online retailers, this competition may mean that it makes sense to get an early start on Twitter.

Almost all pay-for-performance advertising requires a bit of experimentation. And it is best to experiment when there is less competition driving up bids.

Have you experimented with Twitter Ads yet? Do you ever click on promoted tweets?


  • Nick Thompson
    Nick Thompson
    May 16 2013, 11:03AM

    I’ve set up a few paid tweet campaigns and I’ve found when targeting key words and key phrases that it’s helpful to perform a Google search with your terms and look at the ‘Searches related to..’ area at the bottom of the SERP to get some alternative keyword ideas.

    Nice tutorial.

  • @Shopify Mark Macdonald
    Mark Macdonald
    May 16 2013, 11:04AM

    Nick – that’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thomas Holmes
    Thomas Holmes
    May 16 2013, 11:09AM

    Very timely article Mark!

    I just tried to set up some ads this morning and discovered that it was U.S. only. Fingers crossed they’ll be rolling out in Europe soon!

  • Julie Henderson
    Julie Henderson
    May 16 2013, 11:39AM


  • Matthew Palfrey
    Matthew Palfrey
    May 16 2013, 01:11PM

    Excellent article! But sad face for all the non US-based shops…

  • Fred Perrotta
    Fred Perrotta
    May 16 2013, 08:20PM

    I has great results recently with targeting hashtags of popular Twitter chats. Engagement rates were almost 3%, which is the best I’ve seen so far.

    These hashtags work well because you know what people will be discussing and they’ll be glued to their feed and/or search results with your ad perched at the top.

  • food courier services
    food courier services
    May 17 2013, 06:21AM

    Great job Mark. Such a wonderful article. Thanks for nice sharing.

  • Ollie
    May 17 2013, 09:57AM

    Another great article, i’ve never really fully understood the point to Twitter ads but this explains it brilliantly, similar in the way it works to Google Adwords! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Alex G
    Alex G
    May 17 2013, 05:24PM

    It’s great that you’re giving away Twitter Ads credit but the priority now should be to make it available to all users, not just US users only. It’s rather frustrating to be left out when we are paying the same monthly fees…

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    May 17 2013, 05:37PM

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone!

    Alex G: Twitter Ads is currently only available to all users in the U.S. When they opent the ad platform up to other regions we hope to run a similar promotion so everybody can be included.

  • Alex G
    Alex G
    May 20 2013, 12:23PM

    Ahh that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!

  • Maria
    May 23 2013, 02:25PM

    What if we already have a twitter account, can you still claim those twitter ad credits?

  • Annie
    October 22 2013, 12:30PM

    FINALLY.. a clear and concise explanation of Twitter ads! THANK YOU! Twitter should pay you for this.

  • Sam P
    Sam P
    January 14 2014, 06:06AM

    Does anyone know how they charge your credit card for promoted accounts? Does it charge as and when you get the new followers or at the end of the campaign for the full budget amount chosen?
    Thank you :o)

  • Laura Bonilla
    Laura Bonilla
    February 24 2014, 05:21PM

    how do i know how is the cost per click in USA for a promoted tweet ?

  • Gazelles Coach Brisbane
    Gazelles Coach Brisbane
    May 21 2014, 09:16AM

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    Strategy & Execution Advisors are the Business Strategy & Execution Experts. We have worked with thousands of companies over the past 16 years to help them craft breakthrough strategies and execute to deliver on these strategies.
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    August 16 2018, 01:59AM

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