Twitter is a powerful social media tool that allows businesses to market themselves in a way they couldn’t just a few years ago. At the same time, it’s hard for companies to move completely away from traditional marketing tactics, so it’s not surprising that Twitter advertising is a hot topic these days.

There are three primary ways that brands can advertise on Twitter: direct advertising, third-party network advertising, and publisher direct advertising. You can learn more about each of these methods below.

Twitter Direct Advertising

How Brands Advertise on Twitter - Direct Advertsing

Twitter offers three direct-advertising options, though be advised, it still considers these programs to be in “beta.” Advertisers can submit an application to join one or all platforms, but there are currently only 600 advertisers in the program. It is expected that Twitter direct advertising will open up to more advertisers soon.

1. Twitter Promoted Tweets: Twitter Promoted Tweets are tweets that are paid for by advertisers. Promoted tweets appear at the top of Twitter search results pages, or near the top of a member’s Twitter timeline when he or she logs in. They look like regular tweets with the addition of a “Promoted” label, and when used sparingly, they are unobtrusive. Promoted Tweets that appear in search results help brands reach consumers who aren’t necessarily following the brands on Twitter.

Promoted Tweets are relatively affordable, since advertisers pay on a cost-per-engagement (CPE) basis. This means advertisers don’t pay anything unless someone replies to the promoted tweet, retweets it, clicks on it, or favorites it.

2. Twitter Promoted Trends: Twitter Promoted Trends are trending topic links that appear on the Twitter home page. These are topics that Twitter considers to be the most popular, real-time conversations on Twitter.

Advertisers pay a flat fee to promote their brands, raise awareness and reach a broader audience. When people click on a Promoted Trend link, they see a Twitter search results page listing all the tweets related to that topic. A highly relevant tweet from the advertiser, including a “Promoted” label, appears at the top of the search results page.

3. Twitter Promoted Accounts: Twitter Promoted Accounts are specific Twitter account links that appear at the top of profile search results pages and at the top of the “Who to follow” section on the Twitter home page. Brands use Promoted Accounts to raise awareness, increase followers, and connect with an audience that is likely to be interested in its tweets.

Promoted Account links cost a flat fee, include a “Promoted” label, and can be targeted by country, and even by cities within the United States. When people click on a Promoted Account link, they are taken to Twitter profile for that account and can decide whether or not they want to follow the brand.

Third-Party Network Advertising

How Brands Advertise on Twitter - Third Party Advertsing

There are a variety of third-party advertising networks that enable companies to pay Twitter members to publish tweets on behalf of a brand. If you want to pay for a high-profile celebrity with a huge Twitter following (like Kim Kardashian, Snoop Dog, or Time.com) to publish a tweet for your brand, you can find them through third-party advertising networks.

Some of the more popular ad networks include Sponsored Tweets, Adly, MyLikes, and TwtMob. Brands advertise through third-party networks to raise awareness and get in front of a larger audience while allowing someone else to handle all of the logistics, payments, and so on.

Keep in mind, there are specific disclosure policies that publishers must comply with in order to stay out of trouble with Twitter and the law. Furthermore, each third-party advertising network has its own set of procedures for finding people to tweet for your brand. Be sure to read all of the requirements and terms of service before you start using a third-party network for Twitter advertising.

Publisher Direct Advertising

How Brands Advertise on Twitter - Publisher Direct Advertising

It’s common for brands to approach individuals who have significant influence on Twitter and offer to pay them for publishing sponsored tweets. Advertisers can reach out to the publishers who already have the trust of their target audiences or to individuals who are known to have social media “klout.” Brands use direct advertising to raise awareness, drive specific actions, and attract new customers.

Even individuals with small Twitter followings can be valuable to brands. While the reach of these smaller, niche Twitter members isn’t as broad, the quality of that reach may be significantly higher. Brands can negotiate price, timing, and messaging with individual tweeters and tailor tweets to the appropriate audiences. Just make sure that anyone who you pay to publish your tweets discloses that those tweets are sponsored.

Do you advertise on Twitter? Share your experiences in the comments below.

[Image credits: Marco Verch, 13stock, Beacon Radio, AB Chao]