Virgin Atlantic, Red Bull Claim Promoted Tweets ROI

About a month after Twitter announced a program inserting advertising messages into tweets, marketers are chirping the program’s praises.

Initial advertisers Virgin America, Bravo TV and Red Bull have kind words for the program, called Promoted Tweets, and point to ROI success.  For instance, Virgin used Promoted Tweets as the sole means of announcing the airline’s expansion into Toronto, offering a 50 percent-off promotion for the first 500 travelers who booked flights from two California airports. Thanks to enthusiastic retweeting, the offer was sold out in three hours.
Around the same time, Bravo TV used the program in conjunction with corporate parent NBC Universal’s Earth Week initiatives. Bravo invited consumers to find out their green IQ in a game on the cable network’s Web site. Within a couple of hours, that Promoted Tweet hit the maximum number of retweets allowed, 300, and in one day, received 200,000 impressions.

Twitter rolled out its nascent ad platform almost a month ago with pilot marketers who were already active fans of the microblogging service. Promoted Tweets, which appear at the top of some search results pages, allow advertisers to get their messages in front of a wider group of users. A major difference between a Promoted Tweet and a regular tweet is that if users don’t interact with an advertiser-supported one—replying, favoriting or retweeting it—it disappears.

“It gives us a viral, exponentially growing number of marketing opportunities,” said Ellen Stone, svp, marketing Bravo TV. “Twitter is doing this in a really smart way. This is a search opportunity; it’s not to the entire Twitter base. When we message, the only ones that get up there are the ones that resonate.” Key to Stone’s use of Promoted Tweets? Leveraging Trending Topics on Twitter, either ones that already exist—as was the case with NBC Universal’s Earth Day initiative and events like Mother’s Day—or creating new ones.

At Virgin America, the day its Promoted Tweets went live the airline recorded its fifth-highest sales day in the airline’s history. Retweeting obviously helped but so did association with the latest thing on Twitter.  Porter Gale, vp, marketing, said part of that consumer response reflected the amount of press Virgin America received—free media worth $10 million, she estimated.
Gale said that with Promoted Tweets, marketers can load a message into a Twitter dashboard and move away from manual tweets sent by an individual. “Response time is faster; we can respond quickly and be more relevant,” she added. Gale said Virgin America got a couple of initial tweets complaining about spam, but since then, the airline has actually had user requests for more prominent display of the paid tweets. When Virgin started using Promoted Tweets, it had 64,000 followers on Twitter. Three weeks later, it has 76,000.

For Red Bull, consumers have been responding to Promoted Tweets containing news and highlights related to company-sponsored athletes like snowboarders Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, the launch of, Red Bull Air Race and the science behind Red Bull Stratos. “Engagement rates have been higher than typical cost per click and CPM advertising,” said a company rep. “We are not approaching Promoted Tweets as a one-way digital broadcast ad platform.” Promoted Tweets are also attracting “the attention of an increasing number of potential brand partners” to Red Bull-owned media properties like Stratos, Air Race and Flugtag, he said. Red Bull wants to roll out its Promoted Tweets globally as Twitter expands availability beyond the U.S. and into the third-party Twitter ecosystem, beyond, when available.

Best Buy has already been seeking new ways to engage consumers on Twitter. The retailer launched Twelpforce last August and has drawn nearly 26,000 followers. With Promoted Tweets, Best Buy has yet to use it in conjunction with store promotions, but it is already seeing user response through retweets and favoriting. “The best tweets are those that start with a customer’s topic,” Tracy Benson, Best Buy senior director of digital marketing, said. “We are seeing responses based on very hot, topical, buzz-worthy tweets like the iPad.”