Bad news to all you social-media-blog-reading billionaires out there: when it comes to promoted Tweets, money can’t buy you happiness.
(Whether it brings you meaning and bliss in real life, we’ll leave up for debate. I’m personally pretty certain my life would improve significantly if I had enough cash to purchase the McBarge, but I digress.)
While running an ad campaign on Twitter (or any social platform for that matter) might get your post in front of the right eyeballs, there’s no guarantee your audience is going to react to that post the way you want them to.
Ultimately, when you pay to promote a Tweet, you’re just purchasing a delivery mechanism. The content you’re delivering still needs to get the job done — whether your goal is click-throughs, engagement, shares, or good old-fashioned LOLs.
But what content will get the job done on Twitter? Despite the fact that Twitter ad engagement has gone up 27% in the past year, it’s not always 100% clear what makes for a successful campaign.
So, this month, in the name of science, the Hootsuite social team bravely put its Twitter feed to the test to discover whether promoted tweets with images or links fare better.
What did they learn? Better keep reading to find out! (Yeah, I’m a tease! Deal with it! And then buy me a floating McDonalds, sheesh!)
Bonus: Download the free 30-day plan to grow your Twitter following fast, a daily workbook that will help you establish a Twitter marketing routine and track your growth, so you can show your boss real results after one month.
Hypothesis: Promoted Tweets with link previews get higher click-through-rates than promoted Tweets with images
The question Hootsuite’s social media team set out to answer this past month was a pretty specific one: which gets a higher click-through rate, promoted Tweets with link previews, or promoted Tweets with images?
What sparked this query? Some disappointing numbers, to be frank.
In the lead up to sharing the results of its Digital 2021 Report, Hootsuite’s social team had designed a series of infographics, representing some interesting insights from the annual report.
They designed a whole campaign around these images, all with the goal to drive traffic to view the full report. The idea was that Twitter users would see these interesting images, and want to click-through to the URL to learn more. Fool-proof… right?
Unfortunately, while the promoted Tweets were getting a high number of views and engagement, only a few users were actually clicking through. The cost-per-click worked out to $3. Ouch.
“It was a historically poor-performing campaign,” laughs social engagement specialist Nick Martin.
Like any good social media manager, Nick was watching the campaign numbers closely as it rolled out, and quickly noticed there might be an issue.
“What I realized is that people were coming to these Tweets, and clicking the photo, not the link,” he says. “We’d created all these images to go the extra mile and entice people, but it turns out it was doing the opposite… giving them too much information and not feeding them where we needed to go.”
To fix the problem, Nick decided to strip away the image and informative text to really simplify. Would the click-through rate improve if the promoted tweets just used a link preview instead of a separate image and a link? Only one way to find out.
To test his hypothesis that users were clicking through to the image, not the link, Nick started a new wave of promoted Tweets that just featured a link and measured their impact over the course of a month.
(To be clear: these Tweets had an image insofar as an image is automatically generated in the link preview, but these weren’t standalone images designed to be shared on Twitter).
But first, he’d need to analyze the image-based promoted tweets to create a benchmark for measurement. It turns out, between March 1st and April 11th, 19 promoted Tweets with images went out, and achieved a 0.4% click rate.
This report breaks down everything that has changed in the last quarter. Is mobile usage up? Are people's buying habits different? How can your business take advantage of the changes? Find the answers to those questions and more here: https://t.co/YcNHP3T48W #Digital2021 pic.twitter.com/gOylOWmiFR
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) March 22, 2021
This promoted Tweet with image was a top performer with 48 link clicks… but that only equated to a 0.09% link click rate, and a $4.37 CPC.
The eternal struggle for the internet's attention continues. Dogs get the first treat this time around. ?https://t.co/b7KReqEU0m pic.twitter.com/tCyN12KT3e
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) February 10, 2021
Another promoted Tweet with image gained just one link click: that’s a 0.03% link click rate.
And the winner for most time spent using social media is… The Philippines! ?
Find and analyze more data in our research report here: https://t.co/xek53Utd7S #Digital2021 pic.twitter.com/5HpWwxZZMg
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) February 5, 2021
One more example of a poor-performing Tweet with an image. Though it had a high engagement rate of 2.45%, there were zero link clicks.
Then, between April 12th and May 13th, Nick published four Tweets with no images to compare.
He kept the text vague, and focused on a call-to-action to read the full report. “I wanted to create a ‘less is more’ situation,” he says.
Here’s what happened…
TLDR: Promoted Tweets with link previews out performed promoted Tweets with images.
Nick sent out four link-preview promoted Tweets in this experiment, and those four became the top performers of the campaign.
Out of 623 link clicks total, 500-plus have come from those four posts. The click-through rate went from 0.04% to 0.13%: a dramatic leap.
Our #Digital2021 report is out now. Take a deep dive into ALL of the global data we have for you. https://t.co/SiXytc59wy
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) April 12, 2021
This promoted Tweet with a link preview was a top performer with 237 link clicks: that’s a 0.15% link click rate and a $1.91 CPC.
Newly released! Our #Digital2021 report has been updated for Q2. Take a look at ALL of the data we have for you here ? https://t.co/v9HvPFvCfb
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) April 28, 2021
Meanwhile, this promoted Tweet (just a link, no image) earned 144 link clicks (a 0.17% link click rate and $2.15 CPC). Much better!
It was just a couple of easy adjustments — take away the images, simplify the text — that yielded positive results for Nick and the Hootsuite team. (The timing was about the same for both types of posts.)
That being said: it’s important to note that while this change was very helpful for getting click-throughs, it might not be helpful if click-throughs aren’t part of your social media goals.
For instance, the promoted Tweets with photos actually had a very high engagement rate. So if engagement is your goal, promoted Tweets with photos might be a better choice for your needs. When it comes to social, success is ultimately relative.
What do the results mean?
Listen, it’s a bummer that the social team’s beautiful infographics didn’t get the results they wanted. But this hiccup just resulted in some valuable lessons that any social media team can embrace with their own next paid campaign. (Thanks for your sacrifice, Nick and co.!)
Reduce friction in your ads
“The learning here is that if you want people to click the link, make sure everything they click on does direct to that link,” says Nick. Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct, short, and sweet so there’s no confusion.
Need some help writing a clear, compelling call to action? We’ve got you covered.
Images boost engagement, not clicks
Images can absolutely be a powerful tool in your Twitter arsenal. But just because you can use them doesn’t mean you should.
Be intentional about your media choices and formatting to make sure your post achieves what you want it to. (Is engagement your goal? Images are a great place to start… and we’ve got some more ideas over here on the blog.)
Keep your eye on analytics
A social campaign is not a set-it-and-forget-it sort of operation. Because Nick was carefully monitoring the reaction and data that was coming in, he was able to pinpoint a negative trend early on and switch tactics to achieve the social team’s goals.
Keep your eyes on your analytics and don’t be afraid to switch tactics if you need to. Find our complete guide to Twitter analytics right here.
Thanks to Nick and the team for sharing these intimate insights for the Experiments blog: true heroes of the social-media science community. If you haven’t had a chance to dig into the Digital 2021 report, it’s full of even more mind-blowing stats than this blog post, if you can believe it. Check it out!
Or, if you’re looking for more guidance for your Twitter marketing campaigns, explore Hootsuite’s complete guide to Twitter for business here.
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