Despite a lot of early enthusiasm for Twitter’s creative and aggressive push into advertising models, the people who ultimately field the microblog’s business -- advertisers -- seem less enthusiastic with experience.
Or that seems to be the results of Cowen and & Co. analysts' John Blackledge and Thomas Champion spot check with media buyers about their Twitter experiences. The financial analysts polled 50 ad buyers on how Twitter was performing for them relative to the major rivals for their ad dollars, Facebook and LinkedIn. “Only 5% of respondents thought Twitter offered higher ROI on ad spend, well below Facebook (60%) and LinkedIn (25%),” the pair wrote to investment clients, according to Barrons.com.
The analysts write that the buyers’ mixed feelings about Twitter ROI concern pricing as much as anything else. Respondents cited high minimums and overall costs. Blackledge and Champion confirm the suspicion by tracking a campaign across both Twitter and Facebook to find that the costs per click were four times higher on the former than on the latter.
In addition to below-average scores from media buyers across several attributes, Twitter may also suffer declining engagement, they argue. The growth in timeline views per monthly active user declined noticeably last year, and international growth may be changing the user mix to include less engaged users overall. In terms of overall reach, the analysts unsurprisingly contend that Twitter MAUs will grow 12% a year through 2018. Its 12% reach will be but a fraction of Facebook’s 41%.
Of course, the Cowen & Co. analysts are comparing buyer views at a still-early stage in all social network advertising. How the major platforms pan out in terms of varying use cases and effectiveness in different segments needs to evolve. Twitter is quite rightly focusing its connection on entertainment and TV media. Its power among influential and centrally important other media should not be underestimated. I think that Twitter’s overall reach also exceeds its user base in some important ways. Twitter feeds and hashtags and the basic 140-character format are uniquely portable to other media. They embed into other platforms more effectively. And the hashtag itself is leveraged by other social networks -- namely Facebook’s own Instagram.
Still, the emergence of this sort of comparative analysis reflects the kind of head-to-head competition we will see Twitter and Facebook engage in this year.