A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Twitter Ads for Lead Gen


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Many businesses aren’t quite sure how to tackle marketing on Twitter from a paid perspective. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, you could wind up wasting a ton of money.

Twitter ads for lead gen

It may seem like common sense, but when you’re outlining the strategy for your Twitter ads, you should always have your goals in mind. It’s tempting to think that your Twitter presence has to be comparable to that of a needy teenager, desperately asking strangers to “Retweet this!” or “Follow us!” or “Please for the love of god give me attention so that this seems like a worthwhile investment!” You’re probably just wondering, “Where’s the ROI?”

In this post I’ll show you how to see a direct return on your Twitter ads investment.

Leads vs. Engagement

Using Twitter ads for lead generation is all about strategy. Those “needy teenager” ads you see are based on the metric of high engagement. They’re asking for attention because the more attention they get, the more successful they are considered. These ads could drive tons of user interaction and be a great tool for solidifying brand awareness.

The only problem is they don’t directly connect you with the people who may be interested in what you have to offer as a business. These tweets don’t immediately add names to your database, and they don’t give you a “direct” return on investment. If you want to skip the strategy for increasing traffic and brand engagement and go straight for the throat, I’ll show you how to use Twitter for direct response purposes. (By the way, just because it’s for lead gen doesn’t mean it won’t drive engagement and brand awareness, because it absolutely will.)

Twitter ads follow me 

How Twitter Ads Work

In order to better explain the strategies I’m going to recommend, I’ll briefly cover how Twitter’s ad platform works.

If you’re just getting started, you’ll want to select “Create new campaign.” Twitter will then give you a variety of campaign types to choose from:

Twitter ads create new campaign 

Keeping the focus on strategy, I won’t go into detail about all the various types of campaigns – only the ones that you can use for lead generation.

I recommend Promoted Tweets and Video views (unless you have an app, in which case you’ll want to select that option). Promoted Tweets are like the Coca-Cola Classic of Twitter ads; they allow you to promote tweets that will be judged (and priced) based on user engagement, including:

  • Follows
  • Favorites
  • Clicks
  • Retweets
  • Replies

The video ads are different in that they allow you to promote a video and will only be charged via video “plays.” I’ll further discuss this advantage a little later on.

Twitter Ads for Lead Gen: Targeting and Pricing

In order to implement a successful lead gen campaign on Twitter, the two key elements you will want to put a great deal of focus on are the targeting and subsequent pricing.

Twitter ads are great when it comes to targeting and really drilling down into your desired segment of users. Once location and language options have been confirmed, you have a choice to add keywords, handles, and interests.

If you’re involved in an industry that has a lot of “buzz” on social media, where your target customer will be discussing certain topics related to your products or services, use keyword targeting. Say there’s an upcoming event or convention for your industry, and people who could potentially be your customers are talking about it on Twitter. This is when keyword targeting would be ideal. The rest of the time, I’d highly recommend targeting handles. Handles are the “@username” identification for users on Twitter. With this targeting option, you select specific Twitter handles and your promoted tweets will be shown to the followers of those handles.

How Engagement Relates to Cost

If you are new to this process, you might be thinking, “Why don’t I just select as many handles related to my audience as possible?” Here’s why: That’s a very easy way to burn through your budget really quickly and have very few conversions.

Twitter’s ad format for promoted tweets works by taking the audience you have selected to target, gauging the size and the make-up of that audience, before generating data on what it believes other advertisers are bidding on to reach the same individuals.

This is where a little bit of complexity comes into the mix. There’s a direct correlation to the amount of engagement your ads are receiving and the cost per engagement you’re paying for. If your tweet reaches a high enough level of engagement, you could substantially lower your bid and pay significantly less than your competition. That being said, you want to target the people you are MOST CERTAIN will engage with your offer.

Keep in mind that engagement rate (engagements/impressions) dictates how well your tweet performs. This is why you see those “needy teenager” ads. If your engagement rate is fairly low (anything under around 0.60%), your ad will eventually stop receiving impressions. Twitter will see it as not being relevant to its audience and will pull the plug on it – think of engagement rate as the Quality Score of Twitter.

Also keep in mind that when you’re managing your ads, your tweets should be refreshed every 2-3 days. This ensures that Twitter continues to show your ads, because after a certain period of time they will stop showing them regardless of engagement.

Twitter Ads for Lead Gen: Choosing the Right Format

You have a few creative options when it comes to generating leads on Twitter. These include:

  • Website Cards
  • Lead Gen Cards
  • Promoted Video ads
  • Promoted Tweets with a link and image

Two of the most frequently asked questions about Twitter cards are, “What is the difference between website cards and lead gen cards?” and “What the hell are they?”

They’re called “Cards” because they offer a visual element that will make them stand out in a targeted user’s Twitter feed. The visuals makes these ads somewhat of a hybrid between a text ad and a banner ad.

There are a few key differences between Twitter Lead Generation Cards and Website Cards that you should be aware of. The first difference is the image dimension requirements. With Lead Gen Cards, you have an image that is 800 X 200 pixels, whereas Website Card images measure 800 X 320:

Twitter ads lead gen card
An example of a Twitter Lead Generation Card

 Twitter ads website card

An example of a Twitter Website Card

Another difference comes from the call to action. Lead Gen Cards have a customizable call to action that allows you to draw in potential prospects with a custom message.

Unfortunately, Website Cards don’t offer you the same creative freedom. The Website Card only allows you to choose from a predefined selection of CTAs:

Twitter ads website card calls to action 

Appearances aside, the biggest difference between the two formats has to do with functionality and how individuals interact with the ad.

Lead Gen Cards allow you to describe your offer and, once the CTA is clicked, Twitter will ask the user if it’s okay to give you their handle, name, and email address. Once the individual agrees, the data is stored and they are sent to a subsequent landing page of your choice.

With Website Cards, the user only has to click on the CTA and they are immediately brought to a landing page. Although Website Cards don’t record any information from the action, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a less effective option.

If your goal is to gather names and email addresses only, like an opt-in newsletter for example, then the Lead Gen Card route would most likely be the better option. If you want to know more about the prospect, I recommend using the Website Card.

Are Twitter Lead Generation Cards More Effective Than Website Cards?

I’ve experienced moderate success using both Website Cards and Twitter Lead Generation Cards, but actually found other options to be a lot more efficient and cost-effective.

Using a simple 440 x 227 image for creative and a quick, actionable message followed by a link to the landing page, I was able to create ads that generated consistently high engagement and more conversions.

Here are the new (and far more successful) ads:

Twitter ad example WordStream

Twitter ad example WordStream 

Using this type of Promoted Tweet has worked wonders for us in the past month. Engagement rates have never dipped below 1.00%, and they offer significantly lower costs. I’m sure the adorable children dressed like adults play a factor, but it just goes to show how important the creative aspect is. I’m not telling you to use puppies in your ads…. I’m telling you to use puppies dressed as people in your ads.

Twitter ads dog wearing glasses 

(I’d click on it)

In all seriousness, the only downside to simply using images and links is that they take up a lot of the 140-character limit for tweets, forcing you to be even more brief with your message.

Promoted Video Campaigns for Twitter Advertising

Another tactic I highly recommend is the use of Promoted Video campaigns.

This relatively new option allows you to use a video to promote just about anything you like. From the perspective of lead gen, this format is a phenomenal way to quickly engage with your customers and encourage them to take further actions.

Twitter allows you to include a CTA with an embedded URL of your choice. The Achilles heel of this ad format is that, like Website Cards, the CTA is not customizable. You’re left with two options:

Twitter ads video call to action 

Pretty lame I know, but it’s better than nothing so take advantage of it. You should also include an additional link in the tweet copy or description. Remember, these are free clicks!

I touched on how Twitter ads are priced earlier, but let’s go into a little more depth. Promoted tweets, and Lead Gen and Website cards are charged per engagement. This means you pay regardless of what the engagement is (i.e. a follow, click, retweet, favorite, or reply).

However, Video campaigns are only charged for video “plays.” This offers a ton of free engagement. I used a Promoted Video for WordStream and saw consistently high engagement rates. The campaign generated favorites, follows, clicks, replies, and retweets, all without depleting any of my daily budget for the ad. Users were watching my video (charging me a cost-per-view) and either retweeting it, favoriting it, or following us for no additional charge. This free engagement also includes the CTA and additional URLs that I suggest you include. Take advantage of the freedom!

Twitter ads racoon stealing

It’s a best practice to keep the video between 35-45 seconds in duration. However, I’ve promoted a minute-long video that really couldn’t be edited down. It was informative and engaging, and because of that, it was successful anyway, even though it was a little longer. With a great video, you’ll get free engagement and that means free brand awareness, not to mention the ability to capture leads. These ads have the potential to deliver great results for your business.

Twitter ads WordStream video ad 

Tracking Twitter Ads for Lead Gen

Before you get all excited and start firing off tweets and campaigns like Russell Wilson on the one-yard line, you should probably ensure your conversions are being tracked.

If you’ve opted to use Lead Gen cards, this isn’t as important. Twitter will store data on all of the users who engaged with the card and notify you within the campaign that it’s active in.

To get the leads that were collected from your Lead Gen card, you’ll want to go into the “Creatives” section of your Twitter Ads dashboard and select “Cards”:

Twitter ads create new card 

Here you can see how many leads your cards have collected and download the list of names:

Twitter ads download leads 

For the other options, you’ll need to insert a Twitter tracking pixel on your destination landing page – NOT the landing page you’re originally directing them to, the one that they are directed to once they take the desired action.

To get the tracking pixel, go the top of Twitter ads and under “Tools,” select “Conversion tracking”:

Twitter ads conversion tracking 

Then, select “Create new website tag”:

 Twitter ads create new website tag

Name your website tag based on the promotion or offer, then select the type of conversion that would accurately describe the action:

 Twitter ads website tag conversions

Also, it’s very important to make sure that “Create a tailored audience” is checked:

 Twitter ads create tailored audience

This will create a custom audience that, if large enough, can be used as a segment you can exclude from future targeting because they’ve already converted. Now save and generate the code:

 Twitter ads generate tracking code snippet

Once it’s generated, copy and paste the code:

 Twitter ads copy paste tracking code

Insert this code in the HTML of your destination landing page, just before the closing </body> tag.

There are some clever things you can do with this code to track anyone from Twitter who lands on a page with one of these tracking pixels on it. If you have a larger budget and have campaigns that are driving traffic to certain parts of your website, generate a code specific to the topic of that page. Label it as a “site visit”:

Twitter ads site visit tag 

Place it on the page you’re driving traffic to. If it’s hundreds of visitors from your engagement or blog-related campaigns, BOOM! A custom audience is built for you that you can use to remarket your direct response ads – a list of people who are already kind of interested in you.

A Little Bird Told Me…

Promoting anything on Twitter is a balancing act. You have the bid, the engagement, the copy, the creative – there are a lot of factors at play. I’ve made the recommendations above based on what has worked for WordStream’s direct response campaigns. Feel free to adapt your ads to the audience and the offer that you are presenting them. There’s a lot you can accomplish in 140 characters or less!

Need more inspiration? Check out these 30 examples of Twitter ads.

About the Author

Brett is the Paid Acquisition Coordinator at WordStream. When he’s not playing music and enjoying weekends, Brett manages paid social campaigns and other lead generating mediums for WordStream’s marketing team. He has a strong passion for sarcasm and turtles. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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Apr 29, 2015

Good article thank you.

Eva Thomsan
May 01, 2015

Very Informative blog, Way of presenting information is very nice, I liked it and Thank you so much for sharing.

Caroline Cronk
Jun 02, 2015

There is a ton of great information here. The difference in engagement is drastic when you compare a link with no photo to a link with a photo or video.

Sarah W.
Mar 11, 2016

Great stuff!!! It would be awesome if you could make an updated version of this - I know Twitter has changed a lot since this article was written.

Emma Paki
Mar 31, 2016

Thank you, I needed that.

Aug 05, 2016

This is a fail for me. Where is my free download? I am looking for a "step by step" guide to download - as their webpage says. I end up on a blog post ! Who are you kidding here. If you are trying to justify you numbers by harvesting email addresses fine. Where is the fulfillment you led me to believe I was getting.
Don't use these guys on this basis - clearly don't know what they are doing

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 05, 2016

The blog post is the guide...

Aug 18, 2016

I agree with others - if you offer a download, you should provide a download not a blog post

Aug 29, 2016

Is there any way to get the tracking code without the adds.
So that I can see normal twitter engagement going to my landing page through Non-promoted tweets.

Sep 06, 2016

I'm a little annoyed that you required my email address and phone number for a "download" that didn't even exist, but rather I was just taken to a page with a list of links. You should reconsider the wording you use because it's similar to false advertising, and as a company dedicated to "online advertising," you should know better.

That being said, the content of this article should be reviewed and updated every 3 months at the MINIMUM. Social media changes rapidly, which means your strategy needs to evolve just as quickly. A lot of this information is pretty outdated, and therefore not helpful to marketers/advertisers who fall for the free download.

Lola R. Chronister
Sep 17, 2016

I think You should reconsider the wording you use because it's similar to false advertising, and as a company dedicated to "online advertising," you should know better.

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