Find a 'Tweet' Deal on Advertising Banner ads aren't the only way to advertise online; take advantage with these affordable alternatives.

By Lydia Dishman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The first question you must answer before launching an advertising campaign for a new business, product or service is: "Who is my audience?" Once you determine your ideal customer, you can go on to produce successful, targeted ads.

Social networking as an advertising tool is a new trend, but it's expected to represent more than 20 percent of advertising overall by 2014, according to recent studies. And Twitter is poised to lead the pack.

"Most advertisers are interested in reaching more prospects, especially new audiences, and getting direct return on investment," Brian Carter, founder of TweetROI says. "Twitter is a new place to [do that]. People are already talking about all kinds of things on Twitter--people who need what small businesses offer."

TweetROI is one of a small but growing group of emerging platforms that leverage Twitter as a low-cost medium for companies to place ads that reach very specific targets. Basically, a business buys into the service and offers a cash incentive to those who tweet its ads. Each platform has unique features and benefits, so it's up to entrepreneurs to decide which suits their business best.

Carter believes social media has the potential not only to help entrepreneurs target consumers more effectively, but also to bring in bigger returns by taking a larger bite out of that web-based pie.

Businesses send TweetROI their suggested text and a link, then choose campaign settings such as how much they will pay per tweet, a maximum number of tweets, how often they can go out and how long the campaign will run. There's a function for advanced bidding that allows businesses to pay more or less depending on the tweeter's influence and viral potential. According to TweetROI's website, Twitter users recommend stuff they like in their own words.

"Businesses should both build their own Twitter accounts and advertise via pay-per-tweet," Carter says, noting businesses can expect a faster ROI from their TweetROI investment than their social media labor hours.

"Pay-per-tweet is cheap compared to existing online advertising channels." Carter says. "TweetROI averages $3 per tweet and its average cost per click comes out to about 50 cents." He recommends that small businesses start with $500 a month to test the service. "It's critical that sufficient web analytics are in place to measure the conversions and revenue that come from pay-per-tweet," he adds.

Founded by Andy Arnott, a startup veteran, this service is designed to appeal to users who want to make money on Twitter and share that money with causes they are passionate about while promoting socially conscious advertising. AdCause allows both tweeters and businesses to suggest charities and to make donations directly to charities through PayPal.

Businesses that want to advertise can match their ads to tweeters by searching by name, location or number of followers. Tweeters control which ads appear; if they select a network option, only businesses that match their subject matter will display. Then it's click to purchase via PayPal, or to negotiate a better deal. The message will automatically appear on the Twitter stream of the chosen person when the transaction is completed. Campaigns start as low as $1, but Arnott suggests an initial investment of $100 to test the waters.

Sponsored Tweets
Brainchild of Ted Murphy, CEO and founder of IZEA, Sponsored Tweets lets companies see the potential impact of each tweeter by offering a graded profile based on the tweeter's number of followers and how often that tweeter engages in conversation. The service also allows tweeters to manually select companies whose ads are most relevant to their personal preferences. Though Sponsored Tweets gives businesses a how-to for suggesting content, tweeters are free to write the content themselves.

Murphy, like Carter and Arnott, recommends starting a campaign with a few hundred dollars--Sponsored Tweets start at 50 cents to $1 CPC. "Remember, it's not all about clicks," Murphy says, "Engage a broad range of people with large and small audiences. Pick the best performers and re-engage those people in future campaigns."

The service is also appropriate for building buzz, Murphy says, adding "I would use the tool to build followers and anticipation prior to launch."

Twitter offers a kind of word-of-mouth marketing that works, Arnott says. "It's a perfect fit for companies looking to form a lasting relationship with their customers. By engaging users with relevant ads, companies are not only building their brand but engaging their customers in a relevant dialog."

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