With rumours rife that Twitter is preparing to open its API for online advertisers, ClickThrough copywriter Jack Adams takes a look at the growing world of paid search advertising across the Internet and social media networks…

Tongues were really set-a-wagging at the start of this week – and no, not just because of Beyoncé’s Superbowl performance, which saw 5.5million people try to cram superlatives into a mere 140 characters during her halftime show.

In the digital marketing world, at least, the rumour mill was overrun with chatter regarding the potential release of a Twitter advertising API .

In effect, the API would allow advertisers to create huge targeted campaigns across the micro-blogging social network.

Analysts are already speculating that Twitter could see its revenue could surpass the $1 billion mark in 2013. The potential addition of an advertising API would only serve to boost these figures further.

Such huge revenues underpin the growing importance of online advertising.

Whether it’s AdWords in Google, Sponsored Tweeting, or Facebook Adverts, most Internet users are bombarded with ads – regardless of where they turn in an increasingly networked series of online corridors.

For some, tricks like remarketing – when a brand’s ad ‘follows’ you around after a related search – are plain confusing; many of those unnerved by the power of ‘net are drawn into the assumption that they’re being stalked.

And to some extent, they are.

But this isn’t exactly a new thing.

So, what examples are there of paid search advertising already being widely utilised on the Internet?

Internet marketing:

Google ads – It’s been well publicised that the search engine giant makes the majority of its revenue from advertising – 96% or so, to be precise. However, a considerable portion of this is made through its pay per click advertising service, AdWords.

With AdWords, advertisers bid on keywords they want to trigger their ads to appear within Google’s SERPs. Google has also recently taken the decision to switch its previously free Shopping service to a pay per click format – the UK phase-in will start on Feb 13 with the introduction of product listing ads.

Bing ads – Bing rather cleverly offers the option for AdWords advertisers to migrate entire campaigns across search engines. So, if you currently run Google ads, you can use the same ones in Bing. But what’s ad homogenisation if not utterly complacent?

Bing obviously doesn’t rely on Google marketers: you can log in and set up Bing Ads without previous experience: and, being Microsoft-run, Bing offers lots of Windows-esque tutorials to help.

Bing ads open the doorway to the The Yahoo! Bing Network – a Frankensteinic ad offering formed after the amalgamation of Bing and Yahoo!’s search offerings. There are 152m users and Yahoo!’s homepages remain amongst the most-visited on the whole Interwebs, so there is clear benefit here. One big difference with Bing is the ability to see meaningful social information on the search pages: this clearly requires forethought for social media marketing tied to ad activity in search.

Social Media Marketing

Facebook advertising – Facebook ads look quite similar to Google ads: positioned on the right-hand side away from organic content. On Facebook, punchy headlines grab attention, big images attract the eye, and clicks often take you direct to a profile page or landing page. Unlike Google, Facebook ads aren’t triggered by searches: they are triggered by your interactions. Like music? Get followed around by band ads. Like Nintendo? Ditto for video games.

This kind of blatant advertising though, is supplemented by more subtle ads: Sponsored Stories.

Launched right at the start of 2012, Sponsored Stories appear in all users’ newsfeeds on the site, based on the profiles/advertising pages they have “liked” (ie the Coca Cola or McDonalds Facebook page).

Despite fitting in with the uniform appearance of the Facebook newsfeed, these paid ads are clearly designated as being Sponsored Stories.

Currently, just the one ad can be displayed per day in a user’s timeline. But with 800 million users, campaigns conducted via Facebook Sponsored Stories certainly aren’t limited in their reach.

Foursquare – Foursquare is the location-based “check in” service that sees people announce they are at the supermarket or the local pub. In mid-2012, Foursquare launched ad options tied to “check in” deals – customers got money off deals if they ‘checked in’ to a shop. Promoted Updates allow advertisers to send local updates to users if they’ve previously checked in at the shop, or used similar services locally.

Pinterest – The launch of business pages gave Pinterest its first commercial option for advertisers. The pages are free and aren’t as brandy as those on Facebook or Google, but do seem to support the consumer journey, as customers browse big images on the site then go away to make a purchase. Expect far more options from Pinterest in the future.

LinkedIn – The professional network (it wears a suit and tie whilst Facebook wears Bermuda shorts), LinkedIn offers ads targeted by job title and function, industry and company size, seniority and age and by interest Groups. The pay by click model is relatively fluid but is best used for B2B marketing, naturally.

Twitter advertising options

Twitter currently offers a handful of ad options, including Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts. Each gives advertisers a different way to display their products/offerings to Twitter users.

Promoted Tweets are straightforward: pay to ensure a tweet gets visibility. Promoted Trends allow brands to leapfrog up the ‘trends list’, and Promoted Accounts get repeated showings in the ‘follow these people’ lists.

The new API is still unconfirmed: Twitter has refused to comment on stories previously posted on Reuters and Techcrunch – but it would be remiss for the microblogging site to miss out on the revenue opportunities such a move would unleash.

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About the author:

Jack Adams is a copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing, and is a qualified journalist. Jack also has a degree in Journalism, with a specialist focus on citizen journalism, which includes blogs, web content and social media.