This is a guest post by Hyder Jaffari from Weborithm. Guest post guidelines here.

Advertising is everywhere, from the logo on the computer you are using to view this post to the sidebar of this blog. Back in March 2006 when Twitter was launched it was a misunderstood product but, that did not stop it from rapidly gaining prominence by helping promote presidential campaigns to making bloggers “digital celebrities”. Most importantly it was advertisement and, to a certain extent, spam free.

That is not the case today.

While Twitter itself was late to its own party, by not launching any revenue generation scheme till mid 2010, this did not deter others to enter, at the time, this highly lucrative market.

Sponsored Tweets was perhaps the first company to offer a platform to advertisers to pay twitter users for a tweet. The concept has since then evolved to include a myriad of segmentation options, advertising models and even custom campaigns featuring celebrities.

But is it all really worth it to the advertiser?

WP Auctions Case Study

For those of you who don’t know, Weborithm develops a WordPress plugin called WP Auctions. It allows anyone to host personal auctions on their WordPress powered site. We recently released version 4.0 of the plugin and decided to use Sponsored Tweets (ST) to help get the word out and possibly make some sales.

Please note: We had won some free credits to use with ST, hence our liberal selection of “tweeters” for this campaign.

How does Sponsored Tweets work?

I’ll just go over very briefly how ST works with some supporting images.

1. You first enter the title, instructions and the URL of the product/site you wish to promote.

A BIG point to note here is that some tweeters will literally just tweet out the instructions you write. Yes, it has happened before in campaigns we’ve run on ST. Knowing full well the amount of creativity, read non-existent, tweeters have put in my past campaigns I decided to just go with text that they could copy and paste.

2. Here is the price selection feature where you can select what prices you want to set and even choose a few select twitter users you wish to invite.

3. Next, you choose more specific targeting like tags, countries and the time you wish for your tweets to be broadcast.

Once you’re done with the above steps you confirm your selections and your campaign is underway!

The Case Study Results

We choose some high profile tweeters along with others who had a large follower count. We’ve done other campaigns on ST, again with those free credits, that used their Pay Per Click model. In the Pay Per Click model you go through the same set up process above but instead you post a price you are willing to pay per click to a tweeter. The amount you pay depends on the clicks you get, almost exactly like the Google AdWords program.

In the above case we used the Pay Per Tweet model, i.e you pay per tweet rather than per click your link gets. The model does take the cost per click into account, which means your tweet may be sent out more than once via a tweeter’s profile.

(Click to enlarge)

CPC – Why it’s flawed on Sponsored Tweets

As you can see above it took some tweeters almost 3 tweets before they could reach the required CPC as determined by their history on the platform.

This is heavily flawed because there is a huge chance that most of the clicks will overlap from the previous tweets sent out. ST may have some checks in place to discount repeat clicks from the same users, but I highly doubt it.

Cost effectiveness

Having an overall CPC of $1.39 is simply way too high for any advertiser to see ST, and Twitter, as a long term advertising strategy.

If I were to actually spend the amount of money I spent with ST on Google Adwords or buying ad spots on popular blogs I would have easily made it last up to a month, probably more, and had an effective CPC of around $0.15 – $0.30 generating anywhere from 4000 – 3000 clicks.

Anyone can clearly see what would be a more effective medium.

Show me the money!

What?…What money?

Our grand total in sales from this campaign: $0

Now, before people jump in say that our product might not be cool enough, that’s not really the point of this post. But do know that we’ve been selling it quite successfully for the past 4 years taking into account how much actual time (very little) we spend on developing it. We solely develop it in our free time, me and my core developer have otherwise full time gigs.

In Conclusion

My experience with Sponsored Tweets could have used a lot of other variables to help the campaign like split testing, ad copy variations etc… Though, I doubt this is a medium one would use to test those variables. At best, I believe, Sponsored Tweets can only ever be used to promote offers that have gone through a testing phase and one that can make an impact on a twitter user who probably has the world’s shortest attention span of 0.140 seconds.

I believe the time is ripe though for twitter users, with high profile counts, to jump on the bandwagon and make away with some easy cash before this medium is overtaken by the next great social phenomenon.

Have you ever used twitter to advertise your product, i.e actually pay for a tweet? If so, share your experience in the comments and let us know about it.

Special Offer for Readers of this Blog!

Chris was able to find out where I live and gave me an offer “I couldn’t refuse”. So here is 20% off to anyone entering the coupon code “CHRIS” when you buy the WP Auctions plugin.

As a bonus offer, again “I couldn’t refuse”, I’m offering* any WordPress theme from my library on Mojo-Themes to anyone who buys the plugin with the code above completely FREE!

This offer expires at the end of July.

*Theme will be provided without updates or support.

About The Author: You can visit Hyder’s website, Weborithm, if you are looking for a web designer. You can also follow him on twitter @weborithm, he promises to never tweet a sponsored ad.