Twitter is great. Well, it can be. Especially for companies that want to engage with their customers directly. But how do you reach a wider audience than just your followers?

Sponsored tweets allow companies to pay to have their message reach users who are not following them, and get exponentially more eyes on their product or service. They can be a powerful tool, but like any other platform, there are some important dos and don’ts to remember.

1. DO try to blend in

People can be strangely protective about their Twitter feeds; many see them as personalised expressions of themselves, a sort of safe space to interact with their friends. Okay, and celebrities. So when some unhip company intrudes on that by prattling on about their product, reaction can be negative.

Just as you should optimise your message for any platform, optimise it for Twitter. Tweet coinciding with a big event? Jump on the hashtag wagon, and tweak it for your product. Got an important celebrity endorsement you want to draw attention to? Go ahead and tag them with the @ sign. Blend in with the Twitter crowd. Not just during sponsored tweets, but especially during sponsored tweets.

Just as you should optimise your message for any platform, optimise it for Twitter. - Highlight to share -

2. DON’T try to trick people

That said, don’t try to trick users into thinking it isn’t an advertisement. People hate to feel deceived or duped. It’s okay to announce that you have a product or service that you’re selling. It’s okay to announce that you’re a company and not a twenty-something millennial.

The fact of the matter is, good ads still work. Even – yes – on Twitter.

3. DO offer good content for clicks

People are not going to click an advertisement just to be advertised to, at least not often. If you want their eyes on your brand, you have to remember the age-old rule (at least of the 21st century): content is king.

When Red Bull sponsors a tweet, they don’t just show the nutrition label on one of their cans. They create astonishing, exciting videos of action sports athletes that they sponsor; videos that captivate and entertain, videos that even people with no (previous) inclination to buy a Red Bull would gladly click on and watch.

So whether it’s videos, pictures, engaging copy, useful tips, or something else entirely, remember that your customers’ time is valuable, and they won’t give you their attention for nothing. You don’t need explicit content, but you do need content, explicitly!

Your customers' time is valuable, and they won't give you their attention for nothing. - Highlight to share -

4. DON’T forget to answer replies like you would any other tweet

Perhaps the cardinal sin that companies can make when it comes to customer interactions on social media is to forget to interact! Twitter (along with other social media) offers direct, organic, real-time customer feedback – those precious, valuable moments where your marketing department doesn’t have to guess what customers want; customers are telling them. To fail to seize upon these insights by simply tweeting and then not engaging is to squander them.

Many companies forget that sponsored tweets can (and should!) be replied to like any others. Marketing departments pay per interaction, so some are hesitant to engage via sponsored tweets. But customers that have taken the time to respond to an advertisement – especially those who request additional information about the product or service being advertised – have often pre-qualified themselves as a potential sale. So please, DO talk back!

5. DO watch out for trolls

Remember: this is the internet. Worse, this is Twitter. Trolls – those who get their jollies by hassling, aggravating, and fooling others – know that companies pay for sponsored tweets by the interaction, and will try to goad even the most disciplined social media marketer into wasting their budget answering tweets like “Your product made my trousers catch fire” or “Product is invisible, please help.”

Obviously, respond to all genuine interactions but be aware that Twitter – of all the places on the web – can be littered with troublemakers.

Five dos and definitely don'ts of sponsored tweets