Should Twitter Charge Surge Pricing?

Twitter offers brands a great value proposition: work hard, accumulate followers and they’ll see all your tweets in their feed. For free. The drawback is that free means the tweet shows up once in their followers’ feed. Promoted Tweets, on the other hand, are ideally placed close to the top of the feed, and presented to a targeted, chosen audience, not just their followers. Twitter charges by engagement: “Set a budget and pay for what works. Only pay when users follow your account or retweet, favorite, reply, or click on your Promoted Tweet.”

Peak TPMs during yesterday's World Cup game. Source: @TwitterData

Peak TPMs during yesterday’s World Cup game. Source: @TwitterData

But Twitter offers brands a great deal during periods when some topics are very active. Take, for example, yesterday’s World Cup match between Germany and Brazil. At its peak moment the game generated over 580,000 on-topic TPM (Tweets Per Minute.) This means that a company with a smart, programmatic tweet can garner incredible exposure for free. The famous Oreo “dunk in the dark” tweet was retweeted almost 16,000 times during Super Bowl 2013, during which the power-outage related tweets reached 231,500 TPM.

Of course, as more brands enter the fray and put together social media war rooms during major media events, it will get harder to hijack the mainstream and trending topics. That said, a smart, humorous, well-timed and well-hashtagged tweet can still go a long way. For free.

Which takes me back to my original question: should Twitter charge brands for programmatic advertising during peak TPM periods?

I say yes, but carefully.

Facebook generated a lot of anger for doing something similar a few months ago. Brands, businesses and nonprofits had built up fans on their Facebook page under the assumption that a status update would appear in all their fans’ feed organically. Earlier this year, Facebook slashed organic reach of fan pages to single digit percentages. Advertisers, especially smaller business and nonprofits, were livid. They felt that since they had made the effort to build up a Facebook presence, Facebook was denying them the fruit of their labor. Since that announcement, though, it seems Facebook advertising revenue has gone up. There was anger, but no backlash.

On Twitter, brands can achieve much more than reaching their followers/fans at 100%. Their tweet can be amplified and reach a much larger group. Twitter’s “surge” pricing can focus on payment for that extra amplification, say when a tweet is retweeted to over 200% of the brand’s followers. There will still be an incentive for brands to share creative, programmatic content but also some payback to Twitter for helping them. The user experience won’t change because these tweets will reach them organically.

What say you? Should Twitter benefit from the exposure it’s giving brands?



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