Re-Tweet This: 'Austin American-Statesman' Tries to Make Money on Twitter

By: Jennifer Saba Hey, who says you can't make money on Twitter feeds? In Texas, the Austin American-Statesman is doing its best to monetize its legions of followers.

Today, the Statesman launched its very first Twitter ad. The ad is for a local haunted house "Mansion of Terror" and lures people to come with a "buy 1 get 1" ticket offer by mentioning the tweet. NiemanLab was among the first to spot it and re-tweeted it to a wide audience.

Said Tim Lott vice president of audience strategy at the Statesman: "We and Robert Quigley, social media editor, have worked really hard in the last year to grow the size of our audience through Facebook and Twitter. After a certain point you want to make money on that effort."

The Statesman decided to go out and offer Twitter ads to the community on two of its main Twitter accounts -- Statesman (13,843 followers) and Austin 360 (10,098 followers). In total, the Statesman maintains about 50 Twitter accounts including those of staff reporters.

The rules of advertising on the feeds are pretty strict. It's only offered Monday through Friday. The ads go out twice a day only, once at 10:30 a.m. and once at 3:30 p.m. on both the Statesman and Austin 360 feeds. The tweets are labeled as advertising. They can only be 120 characters including the URL to ensure that code for retweeting fits. They ads are only available for food, drink and entertainment categories and they must be "actionable," explained Lott. That means coupons, discount offers and the like, not branding ads. The cost is $150 per ad.

Social Media Editor Quigley said the Statesman surveyed its Twitter community last year to get a sense if advertising would be accepted. They found people didn't object as long as the ads are relevant and had some kind of offer.

Explained Lott, "We're not selling this or telling [advertisers] they are going to have tremendous click through rates. We don't know."

What they do know is that advertisers would find value getting in front of a desirable audience.


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