Can Your Management Draw?

23 Feb

Courtesy Dan Roam What is the simplest way to see if a leadership team is up to speed, on the same page, and in possession of an achievable vision? Ask senior executives to draw one picture that best illustrates their … Read More »

To Become a Better Leader, Be Aware

23 Feb

Lately I have been having lots of conversations with students and executives about becoming better leaders. While management literature is rife with descriptions and prescriptions for how you, too, can become an excellent leader, in truth, it’s not an analytic skill … Read More »

The Step-by-Step Guide to Building an Audience Before Your Business Launches

17 Feb

launch

 

It starts with a simple question:

How do you create a profitable business?

And while there are many answers, there are two basic models that all businesses follow.

The traditional method involves creating a product first and then finding customers to buy it.

And while it’s always been used to some extent, the second method typically hasn’t been as popular until the last few years.

As you might have guessed, the second model involves finding customers first and then building a product you know they’ll buy.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

With the first model, you’ll start bringing in revenue quicker. However, you’re more likely to have a poor product-market fit and create something that not many people are interested in.

With the audience-first model, you build the audience first. The best way to do this in most cases is with content marketing.

You build up a readership in a particular niche and then find out what its biggest problems are.

Finally, you solve those problems with a great product, which can lead to unbelievable conversion rates.

The downside is that it can take several months before you start seeing significant revenue.

But which model is better?

The answer is that neither is better in all cases.

Both models have been used successfully to build tons of successful businesses, so what’s best for your business depends on your preferences, skills, and investment capital.

If you can afford to delay revenue while you build up an audience, it’s the safer option (although it’s never a sure bet).

And if the audience-first method sounds interesting to you, you’ll love this post.

I’m going to break down the 7 steps behind building an audience with content and then creating a successful product for that audience. 

Step #1 – Find a customer in the right types of markets

You don’t often build an audience by accident.

It takes a methodical approach to find an audience and then build things (i.e., content) that they appreciate.

When it comes to picking an audience, there’s only one rule I recommend you follow: pick an audience you care about.

You’ll be creating high value content and tools for this audience for several months with no real benefit to you other than the promise of future profit.

It’s really tough to stay motivated if you’re creating content for someone you don’t care about.

Personally, I love marketing, and that’s why I write marketing advice for marketers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs of all types.

I care about my audience, and that’s what motivates me to continue to produce great content even if money wasn’t an outcome.

So make a list of potential audiences that you care about and could see yourself helping for months on end with no return.

You might have more than one audience that could work, but you’ll have to pick one at the end. Try to get as specific as possible (i.e., find your niche).

For example, if you like marketing, don’t just say your audience is “marketers.” Narrow it down to something like “small business owners who are trying to start using content marketing.”

That’s a very specific audience, which allows you to focus fully on helping them. You can always expand later (like I have, over time).

But there’s also one huge mistake that you need to avoid making:

Don’t build an audience full of people who don’t want to buy a product.

The simplest example of this would be building an audience full of minimalists. Minimalism is the practice of getting rid of as many consumer products as possible.

Obviously, minimalists are tough to sell to.

So while it can be done, it’s very difficult.

Compare that to an audience full of home decorators. They are constantly looking for new cool things to buy. If you create something great, you’ll have no problem selling it down the line.

So, how do you know if your audience is a good one?

See if there is a demand for products by them.

This is commonly called validation.

The basic idea is to determine whether your audience is already buying a decent number of products—competition is NOT a bad thing.

Competition means that there’s something worth competing for.

And when it comes to most niches, most products suck. You’re going to create a product that is head and shoulders above the competition, so you’ll stand out.

If there’s no competition at all, that almost always means that your audience simply doesn’t buy anything. In this case, find a different audience.

To validate your audience, you need to consider three types of audiences.

Product type #1 – Physical products: Some audiences only buy physical products. Usually, this will be an audience that consists of hobbyists.

For example, let’s say I really wanted to help swimmers.

Just going on common sense, I can guess they probably buy physical products so they can actually use them.

To validate demand for physical products, head over to Amazon, the biggest online store.

Search for a few keywords around your audience so you can examine the results. In this case, I’ll look for “swimming equipment”:

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The good thing about choosing an audience you care about is that it’s usually one that you know pretty well. Finding the types of products they buy won’t be difficult.

There are two main things you want to look for:

  1. Demand for products
  2. Reasonable prices (mostly $10+)

To see the demand for these products, look at the number of reviews most of the top products have. If they have over 100, they’re pretty popular.

Obviously, if your audience is interested in potentially embarrassing products, those products won’t get many reviews, no matter how many of them are sold. So, use a bit of common sense when evaluating whether there is a demand.

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In my case, the top four products all had a significant number of reviews. The fact that so many products on the results had a high sales volume means that there is demand for swimming equipment.

So that’s a good sign: it means swimmers will buy physical products.

Secondly, many prices start at about $10. As long as there are at least a few products with a high price and decent sales volume, it means that your audience cares more than just about getting the cheapest product possible.

Product type #2 – Informational products: I probably don’t have to tell you that most people are willing to buy products on the Internet.

This includes informational products such as e-books and courses.

Again, you can validate the demand for informational products through Amazon.

Search for your topic in the Kindle book store, or use the categories on the left side:

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A search for “swimming” revealed one book with over 263 reviews and another with 16.

Typically, Kindle books don’t get as many reviews as physical products do, so even 15+ reviews is a decent indicator of a sales volume (although not great).

You’re looking for at least a few high selling books.

You can also click on an individual book and scroll down to the product details to see its ranking in the Kindle store.

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Anything under 100,000 means they’re selling at least one book a day. Under 50,000 means they’re selling at least five per day.

The Kindle marketplace doesn’t represent your whole audience, so all you’re looking for here is some demand. Find at least three books made for your audience with a ranking of under 100,000.

If you can’t, your audience isn’t really interested in digital products.

In our swimming example, the demand is right on the edge. There’s some demand, but nothing special.

Product type #3 – Software products: Finally, web apps and tools are another type of product you should look at.

These products are usually bought by audiences whose interest lies in using the Internet.

Think of audiences such as marketers, freelance writers, designers, DJs, etc.

They all use computers for most of their work, so it’s logical that they’ll buy tools that help them do their work better.

In this case, go to Google, and search for your audience (e.g., swimming), followed by “tools” (or something similar).

Shockingly, there aren’t any online tools for swimmers. All the results are for things other than tools, and there aren’t even any ads (showing low commercial intent).

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Let’s look at an example of a high demand.

Consider my audience: marketers.

One thing I know they might be interested in is keyword tracking, so I could search for keyword tracking tools:

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This is a great sign. There are ads everywhere for paid tools, which shows that there’s a big demand for these types of products.

Try searching for a few different areas of interest that your audience may have to evaluate the demand.

After validation, narrow it down: If you went through all three types of products and found no significant demand for any of them, your audience isn’t a good one. Try a different one.

If you went through all three and found one that was good, you have a decision to make. Are you potentially interested in creating that type of product down the road?

Most people are drawn to one type of product. Some people love the idea of selling a web app, while others hate it and would love to sell a physical product.

The best case scenario is that there’s a demand from your audience in all three areas. If there is, you know that you’ll have your pick of options in the future.

Once you’ve gone through the process of validation for all your potential audiences, cross out those that won’t work, and then pick one that you’re happy to go after.

Step #2 – The audience comes first in more ways than one…

The audience comes before the product, but understanding the audience also comes before ever making any content.

Unless you understand your target audience really well already, take some time to research some basic demographic and psychographic information.

I’ll show you how…

Start with demographics: As you might know, demographics are statistics that can be used to describe a person or group.

The most common ones are:

  • location
  • age
  • gender
  • income
  • education level
  • religion
  • ethnicity
  • marital status
  • number of children

Your goal is to define any relevant demographics for your audience.

If you are looking at an audience interested in high heels, then gender is probably important. However, gender is not important for other audiences such as marketers or chefs.

Evaluate which parameters are relevant to your audience.

One way to find some of these demographics is with Alexa.

Search for any big sites in the general niche your audience is in using the top search bar.

That will bring up quite a few useful estimations, including gender, education, and browsing location:

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Alternatively, head over to the Adwords Display Planner.

In the “your customers are interested in” text field, enter something that describes your audience.

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After you submit your query, you’ll get similar to Alexa data, but likely with a few additional insights.

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You may have to leave some demographics blank, and you’ll be able to make an estimated guess about others.

The purpose of this is to try to define a reader persona so that you’ll be able to come up with content ideas that they’ll be interested in later on.

Continue with psychographics: This data is about what your audience thinks and believes.

For example:

  • Why do they want to learn about (your niche)?
  • How important is (your niche) to them (i.e., is it a hobby or part of their job)?
  • How do they like to learn (e.g., video, text, audio, etc., and on what type of device)?
  • What common questions do they have about (your niche)?
  • How knowledgeable are they about (your niche)?

You should try to answer each of those questions with a concise description.

Remember, the purpose is to build a profile of the way the people in your target audience think.

It’s very important and leads to the next step: positioning.

Step #3 – (Positioning) How you can eliminate your competitors

After step #1, you’ve picked an audience that is willing to spend money on products.

That means you will have competition.

Don’t be scared.

You can still be successful; it just depends on your positioning.

What’s positioning? Positioning is a way to make your audience associate you and your brand with a particular aspect of their interests.

An example will clear things up.

Let’s say you wanted to target social media marketers.

There’s only one problem…

If you just write about social media tips and techniques, you’ll have a tough time building an audience.

Why? Because people already associate social media marketing with sites such as Quick Sprout and Social Media Examiner.

If they just want to learn about social media, they’ll stick with the big sites they’re familiar with.

But those sites have weaknesses (gasp!). In fact, all authoritative sites have weaknesses.

While they might appeal to a large percentage of the overall niche audience, they can’t appeal to everyone.

For example, there are many people who like short, quick tips about social media marketing.

Considering the typical Quick Sprout post is at least 4,000 words, it doesn’t really work for them.

Others want social media marketing help, but only on certain types of networks, e.g., image-based networks such as Pinterest.

Obviously, all the big sites cover pretty much all the major networks, so it’s not exactly what these people are looking for.

Do you see where I’m going here?

There are many ways of standing out to a specific portion of the audience, which is more than enough to get you started.

You position yourself to appeal to a specific audience by creating content in a way that they want but no one else is providing.

For example, you could position yourself as the go-to person when it comes to quick tips about Pinterest marketing.

If someone’s interested in quick tips about Pinterest marketing, they aren’t coming to Quick Sprout—they’re going to you.

The beautiful part is that once they find you (I’ll show you how later), they’re going to LOVE your content. Since you’re producing content specifically for them, they’re going to think you’re reading their minds.

This is how you get loyal readers that not only read your content but help you grow your audience.

How to find your position: To figure out how to position yourself against the competition, fill out something called a positioning matrix.

A positioning matrix is just a simple plot.

You specify something to measure on both the X and Y axes. Then, you plot all of your competitors on it. This makes it really easy to see where there’s a gap.

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Step #1 – Identify differentiators: First, brainstorm all the things that your audience might find valuable.

A differentiator is anything that a reader may like or dislike.

For example, some readers prefer advanced content, while others want beginner content. The differentiator here is difficulty.

Here are some common differentiators; see which ones apply to your audience:

  • Difficulty: Easy vs Hard
  • Detail: Brief vs Step-by-step
  • Type of content: Mainly text vs Lots of images vs Rich media (videos, gifs, etc.)
  • Experience level: Beginner vs Professional
  • Cost: Cheap vs Expensive
  • Length: Short vs Long

Those are the most common, but there are others, so give it a bit of thought.

Step #2 – Identify competitors: Your next step is to list your biggest competitors.

This is pretty simple, especially if you know the niche already.

If not, just Google:

Top (niche) blogs

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Then compile a list of competitors from the top results.

For our social media example, this list would include:

  • Quick Sprout
  • Buffer
  • Social Media Examiner
  • Convince and Convert
  • Rebekah Radice

Ideally, you want a list of about 8-10 competitors.

Step #3 – Plot your competitors: Now, you need to pick two of the differentiators you identified before.

Then, create a basic matrix, with those differentiators as the axis labels. You can draw it by hand, create it in a spreadsheet or Paint, or do it any other way that works for you.

Here’s what it should look like:

image19

Now, you need to go through your list of competitors one by one and figure out how they fit on this scale.

For example, Quick Sprout posts are very long, so they’ll fall near the top of this plot. On top of that, my posts are written on somewhat advanced topics, so Quick Sprout also falls near the right side.

You want to plot all of your competitors on the matrix:

image11

Hopefully, you’ll see at least one big gap.

In this case, you could create either long or short content, specifically for beginner marketers.

And now you have your position.

Sometimes, you won’t see any gaps. Then what?

Then, you pick a new set of differentiators and repeat the process. You can find an open space for just about any large audience.

Step #4 – Kickstart your audience

Now that you’ve defined your positioning, you’re ready to start blogging, right?

Hold on a second!

If you just start blogging, you won’t have any readers (unless you have a large personal network).

There’s no point in blogging unless you can drive people to your posts.

While you can use promotional techniques to do that, they’re much more effective if you already have readers coming to your content.

So, what can you do?

The answer is to go where your audience hangs out on the web and get them to come to your website.

Then, you have two options:

  1. Write one or two amazing blog posts so that they subscribe to your email list
  2. Send them to a landing page offering them an awesome lead magnet 

The basic idea is to get at least a few hundred regular readers and then start blogging more frequently on your own site.

That way, your readers can help promote your content, and you’ll grow much more consistently.

In this phase, we’re looking for high growth tactics. How can you get hundreds of visitors and subscribers as fast as possible?

There are two main proven strategies.

High growth tactic #1 – Guest-posting: You figure out which blogs your readers frequent and guest-post on them.

But don’t just post about any topic. Post about a topic that you would write about on your own blog (remember your positioning).

The people that love that post are the ones you want to subscribe to your site.

I’ve written extensively about guest-posting effectively, so start with these guides:

High growth tactic #2 – Paid advertising: If you have money to invest and you want to save time, go with paid advertising.

It’s not too hard to get subscribers for $1-2 each once you practice a bit, which means you can build a solid following of 500-1,000 readers for $500-2,000, which isn’t too big of an investment.

The great thing is that you can do this in under a month.

Here are some resources on paid advertising to get you started:

Step #5 – How to grow your audience by 5-15% every month

Now that you have an audience of a decent size, you can grow it just by posting on your own blog.

Now, 5-15% isn’t a lot, but it adds up quickly due to compound growth.

Here’s what it looks like if an initial audience of 500 grows by 10% every month for 2 years:

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After 2 years, your new blog would have about 5,000 readers. That’s a solid audience.

And that’s a pretty conservative estimate. You might grow faster than that, but this is an easy minimum growth target that you can almost guarantee.

So, aim for 5-15%.

How do you do it?

It’s really not that complicated. There are three parts to it.

Part #1 – Come up with content ideas: Now that you need to write a lot of content, you need to build a content bank of great ideas for your audience.

Everything is about consistent growth here. That’s why you want a content bank.

If you’re just coming up with ideas as you need them, it’s easy to procrastinate or skip publishing content. It’s also difficult to have any connection with your other posts.

So, come up with as many good ideas as possible—ideally enough for at least a couple of months. Use these resources if you get stuck:

Part #2 – Create a sustainable content schedule: Once you have content ideas, you need to figure out when you’ll write and post them.

Again, you want to do this on a consistent basis.

I post on Quick Sprout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

That’s a pretty aggressive posting schedule.

If you’re worried that you’ll be stressed out and might not be able to produce that much content, go twice a week or maybe even once a week.

Whatever you choose, just be consistent, and you’ll grow over time.

It’s important that you put these posts into a content schedule:

image10

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.

You can use a simple spreadsheet to map out your schedule.

Part #3 – Figure out how you’ll stay in touch: I’ve alluded to it already. You need a way to stay in touch with your audience.

No matter how great your content is, people will forget about you if you don’t remind them.

The best way to do it, by far, is email marketing. Start building an email list of subscribers from day one.

You can also decide if you’d like to build up your followers on a social media platform as a secondary means of communication, but I’d say that’s optional.

It might help you grow a bit faster, but as long as the email list is in place, you’ll be okay.

Step #6 – Building products your audience begs you to buy

Now you’ve got an audience of at least a few thousand subscribers.

They love your content, and you’ve given them a lot of value up until now.

Now, you get to use your audience to generate product ideas that they’ll love.

No one will understand your audience that you’ve built better than you. This is how you’ll create a better product than anyone else can.

On top of that, you’ve built a relationship with your audience, and they will be happy to give your product a chance and give you valuable feedback.

How do you come up with product ideas this way? There are three main options.

Option #1 – Pitch product ideas to your list: There’s a good chance that you can come up with 5-10 good product ideas at this point in your business.

The simplest way to see if they’re actually any good (i.e., something people will buy) is to simply send a pitch to your subscribers to see if they’re interested.

Bryan Harris at Video Fruit posted an amazing behind the scenes write-up about how he did this very thing.

I’d recommend bookmarking that post for later reading, but here’s the gist of it.

He created a basic proposal for a product—a teaching course:

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He then sent it, but not to everyone on his list—he sent it to just 50 subscribers.

Why send something to your whole list if it could end up sucking?

He sent those 50 people this simple email:

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Remember that you can do this for multiple product ideas to different groups of 50.

When it goes well and your subscribers are interested in pre-ordering the product, it’s a good sign.

You can then send it to slightly larger groups to verify that you have a winner.

In total, he sent the product—that he ended up creating—to a group of 50, then 75, and then 100.

Out of those 225 people, 39 pre-ordered the course.

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When Bryan sold the course to the rest of his list, they loved it just as you’d expect.

Option #2 – Survey your readers: Surveys can be a useful tool as well to gain insight into your readers’ biggest problems.

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Once you know their problems, you can propose different products as solutions to those problems and see which ones they’d want to buy.

Surveys by themselves won’t often reveal great product ideas, but you should use them in conjunction with option 1 or 3 to gather extra data.

Option #3 – Pay attention to comments: Sometimes, your readers will tell you what they’d pay for.

For example, in a comment on one of my posts about using videos in marketing, Jessica said that she’d be willing to spend money to solve her problem of not knowing how to create professional videos:

image06

Boom!

Product idea right there. I could create a step-by-step course that shows customers how to create an amazing video.

Pay close attention to comments and emails that you get from subscribers. Once you start to get 5+ about the same topics with the mention of spending money for a solution, offer the solution yourself!

Step #7 – Turning readers into buyers

Once you have your product, you just need to sell it to your audience.

You don’t really need a fancy sales pitch because you’ve built a relationship with your audience over time. That’s one of the biggest benefits of this method.

However, on top of a simple email sales pitch, I’d also recommend using webinars to sell any expensive products.

I’ve had a huge success with webinars on NeilPatel.com as well as at KISSmetrics in the past.

The basic idea is to teach people something about a topic that’s related to your product. At the end, you do a quick, no pressure pitch of your product with some sort of an offer.

You can get conversion rates of around 20% with a good webinar, which is insane.

image14

Here’s a complete guide to using webinars to convert readers into customers.

Conclusion

You can create a product and then find customers to sell it to.

Or you can flip that model on its head and build an audience first.

When you build an audience, you build relationships that allow you to learn about your audience and create products you know they’ll love.

That’s how you minimize your chances of failure while getting great conversion rates and instant sales on any products you create.

I’ve given you the complete 7-step guide to building a business by starting with your audience, but it’s up to you to take action now.

I realize that we’ve covered a ton of details here, so if you have any questions, just leave a comment below.

6 Ways to Improve Your Twitter Quality Score and Make Your Ads Profitable

17 Feb

twitter

 

Inbound marketing is all the rage these days, but that doesn’t mean that traditional outbound marketing (a.k.a. advertising) can’t still be effective.

In fact, it has a huge advantage over most content marketing efforts…

It’s fast.

Really fast.

With content marketing, the average campaign takes at least a few months to see any real results.

You invest money upfront, but need to wait for the return. 

With advertising, on the other hand, you spend money upfront, but you see the results almost immediately.

Additionally, there’s no reason why you can’t use both types of marketing.

image04

That way, you get both immediate and long-term results.

I write a ton about content marketing. If you want to learn more about it, I’ve got you covered.

What I haven’t written about a lot is paid advertising.

In particular, there are a few advertising networks that provide you with a better opportunity than most.

One of those is Twitter.

And that’s what I want to teach you about today.

Twitter has a global advertising revenue share of 0.84%, which makes them one of the top 10 largest advertising networks on the planet.

You can reach just about any audience on the social network, and the ad platform is really simple to work with (and you can scale up easily when needed).

Download this free cheat sheet that shows you how to improve Twitter quality score and make your ads profitable.

The cost of your Twitter ads depend mostly on one factor: their quality scores.

I’m going to show you how to optimize your Twitter ads’ quality scores, which will have a huge impact on whether or not your campaigns are profitable.

The key ingredient of a great quality score and how it saves you money

In case you haven’t used Twitter ads much in the past, let me give you a quick refresher on the quality score factor.

Twitter, like all businesses, has a great interest in making its users’ experience as good as possible.

On social media, this means engagement.

If users on Twitter find posts useful, they will favorite them, comment on them, re-share them, and click on links contained within them.

From Twitter’s perspective, the more users are engaging with posts, the happier they are.

Enter ads…

Twitter allows businesses to show specific Tweets to a certain audience even if that audience doesn’t follow them. All they have to do is pay. This is also known as advertising.

But as you and I know, most ads suck.

And while they are necessary for Twitter’s business model, they can have a negative effect on the average user experience—that’s a problem.

In order to encourage businesses to create ads that users actually like, Twitter introduced a quality score.

It’s a simple concept:

The more engagement your ad gets, the less you pay. The less engagement your ad gets, the more you pay.

Larry Kim revealed some interesting numbers from experimental campaigns he ran:

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You can see the engagement rate in the picture right next to the cost per engagement column:

  • a 68% engagement rate resulted in a cost of $0.01 per engagement 
  • a 37% engagement rate resulted in a cost of $0.02 per engagement 
  • a 21% engagement rate resulted in a cost of $0.03 per engagement 
  • a 7% engagement rate resulted in a cost of $0.08 per engagement 

Those are big differences.

Those numbers show that an effective ad gets 8 times the engagement of a poor one.

In practical terms: You aren’t going to have a profitable campaign if your engagement rate sucks.

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Got it?

That’s all you really need to know about the quality score.

While you can’t currently see what the quality score of any of your ads is, it is mainly affected by your engagement rate, so focus on optimizing that.

1. Always use Twitter cards when possible

If you’ve used Twitter much, you’ve probably noticed that some Tweets stand out more than others.

That’s because smart users have taken advantage of Twitter cards.

Here’s what a regular Tweet looks like:

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And here’s what a Twitter card looks like:

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Obviously, having images and videos embedded into Tweets is going to not only increase the attention they draw but the engagement as well.

There are a few different types of Twitter cards, all of which have their own purpose. For example:

  • Summary card (optional w/image) – Typically used to share links. Shows a description, title, and thumbnail. You can also configure it to use a large image instead of the thumbnail.

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  • App card – You can promote an app on a Twitter card, and users can install the app directly from it.
  • Player card – embed a video (like the first picture I showed you above)

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There are few times where it makes sense not to use a Twitter card in your ad. But as a rule of thumb, always include one because it will improve your quality score.

How to make your own Twitter card: Regular users can create Twitter cards by including the right meta tags on the pages they link to.

For advertisers, it’s much easier (at least now it is).

When you first log in to Twitter ads and create a new campaign, you’ll need to select an objective.

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Most often, you’ll want to use one of the first two: Tweet engagements or website clicks/conversions.

Once you select that, you’ll be taken to a page with four main sections where you fill out all the details of the ad.

If you scroll down to the Compose Tweets section, you’ll see a form where you can create a new Tweet to promote.

In this form, there is another form specifically designed for a “card”:

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It’s pretty straightforward to use. You can customize the picture, headline, and call to action. The card description will be taken from your website if available.

Or promote an existing Twitter card: It’s also possible that you already have a Tweet (or Tweets) that you’d like to show to a larger audience.

To do that, just click the “select an existing Tweet” button to the right of the above form:

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I’ll show you why you might want to do this later in the post.

2. How to use “tailored audiences” to only reach users you care about

It’s marketing 101: You need to show your message to the right audience in order for it to be effective.

It’s difficult to sell ice to someone in Alaska, but not too difficult in Florida. Same product, different audience.

More commonly, it’s called targeting in advertising.

Twitter has millions of users, and you don’t want to target all of them with your ad.

Instead, you want to show it—target it—to a small percentage of those users who are actually interested in your product.

If you’re promoting a local event, you want to show it only to the users interested in your industry who also live in your area.

This is something else that Larry Kim tested. Specifically, he tested an ad targeted to people who live in the South Florida area against an ad with no location targeting.

Not surprisingly, the one that was more targeted had an engagement rate three and a half times higher than the other.

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That’s a big difference.

The more accurately you choose your ad settings, the higher the engagement rate (and quality score) you will get.

Targeting on Twitter: When you create a new campaign, you’ll be taken to a long page to set up your ads.

The targeting options are contained in step 2 of the process. At any point, you can see an “estimated audience size” on the right hand side:

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As a rule of thumb, you want to target under 100,000 people with an ad. If your audience is much bigger, it probably isn’t targeted enough.

How do you decrease your audience size? You start picking different aspects of the targeting system.

For example, I specified that I only wanted to target users in the United States with my campaign. Instantly, the audience was reduced from 316 million to 66 million users:

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In addition to the obvious targeting options such as location and gender, there are several other criteria you can pick from. Once you start adding them, the audience size will decrease further.

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Knowing which options to pick is what separates beginner advertisers from experienced ones.

Here’s a hint: You don’t need to use them all.

Many beginner advertisers start by trying to use every targeting option available. Then, when something works well or doesn’t work well, they don’t know which targeting option actually helped or hurt.

Instead, keep it simple, and focus on the main things that separate your target audience.

Overall, however, this is one of the most difficult parts of advertising, so expect to get better at it over time.

One reason why this can be difficult is because ideal targeting options can (and should) be different for every business.

For example, if you sell a fitness course, you can target all of the main countries (US, UK, Canada, etc.). Location isn’t a big issue, but you still may want to filter out countries that you can’t accept payment from.

However, you’d probably want to start by adding an interest. You could browse the “health” section of the interests and then target users interested in weight loss:

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In addition, you might want to target only followers of certain Twitter users who are in the fitness niche.

You can do some really in-depth targeting with the Twitter campaign creator. Invest the time upfront to explore all the different options so that you can find a way to describe your ideal audience.

Find more of your ideal users with a tailored audience: There’s one specific option that can take your quality score to the next level.

Under the “add interests” option, there’s one that says “add tailored audiences.”

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When you click it, it will expand to give you two different options.

Tailored audiences can be really powerful. Essentially, they allow you to create a list of ideal users and let you target them on Twitter.

So back to your two options. For either one, you will need to have some sort of an audience already because you need those ideal users on your list. So, if you have a brand new business, you won’t be able to take advantage of this yet.

Otherwise, let’s walk through what you can do.

The list is pretty self-explanatory. If you upload a spreadsheet with the email addresses of people (probably your existing subscribers), Twitter will see if any of them are associated with existing Twitter accounts.

Then, you can add that tailored audience to your campaign settings and target them with specific Tweets.

Where might you want to use this? Well, say you’re in the process of selling a new product.

It would probably be useful to use Twitter (in addition to emails) to keep the product in your prospects’ minds.

Alternatively, and more useful in most cases, you can target your website visitors.

First, you click that second option, which will show you a screen like this:

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Give it a name, select “site visit” from the dropdown menu, and make sure the tailored audience box is checked.

Then, save the tag and generate the code:

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This tracking code can be pasted into the HTML of any page on your website. Twitter will check if a visitor is a user, and if so, they will be added to your tailored audience.

There are a few situations where this could be really useful:

  • To spread your content – If you tweet a link to a blog post to a random Twitter user (interested in the subject), they have to first click the link (which only a small portion will do), and then decide to engage after. But if you target people who have already seen the content, they already know whether it’s good or not, and you’ll get a much higher percentage of shares.
  • To improve conversions – You can also put the code on specific landing pages. Then, you can offer those users a different bonus (on Twitter) to get them to go back to your site and opt in to your list. This is very similar to remarketing and is a great way to get high quality subscribers for low cost.

Note that it can take a while to create a large enough list to target. If you have a low-medium traffic site, you might have to let it run for a few weeks.

Once you’ve created a tailored audience, it will be available under the “tailored audience” section of the main setup page.

When you have a tailored audience, you don’t need to use any of the other targeting options on the page because you already have a highly targeted audience. Aside from that, your tailored audience list size likely won’t come anywhere near a hundred thousand people.

3. Be selective and reap the rewards

It can be incredibly difficult to predict which of your Tweets will get a ton of engagement.

That’s why you might not want to just jump into creating new Tweets as ads and spending money on them. That’s because if they don’t end up getting much engagement, it’ll hurt your quality score and, therefore, your budget.

Instead, you can first test Tweets by posting them on your account and then use only the very best ones for advertisements (or create similar ones).

Once again, Larry Kim did a pretty cool experiment that shows how effective this can be.

He had a Tweet that was already getting good engagement with his followers. He then promoted that Tweet using Twitter ads. He ended up getting over 100,000 visits and 1,500 retweets from his advertising.

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Guess how much it cost him?

About $250.

In practical terms, he was able to get 400 visits per dollar he spent.

Just about anyone can find a way to get this many fairly high quality visitors for that cheap.

So, if you have a few Tweets that have already gained some good engagement, you can choose “select an existing Tweet” in the campaign option:

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4. Advertising to get more followers? Testing comes first

I briefly mentioned it earlier, but there are many types of ads on Twitter.

Most businesses will focus on just one or two of them.

One common type is an ad to get more followers.

This is good if you plan to continue to use Twitter in the future and would like to get more followers so that you wouldn’t have to pay to show them your content every time you tweet.

If you go with one of these ads, engagement still matters, of course.

When you post one of these ads, this is what users will see:

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In the sidebar, there’s a section for suggested people to follow, and there’s a little “promoted” icon on it if you paid for your profile to be there.

Can you optimize this? Absolutely.

There are two types of reactions that users have after they see this type of ad:

  1. I recognize that name or picture in a good way, so I’ll follow this person.
  2. I’m not sure who that is. I’ll either ignore it, or I’ll look at their profile for more information.

There’s nothing you can do about the first one other than keep building your business and brand. Brand recognition will come into effect eventually.

But the second scenario brings up a great opportunity.

First, your image needs to hook users’ attention. If it looks spammy or uninteresting, the users aren’t going to bother learning more about you.

You should either use a really good-looking logo, or better yet (if possible), use your picture—people are interesting to other people. 

The big opportunity to raise your engagement, and quality score, here is to optimize your profile.

When someone clicks on your name, they see your profile, which consists of your picture, description, Tweets, and background profile picture.

Too many businesses ignore this area, but it can make a big difference in converting the users who visit your page into followers.

I’ll use Brian Dean’s Twitter page as an example of how to create an attractive one:

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Of course, this will perform better than a run-of-the-mill profile page.

As I’ve pointed out in the screenshot, there are three main areas in your control:

  1. The big background area – a chance to display your brand/logo as well as social proof (i.e., the reason why someone should follow you).
  2. Your profile icon – which also shows up in sidebars.
  3. Your description – a little bit about you and why someone might want to follow you.

You should optimize all three areas.

How do you do that?

You split-test.

Essentially, you change one part at a time, run an ad to get followers, and measure the conversion rate.

Then, you try a different description or picture, and see which one’s better.

For example, you use your logo as the small profile picture for one test and see that you end up paying $0.05 per follow.

Then, you use a picture of yourself, keeping the background image and description the same, and see that you only pay $0.03 per follow.

You can test whether you have a large enough sample size by using this simple and free sample size validator.

If you did have a valid sample size in that experiment, you could conclude that the picture of you was more effective. Next, you could test another element on the profile page.

5. How to study the competition and learn from them

Coming up with the perfect Tweet to advertise isn’t easy.

You basically have two options…

You can create Tweets from scratch and run them as ads, and if they aren’t working well, you stop them.

Or you can look at what is already working and create your ads based on that information.

The second option is far superior, and you’ll save a lot of money by finding out which ads work and don’t work before you create your own.

The next question is where do you find these Tweets to base yours on?

Well, you want to make sure that your advertisement Tweets will be well received by your target audience. Therefore, you want to look at the Tweets of your competitors.

They have largely the same audience, which is perfect.

If one of their Tweets is really popular, it would likely perform well as an ad. Conversely, if they get no engagement at all on certain Tweets, try to figure out why your audience doesn’t like them.

If you were running a blog on social media, one of your biggest competitors would probably be Social Media Examiner.

So, your first step would be to find their Twitter page, which you can do with a simple search on Google or Twitter.

Then, look through their past Tweets, and note down which ones have more shares, favorites, and comments than the rest. These are the high performers.

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You’ll want to gather at least 5-10 popular Tweets in the past few weeks/months.

These will tell you three things:

  • What types of Twitter cards perform best – i.e., videos, pictures, galleries, apps, etc.
  • What topics perform best for your audience – The above picture clearly shows that the audience likes social media tools (which I would agree with from personal experience)
  • Any particular format that works best – Some audiences like Tweets with questions, others like descriptions, yet others just like a good headline. Mimic the writing style of the most popular posts.

When you take those three factors into account, you’re much more likely to produce a Twitter ad with a high engagement rate (and quality score) than if you randomly created one from scratch.

6. On Twitter, everything moves fast (this affects ads as well)

There are many reasons to like Twitter as a user.

But one of the most common is that there’s always new content.

Even if you return to Twitter an hour after you visited it, chances are you’ll see a completely different feed.

Users on Twitter like this rapid state of change and expect to see new content constantly. If they see old Tweets or similar to old Tweets, they just skip them.

This has implications for your Twitter ads as well.

The first few days you run your ad, it will likely perform as well as it’s going to.

Then, it quickly goes stale, and your engagement rate continues to drop.

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This is common on just about every advertising platform, but it happens even faster on Twitter.

If your ad is shown to the same person, it will often be ignored, which can have a serious impact on your engagement rate.

On top of that, the ads will be shown to the most active users in your target audience first. As you approach the last parts of your audience, the less enthusiastic members of Twitter, your engagement rate will, of course, be lower.

How often should you change Tweets? Twitter itself recommends using at least three different ads for a campaign to slow down the speed at which they go stale.

But even if you create several Tweets at the start, they’ll still go stale—it might just take a few weeks.

The only way you’ll know how often to create new Tweets is by monitoring the performance of your ads.

Once the cost per engagement of a specific ad reaches a level that you don’t think is profitable, stop running that ad.

Then, create a new ad.

Here, you have two main options:

  • Immediately create a new, similar ad – You can create a new description and use a new image in your Tweet. Even though you’ll link to the same content, it’ll seem like a new Tweet to users.
  • Switch to a different topic – You don’t want to show the same users the same content right away even if the Tweet is different. Instead, you can switch to a different topic and come back to promoting the first piece of content in the future.

The second option is better in most cases. If you target a similar audience you targeted with the first ad, some people who engaged with the first ad will also engage with the second ad.

If you show them the exact same content, you can’t blame them for not being very interested.

However, if you show them new content, they’ll be as interested as they were the first time.

Then, when you start promoting the first piece of content a few weeks later, it won’t be so fresh in their minds. They won’t mind getting a quick refresher and still might retweet or engage with your Tweet in some way.

Conclusion

Twitter is one of the biggest social media sites on the Internet.

It has hundreds of millions of users, which means it can be used to engage with the target audiences of almost any business.

And while growing an organic presence on Twitter is a good idea, it can take many months to see real results (traffic, shares, conversions, etc.).

Instead, you can get those results a lot faster by using Twitter advertising, which is a fairly well developed advertising platform at this time.

But if you don’t understand the effect the quality score of each of your ads has on the cost of your advertising, you’ll have a difficult time creating a profitable campaign.

If you understand everything I covered in this post, you should know enough to get started with Twitter advertising and be successful.

If there are any parts of the quality score that you don’t fully understand, just let me know in a comment below, and I’ll try to clear things up.