How Truth developed a nasty Twitter habit and hooked 40 percent of viewers

The anti-smoking group Truth Initiative has basically adopted every ad strategy Twitter offers, and it says it’s getting more than 40 percent of viewers to engage with its videos this way.

Truth’s marketing shows the growing sophistication of the messaging site, which has been heavily promoting its video capabilities. Twitter is out to prove it is a viable rival to Facebook and YouTube in video and advertising technology.

Truth and Twitter are holding up Truth as an example of how to successfully market on the messaging site and through the Twitter Audience Platform. They said the nonprofit group is getting a 15 percent engagement rate on videos on average and it is paying an efficient 5 cents a view.

That compares with Twitter’s average engagement rate of about 5 percent on promoted videos, Asche said. However, the group also said that the 15 percent rate was conservative, and that it has seen the rate of people viewing or interacting with the videos exceed 40 percent.

The stats were from ads that Truth bought on the Twitter Audience Platform, which delivers ads outside of Twitter. The organization also sponsors heavily on Twitter itself.

Indeed, Truth is using just about every available tool on Twitter and beyond to boost those numbers. Eric Asche, Truth’s CMO, said a lot of the campaign’s success comes down to targeting.

“What we’re able to see with Twitter is that the more we’re able to be granular in terms of who we’re talking to, and the more we’re able to marry people back to a specific message, the better the engagement, and the rate goes up,” Asche said in a recent interview.

Truth is finding targets for its messages based on its own email lists, and it is targeting Twitter users by age, location and interest — using Twitter’s Tailored Audience toolbox.

Truth also buys Promoted Trends and does TV targeting, which means it runs commercials during broadcasts and serves Promoted Tweets to people conversing about the shows.

For example, Truth bought the Promoted Trend Oct. 4 and 11 to participate in the season premiere of “The Walking Dead,” the No. 1 show on cable. It also bought the Promoted Trend during the season finale of “Fear The Walking Dead” last weekend.

The latest campaign also taps top social media personalities Jerry Purpdrank and Logan Paul, who made it big on Twitter’s Vine video platform.

The two Vine stars will partake in the campaign that riffs on the “Be Like” meme — “Big Tobacco Be Like” and then insert some funny punchline. The “Be Like” campaign, and other Truth efforts, are done with help of the agency 72 and Sunny.

Asche said Truth also uses Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming network. It all adds up to a comprehensive Twitter effort, which is exactly the kind of approach the messaging site hopes marketers embrace.

Just this week, Twitter held a VideoNow event where new CEO Jack Dorsey discussed all the video opportunities with brands and agencies. The company has to show sometimes skeptical advertisers that its ad tools are on par with rivals, even though it does have significantly fewer users than Facebook or even Instagram.

Advertisers are looking for more scale, wider audiences, and more accurate targeting.

Twitter also just launched Moments, a new feature that showcases the most popular live events being discussed at any given time.

Moments gives each topic its own dedicated channel filled with content specific to that timely issue, and there will be Sponsored Moments, as well.

Cas Marburger, Truth’s social media manager, said that the organization would not be the first to sponsor Moments, but eventually it would use that marketing vehicle, too.

“The strategy is to be nimble,” Marburger said. “It’s important to be able to move with the new things.”

Truth also has run ads on Snapchat, and it claims successes there, too.

On Twitter, the group is showing that Facebook could have some competition by way of targeting and personalization.

Truth uses an advanced content strategy to target hyper-specific messages to different audiences, a tactic that is increasingly necessary online.

“We can’t be in a position where we solely communicate in the passive media of TV anymore,” Asche said. “The ability with Twitter to be individualistic has been transformative.”

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