The Branch: Twitter Ad Network That’s Not on Twitter

By Josh Catone
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thebranch-logoWhen it comes to advertising on Twitter (and we’re talking advertising here, not marketing), there are two popular methods. That first is employed by TwittAd. They sell static advertising on the backgrounds of people’s Twitter accounts. Twitter itself has employed this method in Japan. But it doesn’t work for two reasons: first, the backgrounds are static and can be engaged with in anyway, and second, and more importantly, not a lot of people use Twitter’s web site. The majority of Twitter traffic comes via the API. In other words, most people see tweets via a third party client, and not many users will actually see your ad.

The second method of advertising is direct, in stream ads. This is what Magpie does, and something Twitter was reportedly testing last April. Twitter never added in stream ads, and there’s probably a reason: people hate them, so they’re likely ineffective. Twitter already has a poor signal to noise ratio that increases as you follow more people — add advertising to the mix and things could get bad, fast. That’s why we called Magpie a terrible idea when it launched.

So the two main methods of pushing advertising to Twitter users don’t really work. A new ad network called The Branch thinks they’ve found a third method. We think it makes more sense than the other two, but it can’t really classified as a Twitter advertising method.

The Branch is essentially a traditional ad network that deals exclusively with sites and tools that are highly trafficked by Twitter users. The idea is that while you can’t effectively advertise directly to Twitter users, you can advertise on the sites they frequent. Right now, the site sells advertising on the ultra-popular Twitpic, and Twitter Gallery.

We agree that The Branch will likely be more effective at reaching Twitter users than TwittAds and less invasive than Magpie, but it also misses on the targeting opportunities that exist in Twitter. You’re no longer able to target specific users, influencers, or groups of users. Rather, The Brand essentially sells run of network ads on popular sites — those sites just happen to be popular with people who also use Twitter.

The Branch was founded by Zerk Media, which also owns targeted advertising networks serving the Ruby and Microsoft developer communities. So they definitely have some ad network cred could certainly be successful. However, The Branch is also still not that elusive Twitter advertising solution.


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  • Charles Baldwin

    You stated that “not a lot of people use Twitter’s web site.” However, after checking a few websites that provide such statistics, such as TweetStats, it actually appears that, at least, fifty percent of the tweets do come from the web.

  • @Charles: Yes, but they’re not visiting OTHER people’s Twitter accounts. Those are people viewing their own.

    Most of the traffic to Twitter, afaik, is people going to their own page to tweet or view the Twitter stream of their followers. Only a very small percentage of that traffic is people viewing other people’s Twitter account pages. So the point about TwittAds is still valid, unless advertisers are paying to advertise only to you.

  • jwalker37

    Twittad is just a bad idea. Calling Magpie “a terrible idea” was probably generous. The Branch is trying to make the best of a tough situation, but is thinking old school. Josh, I think you’ve nailed it with your analysis.
    Could it be that no one makes money off Twitter itself, and it remains a secondary promotional device?

  • Dusty

    I just released a new Twitter ad network called FeaturedUsers. It provides a way for Twitter app developers to make money, and for Twitter users to get more followers. It’s kinda’ like The Branch Network above, but instead of standard banners, it display’s “featured” Twitter users. The beauty in this is that Twitter users end up supporting the apps they use and depend on. In return they get exposure to other Twitter users, hopefully increasing their follower count.

    I hope you’ll check it out.