Everything you’ve been wondering about AP’s sponsored tweets: A Q&A with the people behind them


Now that we’re more than halfway through the AP’s sponsored tweet experiment, most journalists and consumers seem to have settled into one of two camps: The AP is selling its soul and forsaking its audience, or the AP is doing what it must to survive.

To recap: During CES this week, the newswire’s main Twitter feed is sending out two sponsored tweets per day from Samsung, both of which direct to a website Samsung set up for CES.

News organizations have been posting sponsored tweets for years, but the AP’s entry into the trend has been under particular scrutiny, and reaction has been wildly mixed. Some consumers and journalists have been perturbed or disappointed, others understanding, and some are downright furious.

We caught up with AP managing editor Lou Ferrara, who oversees social media in the newsroom, and Eric Carvin, the AP’s social media editor, and asked about the backlash, how the tweets have affected the account, what the future holds and more. 

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A little experiment with Facebook promoted posts

During ONA12 I went to panel that Facebook organized at their headquarters with several social media editors. I asks the panel if any of them any had tried experimenting with Facebook’s promoted posts. None had. So inspired by Facebook’s famous “Fortune Favors The Bold" sign hanging in the room (hey, it worked for the Romans and for Mark Zuckerberg), I figured I’d give the Facebook promoted platform a shot for Muck Rack.

Phillip Smith at The Tyee wrote a great story on Muck Rack: More tools for reporting at @TheTyee: Introducing the muckrackers to Muck Rack. I decided to promote his post with Facebook to get it out to more people.

First I added a status with a link to Muck Rack’s Facebook page like normal, but I clicked “promote”.

Then I choose to spend the maximum $75, because an estimated reach of 1.19k-2.21k isn’t cool, but 18.2k-33.8k is cool.

Here’s the results I got:

I also got to see three people who shared it (there may have been more who did so privately), presumably as a result of the promotion:

Of the three who publicly shared, I was only able to see Michele Weldon's profession on her Facebook profile page, which says she “Works at Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS)”. Googling her I see she even has a wikipedia page. Definitely the right audience for us!

However she “likes” our page, and I don’t know if she liked us previously or if she did so as a result of the promoted post. If it’s the former, I don’t know if she would have seen our page had I not promoted it.

I googled the other two people’s names. One of them had a LinkedIn page saying he works at the Chicago Crusader Newspaper South Suburban News, so also a fit for us.

In addition we got 29 likes:

If I had more time I’d google all their names to see if they match our target audience. Has anyone build a tool for this yet? If not we need more interns.

At the end Facebook used the whole budget minus 51 cents:

Lessons learned:

  • The echo effect (people you paid to reach resharing your content with their friends) of paying for impressions is just as valuable, if not more so, than just the paid impressions
  • It’s great to see the real names of the people you reached with your ad campaign, especially if you’re focused on a very specific type of user (we mainly want to reach journalists and companies & PR firms that want to get press)
  • Because Facebook’s privacy setting vary by user, it can be hard to tell if the people you reached are the audience you want to reach
  • It’s very cheap to experiment with Facebook advertising, you should do it even if you’re not in marketing (so long as you have at least $5)
  • It’s even easier to use Facebook’s ad platform than Google’s
  • In a way getting people to “like” your Facebook page is less an investment in list building like a mailing list, and more an investment into your ad targeting abilities