Rise and Shine

Twitter Ads Vs Facebook Promoted Stories Vs StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

social-media-advertisingCan a content piece go viral just because we have full faith in it? – no

Can a content piece go viral just because we are doing our best promoting it? – no

Viral effect is mostly accidental. You can hardly predict it

We’ve talked a lot about going viral. Last week I listed some case studies of the real effects of going viral. More often than not something goes viral out of the blue… It’s the thing that makes the whole game that exciting

We can try to help it. One of the ways to help it is using paid traffic from social media sites. Let’s see how those work:

Twitter Ads (Promoted Tweets)

Offtopic: As a Twitter user (not as a Twitter advertiser), I HATE seeing irrelevant tweets on top of my hashtag search /rant

My experience

I haven’t had too much time playing with Twitter Ads (they are the newest of three) but my first impression is that with them, there’s no point in investing too much in each campaigns (better pay for lots of micro-campaigns.): While Twitter ads help “extend the life of a tweet”, you better experiment more…

Targeting options:

You can target by:

  • Target by keywords:
    • Keywords in users’ timelines: users who write or engage with Tweets containing your keywords
    • Search results: to users who search for your keywords
  • Target by interests: Reach users with specific interests or who follow specific accounts.


You can see:

  • number of views,
  • retweets,
  • number of replies
  • number of acquired followers

I couldn’t find the way to actually see those new followers, list of replies, etc… which is a shame.

Twitter promoted tweets

What others say?

Facebook Promoted/Boosted Stories

Just to avoid any confusion as to what promoted stories are (don’t confuse with sponsored)… Your page may have thousands of fans, yet none of them never even sees your page updates because they have low “EdgeRank” (that shows people what they better interact with)…

Facebook “Promoted Stories” feature bypasses Facebook “EdgeRank” and promotes stories to your page existing fans (smart isn’t it? First make up a limiting mechanism, then charge money for breaking it :))

Boost story Facebook

I also don’t think the page fans can somehow tell if the update was promoted (I’ve never seen any label like that) unlike sponsored stories.

With that in mind, let’s move forward…

My experience

I have a bit of luck with Facebook Promoted stories but mainly for my own ego 🙂 – i.e. I’ve seen a huge spike in page likes and engagement (which is always fun) but not much click-through… It’s quite addictive as when you start seeing much lower engagement level than your promoted stories got, you feel more willing to advertise again and again…

Targeting options:

Facebook has always been very fancy when it comes to targeting – meaning that you have so many options that your head wants to crack… But with promoted stories you can only promote to your page fans and their friends (which makes it useless if your page doesn’t have too many fans yet)


You can see:

  • Page post likes
  • Page likes
  • Page post shares
  • As well as some insight into clicks

Facebook actions

What others say?

Here’s a good case study from @econsultancy:

  • It is largely irrelevant (especially for niche sites);
  • It’s been created with consumer brands in mind;
  • It makes your page a good target of spam and fake accounts.

I can’t agree more with all the three points. Yet, like I said, it’s nice to see those dozens of likes from time to time!

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

This is the oldest kid in the block. I remember playing with it a few years ago – it had a different design then; yet the results have hardly changed.

StumbleUpon paid discovery traffic spike

My experience

I always see a spike in traffic (which is again good for my ego) but other than that not much action unlike what you see with free natural discovery at SU: People seem to do nothing and I’ve played with many types of topics and content either!

Targeting options:

  • You can target the campaign to category of the users
  • You can select more specific interests (“precise” targeting)
  • As for demographics you can target by age, gender, location and device (which was good to me as my projects were apple-specific, so it’s cool I could target to iPhone / iPad users)


For each campaign you’ll see:

  • Number of paid visits
  • Number of unpaid visits (those which were probably too poorly unengaged and thus you were not charged for those; I am guessing this is calculated based on time of page)
  • Number of earned visits (those visits that you earned because some of the paid users like / shared your page)

StumbleUpon paid discovery report

What others say?

The general consensus seems to be that paid discovery won’t help your article go viral (but may help if you, for example, promote an infographic for a client and want to make seem like it worked :))


Twitter Promoted Tweet Facebook Promoted / Boosted Story StumbleUpon Paid Discovery


By keyword (that people Tweet or search) OR by account (users following a user or an interest) None: Your page fans and their friends By topics + by demographic


Views versus actions “Reach” versus likes & clicks Paid visits versus earned visits

What result to expect

Sometimes you’ll keep wondering: “Where’s that comment which is reported; I haven’t seen it” A lot of likes, a lot of likes from fake accounts, a lot of spam comments Traffic spike, little action

Social media advertising is cheap, yet low-effective and time consuming. There’s no way to maintain them on auto-pilot: You have to go back and create new campaigns again and again.

If you have read up to this point, you may have noticed I am not a huge fan of social media advertising. I am not opposed to it either (and I’ll keep experimenting) but I don’t see it getting huge now. From the three above, Twitter seems to have most sense…


  1. Hi Ann,

    I have to disagree with the conclusion on stumbleupon… I have seen content go viral with less than $20 spend. It all depends on the content and the choice of topic.

    In my experience, content aimed at the popular “Bizarre” section does very well than the more niche stuff which is a lot harder to crack. Although the niche stuff is probably due to the fact that users who register for the niche sections are very picky so your content needs to beyond awesome.

    Whereas on the interests that every member is automatically joined to.. then they are easier to please.

    I am happy to share data if you want to take a look at some of our campaigns.

  2. Hi Ann

    I’ve just started using Twitter advertising and it’s working well for us but we’re only starting to dip our toes.

    However the weird thing I find is that they charge you for “clicks” and for the life of me, I can’t work out what “clicks” are.

    They’re certainly not clicking through to view the content as campaign stats vs “clicks” in Twitter is hugely different.

  3. Ann,

    I have to agree with your article. Having come from a travel organisation originally that spent a great deal of time and money on all areas of social media, I know the pains. We’re all chasing the elusive viral effect of content. We can see spikes in visitors but at the end of the day, it’s the click through that we all really want (and ultimately in my world… the sale). It’s the turning those views into sales where I believe social media to be failing and in fact, through own personal experience, I think it’s getting worse!

    Engagement and brand affinity is all good and well but if it’s not turning into sales then what’s the point. Whilst doing the engaging part naturally, why not offer a tool for these fans to actually buy whatever you’re selling… with their friends.

    At the end of the day, we, as users, are all on social media to communicate in various ways with friends and to keep our friends close. We don’t really care about what a company has to say. I think we aren’t seeing the wood for the trees with social media and are spending good money for very little return!

  4. Tried the 3 of them. I always get the exact same results as you Ann.

    StumbleUpon – Nothing, lots of pageviews, yeah, but no virality.
    Twitter – Nothing. And wondering where are those interactions they report.
    Facebook – Likes, shares, clicks, still no virality.

    Perhaps all the content I promoted so far wasn’t worth the virality I was seeking, but I’ve seen lots of content of worse quality going viral.

    • I tend to also blame it on my content but the fact remains: Social media ads are far less effective than contextual search ads…

  5. I have tried Facebook ads and Stumbleupon. It depends what your goal is. My goal is simply to get some momentum for my blog. I just do small campaigns for each post. I prefer Stumbleupon because the traffic goes directly to my website. I do not more likes for Facebook but very few click through to the website.
    I notice that I get more view on other non promoted blog posts when I run Stumbleupon campaigns. My vote is for Stumbleupon.

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