Race Planning: Why use Twitter paid advertising?

Race Planning Twitter Paid Advertising 3

When it comes to race planning these days, a paid social media strategy is a must. We covered some basic aspects of how race directors can better manage their social media last year. (Our original Race Directors Guide to Social Media can be downloaded here). With a new year comes a new (advanced) guide, chock full of more advanced tactics on paid advertising, ambassador programs, and the importance of Instagram and Periscope. Once you’ve got the basics down with your social media presence, here are some more advanced tactics to consider during your race planning to help grow your participant numbers. Like the ideas below? Download the full Race Director’s Advanced Guide to Social Media for more ways to take advantage of social media that your competition probably isn’t using yet.

So why use Twitter paid advertising….


Taking liberties with a Ferris Bueller quote, “Your Twitter feed moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”. On average, there are about 6,000 Tweets/ second Tweeted, which means over 350,000 Tweets/ minute, or 500 million Tweets/day. (Internet Live Stats). Bottom line, it’s tough to get heard through all the noise, unless you promote your Tweet, in which case it will show up at the top of the target audience’s feed when they log in.


Twitter offers a variety of targeting options: follower, device, behavioral, tailored audience, geographic, keyword, language, gender and interest targeting.

Here’s a breakdown:

1. Follower Targeting

Helps you connect with the people who are likely to be interested in your event or race. It works by displaying your Twitter Ads to people who follow specific usernames. Follower targeting is located under additional targeting, under Add followers. Tips:

  • Consider focusing on one of these follower targeting categories:
    • Competitors: Target the users of races/events who offer similar experiences in your area.
    • Similar events: Include the users of races/events/brands who aren’t direct competitors, but who target a similar audience (i.e. Boston qualifier).
    • Industry media: Try targeting the users of news sites, blogs, TV shows, magazines, etc. that focus on running, triathlon, mud runs, races, athletes, etc.
    • Influencers: Focus on the users who are influential in your community, or in the running/tri/mud run community.
  • Aim to target around 30 users per campaign to ensure that you’re reaching a large enough audience. The campaign dashboard gives you an estimate of the potential reach given those 30 users and their following.
  • Be specific. Target the users that are most closely tied to your event. Sometimes the biggest isn’t the best. You’re going to get lost in the crowd if you go after the big guys, like Nike. Sure they have 5.5 million followers, but not all of those followers will fall into your target demographic. Targeting smaller, similar accounts will ultimately render better results.

2. Behavior Targeting

Allows you to reach audiences on Twitter based on their shopping behavior, lifestyle and other key attributes. You can select from a variety of behavior categories. For example, you may want to target someone interested in fitness & health, or a specific cause or beneficiary connected to your event.

3. Keyword Targeting

Allows you to connect with users based on words and phrases they’ve recently Tweeted or searched for on Twitter.

– Keyword Targeting in Search:This type of targeting is particularly effective during seasonal events. For example, you might want to target users searching for Tweets about marathons. To do so, you could target general keywords, such as run a marathon, 5K training, and running, as well as event-themed keywords, such as Boston Marathon or New York Marathon.

– Keyword Targeting in Timeline:With keyword targeting in timeline, you can target users based on something they’ve Tweeted. For example, you could reach people who have recently Tweeted about signing up for their next race by targeting phrases such as planning next race or best half marathon.

4. Tailored Audiences

Are a great way to create remarketing campaigns. There are three ways to use Tailored Audiences:

Lists: Use email lists to reach existing participants.

Web: Target the people that have recently visited your website. You can collect this data using Twitter’s website tag.

Mobile apps: Reach groups of people who have taken a specific action in your app, such as install or sign up. You can collect data on who uses your mobile app with conversion tracking.


Twitter Ads are priced using an auction model. Similar to Facebook, you have two options to choose from when determining how to set bids for campaigns – automatic or maximum bidding. Automatic bidding enables Twitter to auto-optimize bids for a given campaign objective. Twitter will attempt to enter you into auctions with the lowest bid possible, while also delivering on your overall campaign objectives. Maximum bidding allows you to manually select how much a follow, lead, click or engagement is worth.

Race Planning Twitter Paid Advertising 2AD SETUP:

Create a Website Card

Website Cards allow you to promote your website by adding an image, related content and a strong CTA (call to action) button. Twitter claims that Tweets with Website Cards drive 43% more clicks. Much like Facebook Ads, the cards can be used with conversion tracking to measure the end-to-end conversions, like number of registrations.

It’s best to create a few versions of your Cards with different combinations of images and copy to see what resonates. You can monitor them in your Campaign dashboard and use that information to adjust as you go. Testing multiple ads and comparing results is the best way to create more effective campaigns and increase registrations in future promotions.

Create a New Campaign

(be sure to save as a draft as soon as you get some information populated… learn from others’ mistakes).

1. Campaigns > Create new Campaign

From the Dropdown, you’ll have the option to select:

  • Followers
  • Website clicks or conversions*
  • Tweet engagements
  • App installs or re-engagements
  • Leads on Twitter
  • Video Views
  • Custom

* For general promotion and registrations, you’ll select website clicks or conversions

2. Follow steps to create a Tweet and website card

  • Give your campaign a name.
  • Select your audience, language and devices
    • Targeting: spend time here (review our section above on targeting options). Note: As you add more to the targeting, you are adding more to your audience size, not narrowing it down.
    • If you’re promoting one event, you can target people in certain zip codes.
    • Think about words your target audience might use to search for your type of event (or even similar events in your area).
    • Use the “expand your reach” and “search Twitter for @handles to include” within the targeting tool to get ideas.
    • Target people following training advice, your competition, influential athletes in your area with a lot of followers, city/town Twitter accounts, etc. Do your homework!
  • Set your budget.
  • Start small. You can set a daily budget. Don’t expect things to work right from the get-go, and don’t give up. Give it time and be sure to test and learn. Contact Twitter and ask them if they will give you a credit to test their ads if this is your first time. They usually will give a $50 advertising credit to new business to encourage them to get things up and running.
  • Add your Creative.
    • As we mentioned earlier, website cards help increase conversion so take the time to create these.
  • Add website conversion tracking for best results reporting.


  • Don’t waste precious character count with hashtags. You’re already targeting through the paid advertising tools.
  • Separate campaigns by objectives and targeting.
  • Only test one thing in each campaign so you know what’s working (ie, image, Call-to-action, text).
  • With @username targeting, target at least 30 names of competitors and industry leaders if you can.
  • Don’t use more than 2 interest categories per campaign.
  • Optimize by checking the campaign dashboard to see what’s performing best. Wait a few days to gain some momentum.

Feel like you’re ready to move forward with more advanced social media tactics? Download the full guide below and use it during your race planning.



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About the Author, Thomas Neuberger

With a passion for social media and running, Thomas took what he learned from agency life and running one of the most popular running gear review sites on the web (believeintherun.com) and started Big Run Media in late 2014. Big Run Media’s mission is to connect, influence, and motivate your brand’s fans to take action and help your business grow. For more information and tips follow Big Run Media on Twitter or visit the Big Run Media Website.

Other posts by Thomas Neuberger