Last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address joined a growing number of national events that was critiqued, promoted, and shared via social networks—especially Twitter. Twitter conversations for major events, discussions tracked along a hashtag, have increasingly become as entertaining as the event itself. Now with promoted tweets, major events like the Super Bowl and the SOTU offer marketers the opportunity to promote products and raise awareness for issues and ideas at a moment when they know people will be paying attention.

But the easy access to large audiences does not necessarily guarantee the promoted tweet will pay off. Some tweets last night seemed aptly timed for the SOTU. The NRA promoted a tweet encouraging Twitter users to call their Congressperson and demand a rejection of the President’s gun control agenda. Some promoted tweets seemed to directly relate to the section of the speech where the tweet appeared or were at least very relevant to the content and topics. For example, Americans for Prosperity purchased a promoted tweet supporting their policies almost in response to the SOTU as it happened (see image below).

 

tweeting the state of the union

But some tweets really missed their mark. Promoted tweets encouraging users to tune into the SOTU “tonight” were seen in the middle of the speech, and some marketers promoted legislation and products that did not even relate to the content of the speech. Discounted flight sales and conference registration were the types of promoted tweets that really missed the mark of an audience focused on discussing the SOTU.

While some marketers capitalized on Twitter’s massive conversation (an estimated 1.36 million tweets were issued, according to Twitter), others fell short. In the aftermath of what could be called a national tweetathon, a few off-message promoted tweets may not seem like that big of a deal, but what is critical is that these brands risk losing the trust of their buyers by interrupting a conversation and completely changing the topic.

Promoted tweets, when used correctly, can effectively draw attention to the item or topic being promoted. For marketers willing to gamble, promoted tweets can be a fantastic advertising tool. Impressions are free and the tweets are priced at Cost-per-Engagement (reTweets, clicks, replies, and favorites; estimated at costing between $.50 and $5 per engagement). But buyers must beware that they can just as easily damage their brand as promote it.