How crypto companies can approach paid ads on Twitter

The platform updated its cryptocurrency policy in the fall. We break down the changes.
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Francis Scialabba

· 6 min read

To understand crypto’s rise in popularity, you don’t have to look up statistics about NFT ownership over time, or hunt for attendance records for each of Miami’s many (many) crypto conferences in 2021. You just need to go on Twitter and see how long you can scroll before being interrupted by an ad for a crypto exchange.

Since 2020, there have been more than a billion tweets about crypto across the globe, Lara Báez, senior communications associate at Twitter, told Marketing Brew via email. Between 2020 and 2021, tweets about crypto increased sixfold. And a 2021 YouGov survey commissioned by Twitter revealed 84% of people interested in crypto use the platform, she said.

“Twitter is essential for any Web3 project. Whether they’re advertising or not, they need to have a strategy,” Jason Keath, co-founder and CEO of Social Fresh, a social media education company, told us. He’s not only consulted for companies that run paid crypto ads on Twitter, but also ran some ads himself for Social Fresh’s NFT Fresh conference.

Twitter knows that conversations about the crypto space are happening on its platform. It also knows that it can capitalize on those conversations with paid advertising. So last fall, Twitter updated its financial services policy to allow “a few specific” cryptocurrency products and services to run paid ads on its platform.

Since then, some crypto marketers told us it’s been easier to get ads approved on the platform. But others cite confusion around what Twitter requires from advertisers in order for their ads to run.

Wide open (ad) spaces

Twitter’s had an official policy on crypto advertising since 2018, way before most of us knew that we probably should hold onto that bitcoin for a few more years. From 2018 to November 2021, only public cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets listed on major stock market exchanges were allowed to run ads, Báez told us.

But in Fall 2021, Twitter not only rolled out a new policy permitting certain NFT-related ads, but also started letting more types of crypto companies run paid ads. Per Báez, Twitter updated its policy to “address an increased number of crypto products/services.”

Twitter’s financial products and services advertising guidelines on its website state that, in the US and several other countries, “the promotion of cryptocurrency products or services is only allowed with prior authorization from Twitter.” Prior authorization is also limited to managed advertisers, aka those with a Twitter ads representative, Jeff Melei, Twitter's director of financial services, told us.

Advertisers subject to this prior authorization include cryptocurrency exchanges, crypto “hot” wallets, crypto kiosks and ATMs, crypto credit and debit cards, crypto staking, and contract for differences (CFDs).

John Vance, director of growth marketing at Web3 marketing agency Serotonin, told us he’s seen firsthand how much easier it is to get crypto ads up and running since that 2021 expansion. “It definitely opened up,” he told us.

Andrew Tam, chief marketing officer at cryptocurrency exchange and crypto financial services firm BlockFi, told us that in Q2 2021, his company had to get that aforementioned authorization from Twitter before it was able to run paid ads. Although Twitter told us private crypto companies like BlockFi weren’t allowed to run ads until Q4 2021, BlockFi was an exception, as Tam told us it was involved in a limited Twitter pilot program in which a group of select advertisers were allowed to promote certain crypto products before the rules officially changed.

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After its approval, Tam said there was a bit of a learning curve figuring out what kind of ads Twitter would and wouldn’t approve. “It was sort of like, ‘You’re approved,’ and then we were like, ‘Alright, cool, we’re loading up a bunch of stuff,’” but then those initial ads would get flagged and not go live, he explained. That flagging can either come from a human being, like a Twitter ad rep, or an automated system.

Tam also told us he’s unclear if this learning curve happened to coincide with Twitter’s November 2021 update. Post-learning curve, things are running more smoothly, and Tam told us BlockFi plans to continue doing paid advertising on Twitter in the future.

But he said paid ads are more supplemental to the brand’s organic marketing strategy on the platform. And he’s not alone—other sources we spoke to who currently do paid advertising for crypto products on Twitter said the same. “It’s not where our primary budget sits for our campaigns,” Vance said of Twitter.

Melei told us it’s possible that the relatively short length of time the option has been available could play a role in why crypto marketers on Twitter are leaning on organic efforts more than paid. After all, many of them were essentially forced to lean on organic up until very recently, so testing and learning with paid could take a while.

He added that some crypto companies might not even know they have the option to put paid spend behind their content. “We’re five or six months post-policy rollout. Our’s on our public-facing web pages, but I don’t know how widely distributed or how well-known it is,” he told us.

The fine print

Melei also told us that in the US, in order for any crypto-related company to run a paid ad on Twitter, it needs to be registered with either the SEC, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

But not every paid crypto advertiser has been made aware of that. Michelle O’Connor, the VP of marketing and comms at crypto tax-software company TaxBit, told us she’s been having some difficulty getting her paid Twitter ads approved lately. She said she wasn’t aware of Twitter’s regulatory registration requirement.

O’Connor said that TaxBit was able to run paid ads on Twitter before its recent policy change, which could be because it doesn’t explicitly fall into any of the categories requiring prior authorization to advertise. But it hasn’t been easy. “I have 10 ads running right now. Four of the 10 are halted. And that means that there is an issue with the ad, but they’re literally the same ads, the same text, the same visuals, just targeting different audiences,” she told us. She added that the audiences are all “over 18, etcetera.”

“Those problems are still happening. In the early days, there used to be a lot more, but they’re still very, very, very present,” O’Connor told us. She added that TaxBit has a Twitter ads rep, but that they never told her being registered with a regulatory body like FinCEN or the SEC was necessary.

O’Connor told us that her Twitter rep couldn’t give her guidance as to why TaxBit’s ads get pulled. “It was just, ‘Let me ask,’ and then we don't hear anything back.”

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