How to Use Twitter Ads to Generate Buzz At Conferences

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It’s true, iPad giveaways, funny t-shirts, and live product demos are cliché, but you don’t need tacky conference “swag” to effectively generate new leads or reach your target customer at a trade show or conference. Use Twitter. Here’s how to use Twitter ads to help you generate more traffic at your conference, and on your website. 

Twitter allows conference organizers to share up-to-the-minute updates about conference events, breakout sessions, announcements, and even networking opportunities. For conference exhibitors, Twitter is the perfect platform to connect with attendees and reach a much broader audience of potential customers who couldn’t attend the event.

To help your brand stand out in a crowded exhibit hall, here are two Twitter hacks to help boost your brand awareness and generate potential leads.

Create or Subscribe to Twitter Lists 

There are three reasons why growth marketers need to start adding Twitter Lists to their digital marketing toolkits.

First, lists can help filter out the noise of tweets about politics, celebrity gossip, and the latest Internet challenge, and allows you to create a curated Twitter timeline from only the accounts you add.

This is a great way to easily keep track of a competitor’s activities, quickly find updates, and follow the ongoing conversations from industry influencers.

Secondly, public Twitter lists saves you time from having to manually research Twitter influencers and key accounts yourself.

Let’s say you want to find journalists who cover the financial industry to cover your new app. Instead of doing several Google searches or investing in influencer marketing software that can cost thousands of dollars, you can subscribe to existing Twitter lists of influencers.

Third–and here’s a personal Twitter hack of mine–you can use Twitter lists to create your own little Twitter Group. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter doesn’t have a formal “group” feature. But with Twitter lists, you can encourage your friends, colleagues, or potential clients who may be interested in the content curated in your Twitter lists.

To put this into perspective, I work at a PR agency and my colleagues and our clients are always looking for opportunities to build relationships with journalists and social media influencers around certain topics, like financial news, consumer news, health news, etc.

As a result, we create Twitter lists with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in each of these verticals, and we encourage our colleagues and some clients to subscribe to them. Having a curated timeline of tweets from these key stakeholders helps us–as PR professionals– better understand what these writers are talking and tweeting about in real time so we can pitch them a new story idea at just the right moment.

If I’ve successfully convinced you to start using Twitter lists (and I hope I have), here’s how to get started:

Start by clicking on your profile icon to show the drop-down menu. Then click on “Lists”.

Creating a Twitter List - Step 1

Next, on the right side of your screen, click “Create new list.” If you’re on a mobile device, click the “Create new list” icon.

Select the "Create new Twitter list" icon

Then, you’ll select a name for your list and write a short description.

Next, select if you want the list to be private (i.e. only you’ll have access to it) or public (i.e. any Twitter user can subscribe to your list). When you’re done, click save. If your goal is to grow your list, don’t make it private. 

Now, with a list set up, there are two ways to add a new user to a list. The first method is to click on the new list you’ve created and then add users by name.

how to use twitter ads by adding an account

Alternatively, you can add an account to your list from the account’s profile page.

To do so, visit the profile page of an account you’d like to add. On the right side of their page, click on the overflow icon (the three vertical dots). On the dropdown menu, select “Add or remove from lists…”

How to Manually Add an Account to a Twitter List

Next, you’ll see a popup with all of the lists you’ve created. Simply click the checkbox next to the the lists you would like to add the account to.

Adding an Account to Existing Twitter List

When you’ve finished adding all of the accounts you’d like to follow to your list, you can view a live stream of tweets from that list by clicking or tapping the “Lists” tab, clicking on the list you want to view, and then you’ll see a curated timeline of tweets from the accounts included in your list. That’s it! 

In an ideal world, you’ll have plenty of time to add accounts to your Twitter lists yourself…or you can subscribe to an existing one!

Let’s say I want to subscribe to a list of tech influencers that are likely to attend and/or talk about the CES Conference. Before creating a brand new list, I’ll go to the CES official Twitter page and select the “Lists” tab.

Finding Existing Twitter Lists

When I see all of the lists CES is subscribed to, I notice a list curated by Mashable that has “Experts and sources to keep up with the latest in tech”– exactly what I was looking for.

Twitter List of Tech Experts

When I click on the list, I immediately see a timeline of tweets from the list members, and I can also see individual members of that list. 

Adding Twitter List Members

Next, I can either subscribe to the entire list, or I can select individual accounts from this existing list to add to a brand new list I’ve created, which saves me a lot of time.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of Twitter lists, let’s move on to my next hack: event targeting.

How to Use Twitter Ads Event Targeting Feature

You may be familiar with Twitter ad targeting features, but I want to specifically focus on the Event targeting option. 

Aside from targeting ads based on a user’s behavior, interests, or demographics, you can now create targeting ads around major holidays, sporting events, music festivals, and big conferences and trade shows.

More importantly, as you prepare your campaign for an upcoming event or conference, check out Twitter’s Events Calendar.

Twitter’s Event Calendar shows you hundreds of events taking place around the world and offers useful audience insights data and benchmark data from the previous year. For example, I can see approximately how many people tweeted about the event last year, the total reach and audience size during last year’s event, the percentage of age groups tweeting about the event, device types, and much more.

To access the Events Calendar, click on your profile picture, and select “Analytics” in the dropdown menu.

Twitter Analytics Tab

On the Analytics homepage, select the “Events” tab.

Twitter Events Tab

When you reach the Events page, you’ll be able to manually search for events on Twitter’s Events Calendar, or browse through upcoming events by category, including sports, movies, and recurring trends.

Browsing events on Twitter

For example, let’s look up insights for the Mobile World Conference. Although the conference hasn’t taken place yet, Twitter’s event summary data will give me some metrics based on activity from last year’s conference. Now, I know in 2018, 808,000+ people tweeted about the event and those tweets reached approximately 14 million people.  

From this data, I also learned that users talk about the Mobile Web Conference on the Web 1.3 times more than any other platform, users in the United States talk about this event 1.5 times more than anywhere else, and people between 45 – 54 talk about this event the most.

Using this information, I can create a Twitter ad that reaches the right audience before, during, and after the event takes place. The best part is that I can start creating an event-based Twitter ad right from the events calendar!

On the right corner of your screen, select the “Create new campaign” button. On the dropdown menu, select the campaign objective you’d like to optimize for.

How to Create Twitter Ad Campaign from Events Calendar

Next, you’ll be brought to the campaign details setup page for the campaign objective you’ve chosen. Continue entering information about your campaign, including a name, budget, etc. Also, add details to the campaign ad group.Enter Twitter Ad Campaign Details

When you reach the “Targeting” section of your Twitter ad group, enter your target demographics, location, technology, and language.

When you reach the “Audience features” section, click the “Events” option.

Twitter ads events targeting

Next, type the name of the conference you’d like to target with your ad campaign. Also note that when you add your event to your targeting parameters, the “Audience summary” section on the right may not display an estimated audience size. That’s why it’s helpful to reference the events calendar to get a benchmark of activity from last year.

Searching For Event Name in Twitter Ads

Now continue adding additional campaign parameters, and when you’re ready, go ahead and launch your campaign.

Before I move on, here are a few other things to note when using event targeting:

  • Twitter recommends only adding geo-location and language targeting on top of events targeting for a greater chance of reaching users participating at the event.
  • Twitter also suggests using event targeting instead of typing in the event name as a keyword because “the platform will analyze the content of Tweets and other contextual clues to only display to people actively interested in the event you’re targeting.”
  • Although Twitter has included hundreds of events to target, there may be some that aren’t available just yet–this may especially true if you’re attending a local or regional conference or trade show. Twitter says that if an event doesn’t appear in the calendar two weeks prior to the event going live, it won’t be a targetable event. 


As I was doing some research for this article, I stumbled upon a surprising figure: a 2018 Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) study found that B2B exhibitors allocate roughly half of their marketing budgets to exhibitions, and the median amount spent per exhibitions by respondents last year was $20,000.

Therefore, if you’re considering spending thousands of dollars on a massive booth, branded pens, and neon-colored t-shirts, why not consider allocating some of that budget to arguably the most cost-efficient social media ad platform, Twitter.

Ready to start generating buzz around your brand at an upcoming conference? Give this Twitter hacks a try, and let us know how they performed in the comments below!

Malaika Nicholas

Senior Digital/Social Strategist, Malaika is the go-to source for tips & strategies about social media, content, and SEO! #StayWoke and follow her on Twitter: @Asa_Lama_Laika

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