Twitter introduces keyword targeting for advertisers

Apr. 25, 2013 | by Caz Adlington

A couple of days ago Twitter announced a major new update in their offering to brands and advertisers. As of this week, brands can target promoted tweets based on keywords in users’ tweets and the tweets they interact with. Twitter introduced promoted tweets in April 2010 to let brands reach users based on their interests, who they follow and other parameters such as location and gender. The new keyword targeting option is the logical next step.

A key fact is that users won’t be seeing more ads than before, they should simply be seeing more relevant ads. In general I don’t want my social feeds interrupted by advertising, but if it’s going to happen I’d rather the ads at least be relevant and problem solving. For instance, I tweet that there’s nowhere in Brighton to get a decent cup of tea and later spot a promoted tweet from Small Batch about their loose leaf pots. This kind of targeting should improve the user experience on Twitter and help brands reach the right people.

If it sounds a bit creepy, consider this – keyword targeting is still based purely on publically available information which brands could find manually if they really wanted to. So although it’s a step up in how Twitter uses your online behaviour to target advertising, it’s still nowhere near the Facebook style approach of delving into your private data, or slyly changing your privacy settings whenever an update is rolled out. Keyword targeting has the potential to alienate some Twitter users, but honestly the most shocking thing about it is that it’s actually still pretty unintrusive. Of the two social media kings, Twitter remains the winner in terms of putting the user first.

So how will keyword targeting work in practice? Twitter’s example is about a user tweeting about their favourite band’s new album. Let’s say I am the user and the band is St Vincent. If St Vincent is playing a show in my local area soon; the venue could run a geo-targeted campaign to serve ads for the show to local folks like me who are tweeting about her music. Sounds good so far – relevant ads should lead to more engagement and ticket sales, and a better Twitter experience for me and other St Vincent fans.

But what if it’s not my favourite band that I’m tweeting about? What if it’s my least favourite artist (maybe Bieber?), and I’m complaining about how much I hate his new album? I’d like to get a heads up about St Vincent playing in Brighton for sure, but I really don’t care what Justin Bieber is doing right now.

So for me, the key question  is just how intelligent will the keyword targeting be? Twitter don’t seem to have gone into detail on this yet, but as the venue owner I wouldn’t want to just target ads to local people talking about St Vincent. I’d want to combine it with interest based targeting and only serve ads to people who are both talking about St Vincent and following her account. That would be targeted advertising that might just work for the brands and the users in equal measure.

My prediction is that the success of keyword targeted promotional tweets will vary according to how well each brand uses them, and it is likely to pay particular dividends for more niche brands. Making the most of Twitter to reach potential customers and boost engagement is about being super reactive, and I think a mantra of “think before you tweet” will be important for advertisers here. If you are McDonalds and you serve location based tweets to anyone who mentions the word hungry, you might just freak people out. But if you’re the Regent Street Apple Store and you’ve got an amazing limited offer on the MacBook Air, targeting Londoners with PC woes might be your ticket to Twitter advertising success.

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    • How SoLoMo can leverage successful business - iCrossing

      [...] following social chatter, brands can also serve targeted personalised ads, which Twitter started allowing earlier this year in order to offer customers with the right [...]Jun 5, 2013 11:45 am

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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