Twitter trying new ad options: retargeting and customer targeting

Image Credit: Thomas Hawk
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If you’ve visited a flower shop online lately, you might start seeing ads for flowers on Twitter.

Twitter is experimenting with new ad targeting options, the company announced today. The new methods will allow Twitter advertisers to showcase promoted tweets and promoted accounts to Twitter users who are more likely to want and appreciate them.

“Users won’t see more ads on Twitter, but they may see better ones,” Twitter’s Kevin Weil posted.

You’ll indicate your interest in an advertiser simply by visiting the company’s site or by viewing its ads elsewhere. Twitter receives a browser cookie ID and can then play matchmaker and showcase paid tweets from that advertiser in your tweet stream. Alternatively, if the advertiser has your email address, the company can share it with Twitter — in “scrambled, unreadable” format, Twitter says — which would also allow Twitter to match your Twitter identity to your flower-seeking alter ego and equally effectively target you that way.

Twitter bird outlineThe result, Twitter says, will be ads that are more relevant and welcome — like coupons and discounts from companies whose sites you visit.


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(While Twitter says it would get email addresses in an unreadable format, as a hash that maps the email address data to non-personal data, it would appear that the most important data — identity — is still, in a sense, readable, since otherwise ads and targeted Twitter users could not be matched.)

The new targeted option is completely opt-out, Twitter says, via the Promoted Content option in your Twitter settings page. It’s checked by default, allowing Twitter advertisers to target you, but unchecking it will not allow advertisers to target you based on off-Twitter advertiser-supplied data.

In addition, Twitter goes to some pains to explain, if you enable Do Not Track options in your browser, Twitter will also not target you based on web retargeting or other ad-tailoring technologies.

Twitter is testing the technology in the U.S. first, saying it will roll it out to more users in other countries based on the results of testing.

TWITTER HACKEDUser feedback will play a roll in that: Twitter says that if you see ads you don’t like, you can simply “dismiss” them via a button at the bottom of a promoted tweet, or click the “x” by a promoted account. Twitter “pays close attention to these dismissals,” the company says, which means that advertisers who continually pump in irrelevant or annoying ads might see their rates go up, or have their opportunities to advertise on Twitter curtailed.

In terms of data going back to advertisers, Twitter says it is focused on its users’ privacy:

Our testing of tailored ads does not share any new or different information with ad partners. Advertisers will continue to receive the same reports that include how many users saw or clicked on an ad, without identifying who saw it or clicked on it. These reports contain only aggregate, non-personal information. We do not share your private personal information with advertisers without your permission.

The new targeting options join Twitter’s keyword targeting product, new ads API which just added five new enterprise-focused API partners, demographic targeting tools added in March, massive ad deals with marketing giants like Starcom, and other ad deals with media companies like Viacom.

In other words, ads at Twitter are charging forward full speed ahead. And the targeting options for advertisers are now so vast, ads on Twitter should be supremely relevant to users.

The key word there, of course, is should. We’ll see.


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