Paid advertising on Twitter just got better, for both advertisers and Twitter’s over 140 million active monthly users. At the end of August 2012, Twitter announced that it was adding an interest-based advertising feature to the process of placing paid ads on their site.
Previously, Twitter advertisers could only disseminate ads to followers of the advertiser’s own Twitter account and to those whom Twitter’s own broad and highly generic “black box” algorithm deemed similar in interest. This had the effect of severely limiting the potential relevance and, therefore, effectiveness of any given ad.
But now, following an announcement on the Twitter Advertising Blog by Kevin Weil, Director of Product Management, interest based advertising (also known as “enhanced interest advertising”) empowers brands to target their ads to users with specific interests or to users with similar interests to a particular user.
Interest Based Advertising
Interest based advertising, just like it sounds, is a means for targeting Twitter ads to specific niche markets, making ads more relevant for viewers and, therefore, more effective for advertisers. A brand can now target both Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets according to over 350 interest-based criteria in categories like Education, Home & Garden, Investing, Music, Pets, Sports and Style & Fashion. Beneath each of these top tier categories are listed a bevy of related subcategories to help advertisers drill down their targeting even further.
In addition, advertisers can now create their own customized interest segments called, appropriately, Custom Segments, by simply suggesting specific user accounts (whether an individual or another business) with an overlapping or desired audience. This feature does not, however, let you simply target all the followers of any particular user. Rather, your ads go out to both those who follow and those who don’t follow selected users, based on Twitter’s own calculations of relevance and prospective interest.
To summarize: there are two components to the new interest based advertising feature on Twitter:
- The ability for advertisers to select from some 350 interests to better target their ads.
- The ability for advertisers to distribute their ads to an automatically generated list of users with similar interests to a specific user.
The opportunity to select these criteria is now incorporated seamlessly into the existing Twitter dashboard for advertisers, meaning you may have already encountered it without realizing it. Plus, as with every other part of the Twitter advertising process, the interface takes you step-by-step through using this new feature with wizard-like ease.
How it Works
Of course, if you’re already a Twitter user, you know that you didn’t have to select your interests into order to sign up for your account. So how, then, does Twitter match the interest related criteria selected by advertisers to the actual interests of actual Twitter users? The answer is through an algorithm that Twitter has devised for extrapolating the users’ interests based on several criteria:
- The content of their public Tweets
- The items they Retweet or Comment on
- The other Twitter accounts a user Follows
Users already benefit from the results of this algorithm in the “# Discover” tab of their Twitter account, which is used to find Tweets and Stories of likely relevant, targeted interest to read. Users also engage this algorithm when using Twitter’s “Who to Follow” feature to find other possible Twitter members of interest to Follow. Now, Twitter advertisers can make use of this same algorithm to direct their ads to the most targeted, potentially interested Twitter members.
Paid ads on Twitter look just like other Tweets posted by regular users and in fact are listed in a user’s Twitter feed right along with all the other non-promotional Tweets that appear there.
This is all the more reason to be aware that better targeting of your ads does not supplant the need to produce compelling ads. No matter how finely tuned your targeting, a Twitter user will still only be interested in your ad if it speaks to them. Therefore, it’s still as important as ever to learn how to craft the perfect Twitter ads and, since the shape of perfection changes over time, learn how to track, analyze and adapt your Twitter ads accordingly.
The other, more hidden, benefit of perfecting your copy is that great copy can help compensate for lower bid rates on the competitive scale. That’s because Twitter determines the relative value of a Promoted Tweet not only by the bid that the advertiser makes for placing that ad, but the engagement rate among users who view that ad.
So, if an ad generates extensive (and intensive) engagement with Twitter users, it will get increasingly greater visibility, even if its advertiser hasn’t necessarily placed the most competitive bid. This is because Twitter benefits from keeping its users engaged just as much as, if not more than, it benefits from receiving a higher rate per impression. Read that again: It serves Twitter’s own needs to deliver great content, even when it’s occasionally at the expense of potentially greater per-impression earnings. Basically, it pays to create Promoted Tweets that look like organic Tweets and not advertisements, which users more often tend to skip over.
The goal for advertisers of this combination of the lowered bid minimum and enhanced interest advertising is increased ROI on every Twitter ad campaign. According to Reuters, 1-3% of Twitter users who view a Promoted Tweet will click onto it, but recent beta testing on paid ads distributed using Twitter’s new enhanced interest ad features increases that engagement rate.
Minimum Bid Change
There’s another change for Twitter advertisers taking place at the same time as this introduction of interest-based advertising: a reduction in the minimum allowable bid per impression. While the bidding process for Twitter’s paid ads remains the same, as do the social media giant’s auction mechanisms, the minimum bid has been graciously reduced from $0.50 to $0.01, bringing Twitter’s minimum prices for paid advertising more in line with the rest of the social media advertising platforms.
Twitter is obviously continuing to refine its offerings for advertisers. In July, the web’s first and most popular microblogging service transformed how advertisers could place Promoted Tweets, deciding that they could place paid promoted Tweets right away, without first having to post it as a standard public Tweet visible to all of the advertiser’s followers. The only targeting enabled then was quite basic: letting advertisers select specific geographic regions and desktop/laptop versus mobile ad targeting, for example.
And speaking of geographic and mobile ad targeting, on September 12, 2012, Twitter announced improvements to its geo-targeting for marketers, or what it now calls “enhanced geo-targeting, including the addition of regional targeting to specific areas in Japan and the U.K. While back in May of 2012, Twitter also made Promoted Tweets with basic targeting abilities available for promotion on its Mobile site. (Incidentally, in a recent report, Twitter announced that of its active users, 55% access the site through a mobile device). This allowed Twitter advertisers to target ads not only to mobile devices in general, but to those running on certain operating systems (e.g. iOS, Android, Blackberry, or other).
With these changes alone, The Washington Post recently reported tripling its success with Promoted Tweets. Now that kind of success just got another… or two other extra boons: with interest-based advertising and a lowering of the minimum bid to just a penny.
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