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Twitter Keyword Targeting Lets You Focus Promotions Down to the Letter

It’s a hotly debated topic: does mobile advertising work? Many claim that, in the traditional sense, display ads just don’t work on mobile — they need to be better integrated into the device to get any attention from the user. In an environment where advertisers are still trying to figure out the best way to reach a growing mobile audience, Twitter has rolled out a great new capability for their promoted tweets: keyword targeting.

Since summer of 2012, promoted tweets have been somewhat focused, but only somewhat: they were promoted within broad topics such as “hobbies” and “pets” but with no great finesse. A specific brand could not target mentions of their product. There was also the option to advertise to high-profile Twitter accounts’ followers; you could, for instance, target people who follow related brands to your own to try and make them follow your band. But that was about as specific as promoted tweets got.

The new keyword targeting tool, which Twitter’s Product Manager Nipoon Malhotra announced in a blog post on April 17, reaches out to users based on the content of their most recent tweets. According to Twitter, “this is an important new capability – especially for those advertisers looking for signals of intent – because it lets marketers reach users at the right moment, in the right context.” No more sending out the message at random, hoping for engagement; let others send a trigger that might mean the ad has greater relevance for them.

An example of the new tool in use, provided by Twitter, shows an ad for a coffee bar appearing in the timeline just after a user tweeted about wanting a latte. In another example, a user tweeting about a new album by their favorite band gets serenaded with an ad about that band’s upcoming tour — which so happens to be stopping nearby! That’s right — you can use other targeting options to further specify what triggers the advertisement, such as the user’s location, the type of device they’re using to tweet, and their gender. In addition, you can choose for the ad to appear either in the search results or right in users’ timelines, for that streamlined appearance.

In case users were worried, Twitter says that the new feature will not affect anyone’s enjoyment of the service. In fact, it should only make their browsing experience better. The change will not result in more ads, but better ads, a distinction the social giant tends to make with every new advertising upgrade. More specific targeting tools mean that users are more likely to see ads for the kinds of things they would be interested in buying anyway. And, as always, if a user doesn’t like a particular ad or finds it irrelevant, he/she can dismiss it.

Early testing was positive, using a small selection of advertisers including Everything Everywhere, Microsoft Japan, Walgreens, and GoPro. These tests showed that users were more likely to engage with the targeted sponsored tweets than typical sponsored tweets. One advertiser in particular, GoPro, saw engagement rates as high as 11 percent on their targeted promoted tweets, which is enormous in typical terms of engagement.

Overall, the tool is looking to be very promising. Twitter has always been especially focused on maintaining the balanced environment with relatively few ads for its users. Their continual improvement of the sponsored tweet advertising mechanism shows an equal respect for the user and the marketer that will only get more and more important as mobile users become a bigger and bigger portion of the Internet population. The greater specificity allows marketers to more easily target in a way formerly only possible on Facebook. Only time will tell how well the new tool will do — but from early experiments with the tool, it’s already looking promising.

About the author: Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who enjoys writing on everything from social media to interior design and back again. She wrote this article on behalf of Wymoo International, a private investigation company that looks into Ghana scams among other things.


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