While Facebook struggles to prove to the world that it can deliver big revenue -- eMarketer estimates the world's largest social network will pull in $1bn less in revenue than previously anticipated -- one of social networking's largest still-privately-held companies, Twitter, is doing what it can to convince advertisers to increase their spend.

The company has several ad offerings, including Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends, and much to the chagrin of developers, has been making changes designed to ensure that it has the control over the Twitter ecosystem necessary to maximize monetization opportunities.

Yesterday, Twitter announced a potentially important new feature for its Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts products: interest-based targeting.

Targeting dollars

For obvious reasons, Twitter sees targeting as a crucial part of its growing advertising business. "By targeting people’s topical interests, you will be able to connect with a greater number of users and deliver tailored messages to people who are more likely to engage with your Tweets," according to Kevin Weil, Twitter's director of product management. "When people discover offers and messages about the things they care about on Twitter, it’s good for both marketers and users."

Twitter's new targeting options consists of 350 interest categories across two levels. Top-level categories include the usual suspects, like Movies and Television, Music and Radio, and Personal Finance, as well as some intriguing categories, such as Life Stages.

As part of the roll-out of interest targeting, Twitter also dropped the minimum bid price for Promoted product auctions to one cent. While that may lead some to believe that Twitter is struggling to move inventory, it's important to keep in mind that auction winners are determined by bid amount and engagement rate. According to Twitter's Weil, "We believe the new lower minimum bid, in combination with interest targeting, will drive greater ROI for every campaign on Twitter." And, in theory, greater overall revenue for Twitter.


Interest targeting will naturally be of interest to many advertisers using Twitter, but it's arguably not the most interesting part of Twitter's announcement yesterday. That distinction goes to a new feature that will effectively allow advertisers to segment their audiences:

If you want to target more precise sets of users, you can create custom segments by specifying certain @usernames that are relevant to the product, event or initiative you are looking to promote. Custom segments let you reach users with similar interests to that @username’s followers; they do not let you specifically target the followers of that @username. If you’re promoting your indie band’s next tour, you can create a custom audience by adding @usernames of related bands, thus targeting users with the same taste in music.

While it remains to be seen just how accurate Twitter's @username-based segmentation will be, it does create some interesting opportunities for advertisers. An advertiser looking to reach a competitor's followers, for instance, could try its luck adding the @username of its competitor.

Do targeting + segmentation = ROI in social?

Interest targeting and segmentation could be two big pieces to the ROI puzzle that Twitter is trying to figure out. Unlike Facebook, which chose to go public before it has the monetization nut fully cracked, Twitter has the luxury of taking its time and experimenting with solutions in a less public way.

But the question still remains: is it only a matter of time before companies like Facebook and Twitter find their versions of AdWords, or are there inherent limitations to what can be done in social channels -- regardless of how many tools Facebook and Twitter give advertisers?

Patricio Robles

Published 31 August, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)

Robb Sands

Robb Sands, Managing Director at Carbide Media

There's a lot of signal to noise issues Twitter must overcome throughout this unveiling.

We're already inundated with massive botspam on Twitter, even worse than the human/manually created groupspam on LinkedIn.

It will be interesting to see how the engagement works out on these...

almost 6 years ago


Rob Green

Seems like a very similar approach that Facebook had taken with their page post targeting enhances feature. Twitter has the platform to make targeting very effective as its content and information is constantly flowing on peoples' timelines.

almost 6 years ago


AKQUIKON Stephan Jaeckel

Ads, ads, ads. :-( Why can't the social media platforms / companies spare us from their lack of ideas and come up with something a little bit more creative?

I still long for a social media platform which does seamlessly integrate with business CRM-systems and allows for seamless communication. Imagine yourself a tweet running through the same communication processes as email or phone-calls. Ok, to the larger part of enterprises this would be a wild challenge maybe even a never-ending endevour to reply quickly or have the very customer representative answer the tweet who also does the face-to-face interaction. But for both facebook and Twitter it would be a huge breakthrough.

So far their "strategic" mindsets keep stuck to being copy-cats of Google-Ads at any cost - even at the expense of their attractiveness (sounds like a natural beauty going for implants to change her body shape only to end in San Fernando Valley trash movies rather than in Hollywood Blockbusters).

Taken from the other angle (the user) I personally find less and less appeal in targeting users and their interests "in the right moment to create attention or a sale". These days topics of interest are about invilvement for eople. While its hard to keep pace with info coming in the involved customer is as much on top of happenings as he or she wishes to be. With almost unlimited choices involved people usually have already satisfied their interests or keep doing so in convenient ways.

All you can come up with then is a "marketing innovation" meaning - since real innovations are rare - that you have to create marketing hypes and pseudo-innovations through communication to look like a better way of involving for people. And believe me: So will your innovation-lacking competitors do. Bye, bye to differentiation - key to market survival. (In case you not believe me think of why Apple is bashing down anything it can come up with on its major ssupplier Samsung. Its all about the image of innovation through not really truely innovating).

As for ads I would rather want to see platforms come up with ways to target those who are not interested in what I have to offer to whom I am or my products/services are not (yet) relevant. Give me ways to tackle those who by curiosity or choice get involved with me, my brand, my representatives, my products, services, values or ethics. Indeed give me a chance to be a social business and target people not by likelyhodd to purchase but by likelyhood to be along my business ethics, my company values and targets (not those printed in nice image-brochures but those lived every day; think of BP or Shell).

Cause if I have people not involved with my products or serivices but with my ethics and values I will have very profund brand-ambassadors within their social circles once the topic comes to me or what I have to sell giving me influencers on customer's processes of choice no one else has.

This is the age of social business so give me social targeting to create my fans and followers in ethics and choice. The sales will come the better I "miss" the "relevant" prospects.

almost 6 years ago

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