With consumers posting countless pieces of content each and every day on popular social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it's no surprise that much of the attention of the social media ecosystem has been focused on 'real-time.'

But for brands trying to reach consumers on these platforms, is there room for a back-to-the-future approach?

One social advertising firm, LocalResponse, believes there is. Thanks to a partnership with Twitter firehose licensee Datasift, LocalResponse is now pitching advertisers on the ability to target consumers on the popular microblogging service based on tweets posted as far back as 2009.

Adweek's Tim Peterson explains how this could enable advertisers to target consumers in new ways:

LocalResponse’s historical intent targeting could help advertisers keep their targeting segments fresh. For example, the company could see that someone had tweeted years ago about being pregnant and derive that that person’s child is now a toddler and promote Gap Kids instead of babyGap to them. Or vice versa, Gap could set date ranges for the targetable data so that it only runs babyGap ads to anyone who tweeted about being pregnant nine months to a year ago.

Already, Sony Pictures has trialed historical intent targeting, and while LocalResponse is mum on the specifics, the company's CEO Nihal Mehta explained that such targeting could, for instance, allow a studio like Sony Pictures to, upon the release of a DVD, follow up with a consumer who had previously tweeted about a movie while it was in theaters.

Are social ad offerings getting too complex?

So is LocalResponse's historical intent targeting a sign that the tweets contained in Twitter's vast archive are on the verge of becoming a gold mine that advertisers can actually tap?

Maybe, but not so fast. Looking at a tweet histories may, in theory, be a sensible approach for advertisers. But the operative phrase is "in theory", and as advertisers consider the benefit to be gained from looking at tweets posted a year or two ago, it's worth considering whether social ad offerings are getting too complex for advertisers' own good.

For many advertisers, social's greatest shortcomings are metrics-related. Advertisers want more insight, something that clearly isn't lost on one of Twitter's co-founders. Put simply, without the right metrics, many advertisers are finding it extremely difficult to determine whether a campaign produced a positive ROI. From this perspective, offerings like historical intent targeting, while interesting, don't seem to solve advertisers' most pressing challenges.

So what should advertisers do? Certainly, exploration of new social targeting capabilities shouldn't stop, but before advertisers get overly sophisticated in this area, it's important that they don't lose sight of the importance of figuring out how to measure the efficacy of their existing campaigns.

Patricio Robles

Published 12 October, 2012 by Patricio Robles

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

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