Andrew Ruegger

Andrew Ruegger

Partner, Director of Strategy & Insights

Bringing Search to Twitter in a Targeted Way

Twitter now allows brands to reach consumers in a big way, by using keyword targeting. This enhancement to promoted (paid) tweets gives advertisers the ability to show ads to Twitter users based on their tweets, or their interactions with a tweet, based on certain keywords and keyphrases.

The process is somewhat similar to paid search in that it uses a list of keywords; advertisers set bids on the search terms and wait for Twitter users to tweet something or interact with a tweet that contains the terms. Terms appear in the timeline and advertisers serve up their ads to those users. The service is being rolled out across Twitter’s entire ad network on mobile and desktop in the 15 languages where Twitter Ads are currently available.

The keyword targeting tool will be available through the Twitter Ads dashboard and Twitter’s ads API.

The hope is that the ads users see will be much more targeted because the keywords will align closer to the user’s original intent. According to Twitter, “This is an important new capability – especially for those advertisers and brands that are looking for signals of intent – because it lets marketers reach users at the right moment, in the right context.”

People tweeting about cars will see ads from auto makers appear in their timelines; users interacting with a tweet about their favorite soft drink will see Promoted Tweets in their timeline about that brand. The ads will appear in the users’ timelines within a few minutes of the tweet that triggered it. Time will tell how effective this new service will be for agencies and brands.

Twitter hopes that as promoted tweets become more relevant based on user intent, that engagement with the paid tweets will increase.

Promoted tweets have not gained much ground since being introduced, so it is likely that this new advertising via keyword targeting in timeline will help push up Twitter’s ad revenue and give brands more promotional steam on the platform.

Twitter Keyword Targeting

Now that bidding is keyword centric, we should start to see a deeper integration of Twitter into bid management platforms, streamlining the way agencies and marketers manage their paid search channels.

eMarketer believes that Twitter will make $582.8 million worldwide in 2013 and approach $1 billion in 2014—still far short of Facebook’s ad revenues, but a step in the right direction since Twitter made an estimated $288.3 million in global ad revenue in 2012.

Google, Yahoo, and Bing need not worry about Twitter’s new search marketing just yet because Twitter’s phrase targeting requires exact phrase matches between tweets and terms, in the exact same order, with no words in between. Keywords do not require any particular order; the series of words may appear in any order, with words in between, and still deliver a match. There are also potential issues with negative keywords and the inability of Twitter’s algorithm to discern negative sentiment. Hash tags may also serve to confuse or cloud user intent. Therefore, brands should be careful about how they implement this new tool. However, the keyword targeting in timeline is a step in the right search marketing direction.

It can be argued that Twitter has a slight edge in certain ways because advertisers can use the platform’s three targeting options—location, device, and gender—to refine their promoted tweets. These factors, combined with the advertisers’ list of selected keywords and keyphrases, can really supercharge this new marketing tool and have the potential to bring Twitter up to speed in the race for advertising dollars in the social sphere.

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  • I was not impressed with Twitter Ads back in the beta days. They needed better targeting. These extra targeting options should be a step in the right direction and help make Twitter an effective advertising channel.