Emily Tan
Mar 7, 2013

Brands should approach Twitter's ad API with caution

With the launch of its advertising API (application programming interface), Twitter has armed brands with powerful tools to optimise and deploy advertising, but experts caution that brands should not allow that to alter the personal tone of the medium.

Twitter's API is a powerful tool for targeting and analytics
Twitter's API is a powerful tool for targeting and analytics

Before the launch of the API, campaigns had to be managed manually, with each tweet sent by a person. “Now the social-media team can spend more time on creative tasks instead of mucking about with headlines, images, formatting and Twitter’s interface,” said Derek Laney, director of product marketing management at Salesforce.

The launch also places Twitter on the same advertising plane as Facebook and LinkedIn, allowing advertisers to manage its place in their social-media ecosystem. It may increase brand presence on Twitter, added Laney.

But that does not give brands license to broadcast the same message across all platforms, cautioned Nicholas Chhan, digital director for Maxus Hong Kong. “It’s important to remember that Facebook and Twitter are different, the communities are different and what is communicated across these platforms must for the most part remain different—there is no shortcut.”

Jye Smith, Asia-Pacific vice-president of digital for Weber Shandwick, defines the difference between the two platforms as: “Twitter is micro-interactions at higher frequencies (or just having a good eavesdrop on the world), while Facebook is a place for exploration, reflection and discovery.”

Twitter’s long existence as a ‘manual’ interface has given its most successful brands a human voice, which followers have come to appreciate and which brands must be careful not to alter. According to Laney, Twitter users follow five brands on average and users on mobile devices are 96 per cent more likely than web Twitter users to follow 11 or more brands.

“The charm of Twitter is about the brand knowing its own distinctive voice and using it for smaller, micro-interactions with the user, regardless of methodology,” commented Smith. “The automation of tweets won't affect any charm if the content is any good. I don't think I've met anyone who wouldn't want good information, regardless of how it was delivered.”

The real advantage of Twitter’s initiative lies in the data and insights that can now be gleaned from campaigns and the ability to target groups of people who are do not follow your brand.

One of the most effective practices Adobe has found across its own accounts is to be highly specific about interests. “Twitter is about interests, and robotic messaging will not work,” said Siva Ganeshanandan, director for Adobe Marketing Cloud in Asia-Pacific. “Instead of generalising about say, digital marketing, get more specific. Target people with certain interests such as everyone following @TechCrunch or @Linux. The ability to target is very powerful.”

Ganeshanandan recommends that marketers constantly test their campaigns and find out what’s working in terms of target demographics. “Be as specific as possible," he said. "Really, this is where all the different platforms really add value. Doing this at a granular level becomes very difficult.”

The hardest part, he concluded, is knowing what you want to achieve. “Once [marketers] figure out what their objectives are, that’s when the tech comes in.”

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