Ross Jenkins
May 8, 2013

Keyword targeting: Twitter's new high-performance marketing engine

Twitter's recently announced keyword ad targeting has enormous potential for delivering messages based on the content of user tweets, but will require careful implementation to avoid being viewed as overly intrusive.

Keyword targeting: Twitter's new high-performance marketing engine

The last couple weeks have been big for Twitter, with the launch of two new and potentially game-changing developments: an integrated music offering and keyword ad targeting.

Twitter Music is pretty fun and is a long-term strategic move to boost engagement and time spent with the platform. Long hours of engagement and multiple page views already feed Facebook’s direct response advertising revenue, particularly as it’s mostly traded on a CPM model.

With keyword ad targeting, though, Twitter has hit upon something unique and potentially lucrative that could change its commercial prospects (and user dynamics) forever. Until now Twitter targeting was limited to handles, hash tags, gender, location and device-based signals, none of which tap into the social and behavioural signals of intent so successfully exploited by Google’s AdWords model, and more recently by Facebook. What’s more, attempts to better target Twitter’s existing ad products significantly limited campaign reach.

However, with keyword targeting Twitter has taken steps towards a truly exceptional usage of their prime asset—user-generated content, coupled with the immediacy offered by biddable media—to deliver a new type of performance-marketing engine.

It’s easy to imagine the potential upside of such targeted marketing; a user tweeting about their love of a band receives a geo-targeted ticket promotion, for instance. This positions Twitter as a new advocacy reward platform, something restricted by current Facebook policy. Sentiment analysis and a seven-day tracking window will ensure relevancy.

But what about the downside? With conventional banner ad retargeting, reaction from consumers has been mixed, with many complaining of the ‘spooky’ feeling of being followed around the web. It is reasonable to expect the same reaction here – how would you like it if a brand interrupted your conversations every time you mentioned your favourite band, restaurant or film star?

On the flip side, and notwithstanding the initial surge of ‘outrage’ from some users, Google and Facebook have successfully built intrusive but widely accepted ad platforms; both are well versed in pushing the boundaries of acceptable levels of intrusion. Twitter will need to learn from this if it is to retain the majority of its user base.

Challenger brands and SMEs will lead the way before the big brands really get on board and we are sure to see some innovative uses of the platform over the coming weeks and months. As for Facebook, surely it’s only a matter of time before it adopts an explicit mention targeting option?

Ross Jenkins is the managing director of Profero Performance in London.

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