This past July, Twitter followed in Facebook’s footsteps with the announcement of retargeting. In a company blog post, Twitter said that they would begin experimenting with a way to make ads on Twitter more useful to its users in the United States by displaying promoted content from brands and businesses users have shown interest in. They went on to say that users won’t necessarily see more ads on Twitter, but they may see better ones.
While the overall premise of retargeting — which focuses on serving relevant ads to consumers based on online behaviors — remains the same, retargeting on social media platforms is a slightly different ball game because of the nature of the medium. We’ve all grown used to that pair of red shoes following us around the web in the form of display (banner) advertising. But now the shoes are going to show up in a Twitter stream as well, in the form of promoted tweets.
Twitter’s shift towards targeted advertising shifts the user experience. At this point, most everyone has learned to expect ads to support content. However, when the content is an ad itself — native advertising is the most common term — it’s up to the user to determine the difference.
Additionally, you have no way to opt out of the targeted tweets. (There’s a little logo on banner ads that you can click to opt out of the ad — these don’t exist in Twitter’s promoted tweets.) My guess is that we will see a similar level of acceptance for Twitter’s targeted advertising as we have seen in digital advertising over the last decade: if you’re over 40, you’ll be appalled; if you’re under 40, you’ll yawn.
Twitter Retargeting: Advantages and Disadvantages
Retargeted promoted tweets provide another creative option to advertisers in addition to the existing banner ads or rich media options. Advertisers thinking of investing in this area should understand the benefits and pitfalls that come with retargeting on Twitter.
A big advantage is that Twitter can serve ads across mobile, desktop, or tablet equally, which will prevent advertisers from targeting the same consumer more frequently than intended. In contrast, site retargeting does not allow advertisers to sync their campaigns across mobile, desktop and tablets because of the technology barriers related to syncing together cookies, AppleIDs, and other unique identifiers.
If a consumer is logged into the Twitter platform, then Twitter knows who you are no matter what device you are logged into, without using cookies. This enables Twitter advertisers to control the abundance of communication to the same user.
However, Twitter’s offering is currently more limited than most exchanges. For example, it does not give advertisers real-time control over when an ad is shown. Twitter advertisers must manually upload their customer lists (generally email addresses or cookie IDs) and allow Twitter’s ad platform to control the sequencing of the ads through promoted tweets.
This means that advertisers can’t update what creative is served based on the most recent customer interaction, and they also can’t control the reach and frequency in real time. This drawback impacts the ability for advertisers to communicate the most relevant messages to their audience. Thus, if the consumer buys the product, Twitter is likely to continue to serve the same advertisement until the next sync.
Dealing With The Limitations Of Twitter Retargeting
Given the limitations of Twitter retargeting, the actual messaging within your retargeting campaigns must also change. Users don’t want to see irrelevant brand messages from advertisers. Poorly targeted ads on social media can lead to backlash from users who will respond publicly with large audiences watching. And of course, if your promoted Tweets prove stale and not relevant to the moment, you could be susceptible to low response rates, and even worse, poor brand identity.
Overall, there should be a team within your organization that is charged with Twitter messaging 24×7. My favorite example of a solid social team in place is NASA Mars Rover. Check out @MarsCuriosity. The people that tweet take on the voice of the Rover and become celebrities in their own right as they consistently produce fresh tweets, keeping content relevant. Whether you are leveraging promoted tweets or Twitter’s retargeting, the messaging needs to remain relevant, which often times requires a solid team in place like in the Mars example above.
Despite the communication obstacles, retargeting on Twitter is a step in the right direction for the industry. For advertisers, it’s great that Twitter is offering new creative and ad targeting options; for Twitter, it can now start earning revenue from retargeting campaigns.
Whether you are about space exploration, travel, financial services, heavy equipment, e-retail or e-commerce, promoted tweets — and especially retargeted promoted tweets — can have a positive impact if you have the team in place to take advantage of real-time marketing opportunities. Social media is about relationships, and if your brand is going to leverage retargeting within Twitter, it is critical to make sure that your communication with the end user has a real purpose. Promoted tweets that appeal to consumers are good — but real-time control is ultimately better.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.