Twitter emoji ad targeting is still new territory for some brands
After nearly two years since its launch, Twitter's emoji targeting remains a new concept for advertisers.
First launched in June of 2016, Twitter’s emoji ad targeting gives brands the ability to connect with people based on the emojis they include in their tweets. Even though the ad-targeting feature has been around for nearly two years now — arguably a lifetime on Twitter — some consider emoji targeting to be a fairly new concept when compared to the platform’s standard ad-targeting options.
“4C has had hundreds of clients use emoji targeting, but we work with more than a thousand clients in total, so it’s still a relatively small group of advertisers that are experimenting with the feature,” says Aaron Goldman, CMO for 4C Insights, “We expect this number to grow as brands see positive returns from this precise level of targeting.”
4C is one of six Twitter certified partners that offers the emoji targeting campaigns. The data science and marketing technology company offers a self-service platform for advertisers running Twitter campaigns. Emoji targeting is one of several targeting options available via 4C’s platform.
Can emojis deliver results?
The CMO says one of his agency’s clients in the quick serve restaurant industry that targeted different types of emojis saw engagement rates increase 260 percent.
“Meaning the number of people who responded to the ad went up 2.6 times over the advertiser’s traditional ads. Typically a 10 percent lift on an ad is a solid result, so this is a huge increase,” says Goldman.
Like most ad-targeting, emoji targeting can be layered on top of other criteria, like age, interests, or location. The CMO says emoji targeting is still a relatively new concept compared to standard targeting criteria like demographic or geographic information that marketers have been using for decades.
“Ultimately, it helps advertisers get more precise about who they’re reaching and the best time to engage them, because an emoji paints a more colorful picture of their audience beyond black-and-white demographic and geographic information,” says Goldman.
Getting the context right
JD Prater, director of growth marketing for AdStage, says he sees Twitter’s emoji targeting as essentially keyword targeting.
While at a previous digital marketing agency, Prater oversaw a Twitter ad campaign that used emoji targeting paired with phrase-match keywords to drive website traffic to local weather pages for a weather app.
“We created ad groups targeting various weather-related emojis and segmented them by weather conditions: rainy, snowy, sports, etc. And we utilized Promoted Tweets for creative that also used the emoji in the ad copy,” says Prater.
Prater says the goal was to target people using weather-related emojis, and deliver a tweet that encouraged them to view their local weather forecast. The campaign used a number of emojis, including an umbrella ☂️, rain cloud ?️, and snowflake ❄️, along with activity-related emojis like a person playing golf ?.
“We wanted to capture people in the moment of conducting an activity, or planning for an activity. Then, hopefully encourage them to view their local weather conditions for our Promoted Tweets.”
Prater says the campaign results were okay, but its performance was not strong enough to continue running emoji-targeted ads.
“The client had specific CPC [cost-per-click] goals, and unfortunately, these campaigns performed at a higher threshold,” says Prater, “The results weren’t necessarily bad for the industry, but for this specific client, the CPCs were too high.”
One issue Prater’s team encountered with the emoji targeting campaign was determining the context by which people use emojis.
“For example, during our campaigns, we found some people using the ? [golf-club swinging] emoji to also mean ‘throw shade’ in a conversation. That’s definitely not a conversation we want to run ads on — or take the ☂️ [umbrella] emoji, which we found gets used in a variety of contexts as well,” says Prater, “People might ‘☂️ weather storms’ or ‘you can’t ☂️ on my parade’.”
Prater says it’s difficult to understand the meaning and context by which people are using emojis, and that it’s much easier to derive meaning from keyword patterns. He believes, in most cases, advertisers are better off targeting specific keywords over emojis.
“Right now, people use emojis to communicate a lot of different ways, and there’s not really a universal standard.”
A throwback to the ‘Mad Men’ days of advertising
While Prater believes it will be tough to use emoji targeting ads to drive conversions, he does think advertisers looking for engagement, or to help grow follower numbers, could benefit from it.
“At the end of the day, advertisers are getting more savvy with their audience targeting thanks to specific and relevant data Facebook and LinkedIn offer,” says Prater, “I don’t see a reason why performance marketers would choose emojis over behavioral and interest based targeting.”
4C’s Goldman says emoji targeting isn’t necessarily best suited to specific types of campaigns, but is most effective when applied strategically and genuinely.
“Some brands want to get people to click and take an action right away — targeting athletic wear to people who have used football or basketball emojis, for example,” says Goldman, “Other brands simply want to create engagement with people in a certain frame of mind, like someone who has just tweeted the fire emoji.”
According to Goldman, emoji targeting pushes marketers to discern the emotional-intent behind an emoji.
“In a lot of ways, it’s a throwback to the ‘Mad Men’ days of advertising, when marketers were forced to get into the heads of their audience to understand what would lead someone to use a specific emoji, and therefore what marketing message will best match that level of emotion.”
When asked what a large-scale emoji-targeted campaign looks like, Goldman says its still tool early tell.
“Because emoji targeting is new, and advertisers are still experimenting with it, there is no scale for campaigns when trying to determine what a ‘normal-size’ campaign looks like.”
Goldman points out that there are 2,666 emojis in the Unicode Standard since June of last year, and the potential scale of unique emoji targeting ad campaigns is tremendous, “The use of creative software makes this scale achievable for advertisers.”
In the end, Goldman believes emoji targeting should be used like any other targeting — to make the ad more relevant for the audience.
“Just because a marketer might know a consumer’s Twitter handle, location, and favorite emoji, doesn’t mean all of that information should be used in the messaging of the ad,” says 4C’s CMO, “Consumer experience should always be an advertiser’s first priority. When in doubt, don’t be creepy!”