Twitter Sets Birthday Balloons As Bait To Reel In More Personal Data
Company adds profile design flourish to encourage people to share their birthdates. The information will be used to serve more relevant information, including advertising.
Twitter wants to know your birthday, and it’s bringing balloons to the party.
The company rolled out a new feature Monday, giving users the ability to add their birthdates and share them on profiles. People who do will trigger a stream of colorful balloons floating up through their profiles on their birthdays, or in my case today (not my actual birthday):
The balloons, which also appear on the desktop version of the network, might seem like a frivolous gimmick, but Twitter’s apparent motive for adding the new feature is serious. The more people it can entice to share personal information, the better it can target advertising to them. Although, the announcement post didn’t mention ad targeting, the language on the support page is clear:
If you choose to add your birthday to your profile, it will be displayed to the audience that you’ve chosen. It will also be used to customize your Twitter experience. For example, we will use your birthday to show you more relevant content, including ads. You can learn more about how Twitter Ads work here.
Twitter, of course, is playing catch-up to Facebook in the battle to capture personal data about its users. As Techcrunch’s Josh Constine noted, in 2010 Facebook started displaying more biographic information on personal profiles, thereby encouraging people to share more such information and eventually deepening the pool of data Facebook has about its users. That has helped Facebook build an advertising juggernaut that regularly pulls in more than $3 billion in quarterly revenue.
Twitter’s knowledge of user biographical information is more shallow (unlike Facebook, it doesn’t have profile fields for gender, hometown or education), but this move could be the first step toward narrowing the gap. Providing another place to wish your friends happy birthday — long a killer social feature for Facebook — seems like a good place to start.