Twitter's ad targeting just got even more specific

Steven Loeb · March 5, 2015 · Short URL:

Partner audiences lets advertisers target users based on their personal shopping habits

As much we all hate it, and so many of us rail against it, ad targeting works. It just does. Sure it can be a bit creepy, but look at Facebook and Twitter and how much money they make from advertising alone. Facebook makes billions in that one area. No one is paying a company if the wrong ads are going to the wrong people at the wrong time.

So it shouldn't surprise you that Twitter has just introducred a new feature to make it so that it can get even better at ad targeting; its the company's bread and butter, after all. 

Partner Audiences, revealed in a blog post on Thursday, basically allows Twitter to follow you around the Web and then show you relevant ads based on that activity, or "intent." Ok, so maybe that it is just a little bit creepy. 

Here's how it works: say for example, that you like Butterfinger (and, honestly, who doesn't?) and you go to sites that indicate that you enjoy that candy. Twitter has partnered with Acxiom and Datalogix to select more than 1,000 partner audiences, such as "cereal buyers," "frozen food buyers," and "sweet and snack buyers." The Butterfinger lovers will go into that last category.

Once they realize what a user likes, they are then more likely to get a targeted Promoted Tweet about that product. And so far, early testing has shown that this is working for brands on Twitter. 

"By targeting Promoted Tweets to Twitter users who frequently purchase peanut butter candy in grocery stores, convenience stores and other in-store destinations, @Butterfinger achieved a 52% lift in engagement rate compared to Nestle’s overall performance in 2014," Twitter said. 

In addition, partner audiences can also be combined with what Twitter calls "look-alike targeting," which gives advertisers the ability to "expand the reach of your campaigns to people who have interests similar to those in your partner audience."

This is not the first time that Twitter has experimented with this kind of thing: back in 2013 it introduced  targeted cookie-based ads, which allows advertisers to run ads-based on the sites a user had visited. Now, though, they will be able to get even more specific, knowing what you like and when you are likely to buy it.

Of course, a good number of people aren't going to want to be targeted like this, even if it does get them what they want when they want it. And Twitter allows its users to opt-out.

All they have to do is uncheck the box in their privacy settings next to “Tailor ads based on information shared by ad partners,” and Twitter will not match their accounts to information shared by ads partners to tailor ads for them.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.