'Interest targeting' and how Twitter is #winning the social media advertising battle

By Danny Palmer
31 Aug 2012 View Comments

Twitter will soon allow businesses to target advertising at users according to their specific interests, the microblogging site has revealed.

Currently, promoted Tweets appear in the feeds of a wide cross-section of users, but the new type of advertising will allow potential customers to be specifically targeted, in the hope that users with a relevant interest will be more curious about the product in question.

Further reading

Dubbed "interest targeting" on Twitter's Advertising Blog, it will enable advertisers to tailor adverts to the individuals most likely to be interested in their product through the use of two different means.

Firstly, they'll be able to choose interest categories such as Sports, Science and Education, all of which are divided into smaller, more-specific categories in an effort to promote Tweets to the most relevant Twitter users.

An example used on the blog suggests if the advertiser was promoting a new animated film about dogs, they should select Animation in the Movies and Films category, Cartoons in the Hobbies and Interests section, or even Dogs in the Pets interest area. Adverts for the film would therefore appear in feeds of those interested in Animation, Cartoons and Dogs, those most likely to be interested in going to see it.

Twitter's new system will also allow advertisers to target an even more precise set of users through the use of "custom segments", by allowing them to specify usernames that are relevant to the product they're promoting.

The blog post demonstrates how custom segments work with the example of a band, with promoters able to target the followers of a specific artist and thus giving them access to potential customers with a similar taste in music.

The new form of advertising is the latest example of how Twitter is bolstering itself by keeping content in-house under the label of one brand rather than directing users away from the site. An update to Twitter's user interface earlier this year saw Tweets containing links to images and videos on the micro-blogging site itself, while previously these links would've directed users off-site to the likes of YouTube or Instagram.

And while users might choose to tweet using an application such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite, Twitter demonstrates once again the theme of guarding its own brand, with tweets from third-party applications no longer showing up as "posted via" whichever service the user prefers.

Even Twitter's own Android app no longer makes a point of being "Twitter for Android". It's just Twitter, and through the way brands are increasingly using the social network to engage with consumers, the service is successfully monetising.

Compare that to Facebook, which is struggling to monetise its services, and sees far fewer users engaged with brands than Twitter.

Facebook shares are currently on a downward spiral, which isn't helped by co-founder of the company – and former roommate of Mark Zuckerberg – Dustin Moskovitz selling 150,000 shares a day, making $26m in the process of dumping 1.35 million in stock.

While Facebook appears to be stalling, with many users – and in some cases, former users – unsatisfied about what it has become, Twitter seems to be on the up. That's not only as a way for advertisers to promote their products, but also as a way of being quickly informed of news, or a means for users to quickly communicate with each other.

Twitter has 10 million users in the UK and over 140 million users worldwide, and it's still rapidly growing. While it's still a long way off Facebook's billion users, it appears at the moment to have the upper hand in terms of monetising its services.

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