Following in the footsteps of Facebook , Twitter is set to start experimenting with using people’s Web behavior to tailor ads on the short-messaging service.
How does this work? Let’s say a local florist wants to advertise a Valentine’s Day special on Twitter. They’d prefer to show their ad to flower enthusiasts who frequent their website or subscribe to their newsletter. To get the special offer to those people who are also on Twitter, the shop may share with us a scrambled, unreadable email address (a hash) or browser-related information (a browser cookie ID). We can then match that information to accounts in order to show them a Promoted Tweet with the Valentine’s Day deal. This is how most other companies handle this practice, and we don’t give advertisers any additional user information.
Twitter gave an example of a florist who wanted to advertise a Valentine’s Day special. The social media company said the florist could opt to use data on who visits its website or subscribe to their newsletter. By sharing a scrambled, unreadable email address (a hash) or browser-related information (a browser cookie ID) with Twitter, the micro-blogging site could then match that information to accounts in order to show them a Promoted Tweet with the Valentine’s Day deal to target ads to those people when they are using Twitter.
This ad targeting is similar to two types of Facebook ad formats, known as FBX and Custom Audiences, respectively.
In the same breathe, Twitter said it supports Do Not Track (DNT) hence will not receive browser-related information from its ad partners for tailoring ads if users have DNT enabled in their browser. The company went further to state that user who do not want to receive the targeted ads should simply uncheck the box next to “Promoted content” in the account settings, and Twitter will not match users account information shared by its ad partners.
Facebook and now Twitter are taking more advertising cues from old-school Web sites such as Yahoo , which long have tracked users across the Web for ad purposes.
The retargeting efforts muddy the original advertising philosophy of Facebook, Twitter and other social media services. The promise was that ads tailored to “social signals” — checking into a Mexican restaurant on Foursquare, or “liking” a Nike shoe on Facebook — helps generate better ads than traditional digital banner ads. But Facebook’s and Twitter’s embrace of ads based on prior website visits and email lists may be a sign that new digital ad models will mix in plenty of elements from old ad models.
Twitter said it is starting slowly with its new ad efforts, and testing it first only in the U.S. with a small number of advertisers. The company said it may expand those new ad features if they prove popular with users and advertisers.