Twitter Takes its Mobile Advertising up a Notch: Promotes Brands You Don’t Follow
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
A few weeks back, both Twitter and Facebook announced their plans to monetize their extended mobile audiences. As we wrote back then, both companies seemed to have forgotten one crucial component needed to succeed in the world of mobile advertising, precise targeting capabilities.
Let's back up a little. Mobile advertising, much like its big brother Web advertising, is a complicated and ongoing process with lots of components that need to fall into place for it to help you achieve your goals.
For example, as a developer, you can give your app away for free and incorporate ads in order to generate revenue, but if the ads only appear in a small percentage of the times your app is opened, your profits will suffer. That is called fill rate and many companies such as Apple's iAd struggle with low fill rates.
Another example is targeting. Including ads is indeed a great way to monetize a free app but if your ad provider does not have the ability to target based on location or platform, Android users in China for example might end up seeing an ad in Russian promoting an iPhone app. Now, that won't generate too many clicks, will it? Again, as a developer your profits will suffer the consequences.
Well, Twitter indeed threw its hat into the mobile ad ring but that consisted of the company selling ads that would appear across all platforms without the ability to target users. So as an advertiser, you might buy an ad and never know if it appeared on a desktop or a mobile phone and which platform specifically (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.). That is not very effective and will not generate too much user engagement.
Well, Twitter is clearly reading the inneractive blog because as of yesterday, the company announced that it now supports the ability to target specific platforms. An advertiser can now promote their product on iOS, Android, or other platforms that have the official Twitter apps.
In fact, as Ryan Sarver, a Director at Twitter points out, mobile developers that have a 3rd party Twitter app can promote it within the official Twitter apps, even though their app is directly competing. That is very noble of Twitter...
@tapbot_paul is your money green? :)
— Ryan Sarver (@rsarver) March 20, 2012
This is definitely a step in the right direction as far as advertisers are concerned, but it is still not enough. Targeting platforms is nice, but what about location, content (app category), and even hyper-local abilities, so users can see highly relevant ads based on their precise location. That would make this a whole lot more interesting.
In addition to the new targeting, Twitter also made another small change to its mobile advertising efforts, this one might be a little less appealing to users. Until today, you might have noticed promoted tweets or brands in your timeline but only from brands you chose to follow. No more.
Twitter will now decide what is relevant to you and show you promoted tweets from companies you do not follow. The screen shot below shows a few example of what you might see in your timeline if you encounter a promoted tweet.
Well, one thing is clear. Twitter recognized that in order to survive, it is going to have to monetize its mobile users and it chose mobile advertising as its vehicle to do so. Their method is debatable and is sure to annoy some users, but if the company keeps the promoted tweets relevant to the user, it is a small price to pay for the microblogging service we all use and love.