19:47 03rd Sep, 2012
Targeted Ads Will Soon Be Tweeted
It’s the natural next step.
As you’re aware, Twitter has been collecting info about your interests for some time now – unless you unchecked the “recent visits” option. That data will be put to use now; advertisers are rubbing their hands in glee – they’re being convinced that advertising on Twitter is really worth their money.
August 30, Twitter announced its targeted ad programme. Advertisers can now send you tweets based on your interests – sites you visited, people you follow, the sites they visited, etc.
Your regular tweet stream won’t be interrupted by ads. They will only be in the form of promoted tweets – at the top of your stream.
Unlike Facebook, which knows what you like, Twitter has to figure this out from the data they have about you. We don’t yet know how well their algorithm works; theoretically, it can get to know you better than Google or Facebook can. So if you follow someone who tweets about digital art, and the algorithm sees that many people who like digital art also like Mexican food, a Mexican restaurant might tweet an ad to you.
The two most common reactions to this have been “It’s not a big deal,” and “I’m getting off and signing up with App.net!”
There are a few people talking about privacy concerns – there’s probably an uncomfortable feeling when someone you don’t know knows about your interests.
But, remember when people were concerned about cookies? And when Gmail first came up with ads in inboxes? It took some time for people to realise that a server in California is not a person reading their mail.
As time passed, we got used more and more easily to companies using our data. Even those among us who feel uneasy about targeted ad tweets will, I’m sure, get used to them soon enough. (If not, there’s always the App.net option – “A real-time social feed without the ads.”)
It’s useful to see it as a natural evolution. The timeline of targeting goes roughly like this: Street-criers and graffiti > giant billboards > regional newspapers > special-interest magazines > cookies > AdSense > Gmail ads > Advertising on Facebook > Twitter targeted ads.
The surest form of advertising is, of course, word of mouth. What’ll eventually happen, if Twitter’s algorithms evolve nicely, is that you’ll see only ads you’ll be interested in – which isn’t all that different from word of mouth, is it?
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