The features add additional layers to demographic offerings from
Twitter, which has seen steady growth in its ad business despite
flagging user engagement. Carrier targeting will be available to
all Twitter marketers -- though the feature will largely be useful
for carriers themselves to promote device upgrades and loyalty
services to customers. They could also strike competitors'
National carriers have ramped up social-media spending, goosed
by the frequent, fiery Twitter presence of T-Mobile CEO John
Legere. "The teleco wars broke out on Twitter," said Brent Herd,
head of telecommunication sales for Twitter. "It's a feature that
the marketplace for us has been asking for some time."
Mr. Herd would not specify how much of Twitter's ad sales --
$320 million last quarter -- came from the sector. But he offered,
"It's been growing in a very healthy way."
Twitter has tested carrier targeting over recent months with
multiple wireless companies, including all four of the largest in
the U.S., according to an executive familiar with the situation.
International carriers have experimented, too.
"The reason we love this product because it enables us to talk
to our consumers," said Dale Hooper, chief brand officer for Rogers
Communications, Canada's largest telecom. Rogers tested the feature
while marketing its roaming feature to subscribers. Mr. Hooper said
the company saw engagement 10% greater than the industry benchmark
for its English-language ads; in French, it hurtled 30%.
Rogers only targeted its own customers, not its rival's. But
other carriers might. When asked if O2, a British carrier that
tested the feature, targeted competing subscribers, a spokeswoman
for the carrier hedged. "We use all tactics at our disposal in
order to help us be more relevant to existing and potential
customers," she wrote in an email.
Verizon, AT&T and
Sprint declined to comment. "Twitter is blazing a new trail in the
social space with this type of targeting and the early results are
positive," Peter DeLuca, senior-VP advertising for T-Mobile, said
in a statement.
Recently, Verizon and AT&T have faced scrutiny from privacy
advocates over their experiments with mobile-ad targeting.
With its second new feature, Twitter is making a push for
app-install dollars, a cottage industry pouring into Facebook. If a
Twitter user logs in using a new iPhone, for instance, advertisers
can now pitch the user on other apps. Both Google and Facebook currently
offer this feature.
Twitter is joining Google in selling carrier-targeting. To date,
Facebook does not -- alhough it may soon.
Softcard, the telecom joint-venture payments company, has used
both new Twitter targeting features to market its mobile app. "When
Twitter rolls this out publicly, it could be beneficial for
advertisers," Jeffrey Mack, Softcard's head of social, said of
carrier targeting. "They could go to Facebook and say, 'Well,
Twitter offers it.'"