Twitter will be grouping these logged-out visitors into the
larger audience pool that it sells to advertisers. That means that
once Twitter widely rolls out these ads, it will be able to sell
brands on reaching 820 million people as opposed to its previous
ceiling of 320 million, when including the 13 million people who
use Twitter via text messaging to follow specific Twitter users
without registering their own Twitter accounts.
"Marketers obviously care about reach, and there are only a
handful of companies and properties in the world where you can
reach over 800 million people. And Twitter's one of them," said
Twitter COO Adam Bain in an interview.
Twitter is starting this test on the desktop web because that's
where the majority of this logged-out audience is visiting Twitter,
according to Mr. Bain. He identified three main ways that those
people end up on Twitter. One, they clicked on a link in Google's
search results to a tweet or Twitter user profile. Two, they
clicked on a link in an email. Three, they clicked on a tweet
embedded on a third-party site or app.
Since those logged-out visitors are coming to Twitter through a
side door -- as opposed to navigating directly to Twitter's home
page -- Twitter will only show ads to that audience when they're
viewing a Twitter user's profile page or a tweet-specific page,
which Twitter calls a "tweet detail page." On the profile page, the
ads will appear within the first handful of tweets that appear,
whereas on a tweet detail page, they will show up below the main
tweet but before any replies to that tweet.
While Twitter won't be running these ads on the version of its
home page that it shows logged-out visitors, the company plans to
eventually add that placement to the mix, Mr. Bain said. "Any area
that a consumer is logged-out is an area we think is a valuable
opportunity," he said.
And since these visitors aren't logged into Twitter accounts --
meaning Twitter can't compile profiles of their interests based on
what they tweet or who they follow -- Twitter will only target the
ads to logged-out visitors based on the context of the tweet or
profile page those visitors came to view. "A marketer who's
targeting keywords or interests, for example, on Twitter will be
able to have that campaign extend across into logged-out Twitter,"
Mr. Bain said.
This isn't the first time Twitter has tried to make money from
people who aren't signed in. Earlier this year the company
started showing ads to logged-out users across its network of
third-party apps and sites. That off-Twitter ad revenue hit $66
million in the third quarter of 2015, according to the company's
most recent earnings report.
The off-Twitter ad program has also informed which ad formats
Twitter has picked to show the logged-out audience visiting its
site. Mr. Bain said that promoted video ads "really performed for
these logged-out users" and that "a lot of content viewing [on
Twitter] is actually on desktop web for video," so Twitter's video
ad format made the cut. Twitter's direct-response ad formats that
brands buy to direct people to their own sites also "really work on
the desktop web," he said, so that format also made the cut.