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Twitter to Offer Marketers More Tools to Target, Track Followers

Geo-Relevant Ads Confirmed, 'Follower Dashboard' Announced at Ad Age Digital Conference

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Twitter is finally giving advertisers what they've been asking for: geo-relevant ads. It's also giving them more-detailed user analytics that will allow marketers to fine-tune their tweets and figure out who exactly is paying attention to them.

Adam Bain, Twitter's president of revenue, at Ad Age's Digital Conference. Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

Announced today at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York, the new Twitter dashboard -- named aptly, the Follower Dashboard -- helps brands get to know their Twitter customers who, all told, send out 140 million tweets every single day on the 5-year-old platform.

"Geo-relevance for promoted tweets and accounts allows marketers to reach the audience in the right geographic areas," said Adam Bain, Twitter's president of revenue. "A regional chain that is only available in a certain part of the country can now promote their account or tweets in the right metro areas. If you want to advertise against the term 'jeans' to people in Cleveland, you can now do that. Tweet by tweet by tweet, for each organic and paid tweet, we're able to tell you how it's resonating, including follows and unfollows, so you can tell if you're turning off your followers."

Geo-targeting on Twitter is available in 210 cities in the U.S. and more than 100 countries, Mr. Bain said, adding that Twitter will be adding more cities and countries over the coming year.

Geo-targeted tweets are crucial for capturing the massive amount of money analysts say is available in the local ad market, as small businesses and most long-tail marketers are tied to a geographic area. McDonald's Canada is already testing geo-targeted tweets. The tweets, sent out in Canada alone, mention country-specific products such as peach pie and chocolate-coffee milkshake.

Twitter's geo-targeting is based on an aggregate of data that users provide through their tweeting behavior. So, for example, if a user listed San Francisco as his location but sends most of his tweets from Los Angeles, a Los Angeles-based company would be able to target that user on Twitter.

The second feature announced today is the Follower Dashboard. The dashboard idea is not new when it comes to Twitter's ad products. In fact, for each of its existing advertising products, Twitter provides marketers with individual dashboards that show how campaign performance as well as how individual tweets resonate with customers. The new analytics dashboard provides brands greater insights into the audience of followers they've built on Twitter -- where they are, how they grew over time, their level of engagement -- and a glimpse at their other interests.

"This product is designed to answer the question that we've heard from marketers: Who are my followers?" Mr. Bain said. "Now, marketers can understand their audience and react better to that audience by refining their campaigns."

Twitter enables marketers to get to know their customers based on various public signals; for example, user bios, the kind of lists they're on and their locations. The Follower Dashboard is available to all marketers that work with Twitter on Promoted Products, which include sponsored tweets, sponsored trends and sponsored accounts. This latest dashboard lets advertisers see how their ads and their content are performing in terms of re-tweets, follows, unfollows, click-throughs and other actions.

One of the earliest Twitter advertising customers was Radio Shack, and its CMO, Lee Applbaum, got on stage right after Mr. Bain to discuss a Twitter case use for a previous iteration of the analytics dashboard. In December, Radio Shack launched a sponsored trending topic using the hashtag #ineedanewphone. The Twitter analytics dashboard told Radio Shack that within 24 hours of launching the sponsored trend -- and, of course, being retweeted by Lance Armstrong, a Radio Shack spokesperson -- the tweet generated 65 million impressions and had an engagement rate of 8.8% (the average engagement rate on Twitter is 3%-5%). Additionally, Mr. Applbaum said his company could measure the success of that Twitter marketing spend because Radio Shack saw wireless-platform sales increase double digits in the three days that followed the promoted trend. "The ROI on this social-media initiative was stratospheric for us," Mr. Applbaum said.

This announcement comes a year after Twitter launched Promoted Products at Ad Age's Digital 2010 conference, when the company had only six advertisers. Today, Twitter has more than 600 advertisers and 80% of them are repeat business marketers, adding up to a total of 6,000 Twitter campaigns. Mr. Bain said Twitter is building a self-service tool for the long tail that, the company hopes, will grow the number of advertisers from 600 to 60,000.

It's difficult to figure out the price of a Promoted Tweet -- based partially on keyword auctions with a cost per engagement -- or a Promoted Account, which is also priced on a cost-per-engagement basis, but in this case, measured by follows. One of the Promoted Products, the Promoted Trend, is easy to price -- it costs $120,000 per day.

The self-service tool for Twitter advertising and Promoted Products will be available for anyone to use later this year. Clearly, this product is meant to compete with Facebook's self-service tool, which is extremely popular with small- and medium-sized businesses on Facebook. According to eMarketer, Facebook took in $1.86 billion in worldwide ad revenue in 2010 and Twitter's revenue was estimated at $45 million. The majority of that Facebook revenue, 60% or $1.12 billion, was earned from smaller companies more likely to use the self-serve tool.

Now that advertisers can monitor what happens on Twitter as a result of their organic and promoted tweets, brands can learn what followers like and dislike and what brands can and can't ask them to do.

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