News out of Twitter last week about its evolving advertising platform, and follow-up speculation by a well-informed John Battelle about Twitter's plans, indicate one thing: Twitter's advertising platform is a next frontier for search marketing professionals.
For those not yet in the know, Twitter enjoys phenomenal engagement by a large and growing audience, but has only recently begun to more efficiently monetize that audience. Beginning in 2010, it began introducing a Promoted Tweets program that enabled marketers to target keywords in Twitter search with promotional tweets that would appear in a semi-fixed position at the top of the results stream. Marketers could bid on these on a CPM basis.
Then, in July, Twitter enabled the targeting of a Promoted Tweet to the streams of those individuals who followed the brand. This meant, of course, brands went crazy trying to boost the number of followers they had, if only to broaden the reach of its Promoted Tweets.
Now, you can target non-followers, too. While Twitter has put some limits on the advertising -- it's not a fixed ad, for instance; it will appear at the top of your stream initially, but then travel down the list like any other tweet -- the new move has vastly increased the potential audience for advertisers. Importantly, the ads will now be seen beyond the Twitter search results page, including (according to a Twitter blog post):
· "In Search Results for a Promoted Trend. Users may also see a Promoted Tweet in the search results when they click on a Promoted Trend.
· Home Timelines. In some instances, Promoted Tweets may be visible within a user's timeline if an advertiser has promoted a Tweet that is relevant to that user.
· Official Twitter clients. Promoted Tweets from our advertising partners may also be displayed through Twitter's official desktop and mobile clients, including TweetDeck, Twitter for iPhone, and Twitter for Android, among others.
· Third-party Twitter clients. We are currently syndicating our Promoted Products suite to some third-party Twitter clients, including HootSuite."
Here's the thing: targeting will be -- initially, at least -- left to Twitter. While an advertiser is able to specify keywords, Twitter will determine who sees an ad based on some other criteria. Acording to Twitter, "Our platform uses a variety of signals to determine which Promoted Tweets are relevant to users, including what a user chooses to follow, how they interact with a Tweet, what they re-tweet, and more."
Twitter offers Promoted Tweets on a "Cost-per-Engagement" (CPE) basis -- which means you pay when someone retweets, replies to, clicks or favorites your Promoted Tweet. But it's not hard to imagine that other bid-based models are on the immediate horizon.
In a blog post on his conversation with Twitter CEO Dick Costelo, Battelle points out all the other obvious ways in which this idea logically evolves into a platform on which marketers get increasing controls to behave as they do on search advertising platforms. This would include geo-targeting, device / location targeting, etc. Interestingly, according to Battelle, the platform would also include the sorts of targeting available on social advertising platforms, including interest targeting, demographic targeting and audience targeting.
Just as search marketers are increasingly tasked with managing advertising campaigns on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter -- which isn't quite a social platform, but not quite a media platform, either -- is yet another new frontier on which search marketers are uniquely qualified to ply their particular craft. Prepare for some new adventures.