Your Twitter Ads Are Irrelevant? C'mon Marketers, We're Better Than That

A recent study asserted that only 17% of users found Twitter ads to be relevant. Wait a second, my math skills are limited -- but that means the other 83% of these ads are, gulp, irrelevant.Here we have a powerful social platform, serving relevant information to millions of interconnected people daily, and somehow we marketers can’t seem to get right messages to the right people at the right time.

In the NFL, the last player picked in the draft earns the designation of “Mr. Irrelevant.” It’s a tag that follows that player through the rest of his career.   Right now, your brand is the Mr. Irrelevant of Twitter.

Don’t be that guy.  We’ve seen the promise of perfectly executed tweets, so we know relevance is possible.  Was the now famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet relevant?  Yup. Did Big Papi’s presidential “selfie” insert Samsung into a relevant conversation to help them own that moment?  Sure did. Fellow marketers, it can be done, and not just serendipitously. Planning for and becoming relevant on Twitter isn’t a strategic question to be answered; it’s a tactical challenge to be executed.  



First, let’s acknowledge and accept that just because we can get a message into someone’s feed whenever we want, doesn’t mean we should.  Consider the case of “Bob,” a 35- to 54-year-old male, with a HH income north of $150K/year, who tweets about travel, rum, and his favorite show, “Homeland.” Despite his demographic and interest profile, I promise you Bob is no more likely to enjoy being interrupted by a Promoted Tweet about a Barbados getaway during “Homeland” than he would by a 30-second TV spot disrupting his viewing pleasure.

Running ads based on broad interests of followers can be part of an effective strategy, but is it enough? Today we are held to a higher standard of relevance as the world continues to become “datafied.”  Syncing demographics, interests, and data is the only path to planned relevance.

If it’s data you want, well, there’s a “feed” for that.  Real-time data sources are plentiful and powerful. There are thousands of external data feeds, pre-configured to serve localized weather conditions, sports scores, and even when your competitors’ TV ads are running. Remember Bob? What if we sent a Promoted Tweet about Barbados vacations his way every time a weather feed predicted a “wintery mix” or “freezing rain” for his Zip code?

There’s also internal data to consider. Yes, you’re going to have to make friends with the IT and legal folks in your organization, but the investment in time will pay immediate dividends. Imagine a supermarket chain leveraging store-level inventory and pricing data to trigger tweets to shoppers when new products hit the shelves, prices drop, or the produce is freshest.

Finally, there is a new type of data signal that promises to synchronize location data with hyper-local, hyper-relevant messages.  Technologies like iBeacon are a potential game-changer, but not without a price. Consumers are going to expect  --  no, demand --  even greater relevance from marketers in exchange for allowing their location data to trip automated messages to their devices.

Are we ready for the challenge? 17% of our ads on Twitter are relevant? C’mon, we’re better than that.  


9 comments about "Your Twitter Ads Are Irrelevant? C'mon Marketers, We're Better Than That".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, April 8, 2014 at 10:42 a.m.

    This is ridiculous. Show me a single individual outside of our industry that wants -- let alone demands -- any ads at all, relevant or otherwise. What part of 50%+ DVR usage and CTRs of less than .1% don't you get?

  2. Diana Tobey from Brand Networks, April 8, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.

    @Mike - Correlation does not imply causation. And arguably the reason why consumers want to stop viewing ads is due to irrelevancy, not because they hate ads in general (although I agree there's definitely a subset of consumers who fall into the latter). The challenge for any marketer is trying to understand what ads matter to an individual, and not abusing their privilege of serving an ad to that individual. While it's not perfect (and you can't actually target individuals on social), data gives us opportunities to be more relevant. If you're next to a store and it starts pouring, would you mind getting a 25% coupon on an umbrella from that store (real-time weather signal by store zip)? If you live in an area with high flu incidence, would you mind seeing an ad to get flu shots for your kids on the way home from school (daily flu signal by age group + demo targeting)? Both of these ads could be highly relevant, or not irrelevant at all (i.e. it's not raining, you don't have kids, or it's the middle of summer). Social (and digital at large) allows us to show ads to people that would care, and NOT show them to the people who don't. That's something you can't do in TV or other traditional channels, and we're only scratching the surface so far!

  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, April 8, 2014 at 4:48 p.m.

    @Diana, Your two preposterous examples aside, consumers don't see the ads because they don want them, period. And we'd know this if we hadn't asked the wrong question first: "What kind of ads do you prefer, relevant or irrelevant?" The right first question, "Do you want any ads?" renders irrelevant the entire notion of relevant ads. Speaking of which, how many Twitter ads can you recall? That's what I thought.

  4. Diana Tobey from Brand Networks, April 8, 2014 at 5:02 p.m.

    @Mike - Would love to hear why you think my examples are preposterous. Our Open Signals product allows advertisers to hook up any 1st or 3rd party data signal they want to their Facebook and Twitter campaigns. We already support real time weather and 1st party store data, and are in talks to support health data as well. Happy to demo the product for you if you don't believe me. As for people not wanting ads at all... I think you'd be surprised at the answer. Yes, there are some people that hate ads and will do all they can to avoid seeing them. But most people understand that in the digital economy, it's perfectly acceptable to have free goods & services that are supported by advertising. If not, I don't think you'd see people using Twitter or Facebook anymore, not to mention ANY website that has display ads. Again, it comes down to advertisers not abusing the power they have and spamming people who aren't interested. Finally, on the subject of Twitter, what I love about Twitter is that it isn't even about the ads - but rather content that you are interested in engaging in. I retweeted a Qualcomm ad yesterday and a Percolate tweet a couple days ago. And Ellen's organic tweet from the Oscars for Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 received almost 3 million retweets. So.. I guess someone's listening :)

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 8, 2014 at 5:28 p.m.

    It seems like the twits constantly are looking at their phones and do nothing else. Really ? I would rather pay the $5 for the dinky umbrella on the street than 25% off that $30 umbrella in the store. Flu shots ? They are available at every chain store - signs and stuff. Please give better examples. And sometimes people just can't afford to save any more money buying more stuff on the fly. I am very much not anti-advertising, but all of the increased data driven zone ins have only increased the cacophony and increased costs dramatically. Plain vanilla sells itself and does pretty well.

  6. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, April 8, 2014 at 5:40 p.m.

    Diana, Let me use Facebook as an example of what I'm driving at: As you know, the average ad CTR on Facebook is approx 1 -in-2500, or, .04%. Mind you, that's the average. For Big Pharma advertisers, it's more like a 1-in-9000 CTR. And, as you may or may not know, ad impressions on Facebook can be had for less than twenty-cents per thousand. Why so cheap? Because they're utterly worthless, that's why - not my opinion, but clearly the opinion of anyone buying and selling them at $.0002 each (can you imagine the Facebook salesperson being able to quote pricing with a straight face?) And even more preposterous than your umbrella and flu-shot examples is your all or nothing comment about display ads. I never said people won't tolerate the presence of advertising, I said people don't want it. That's why we willingly pay extra to avoid ads on TV and why pre-roll abandon and skip rates are 40%+ and 70%+ respectively. The fact that we've reduced this to a tolerance issue lowers the bar beyond the pale of reason.

  7. Diana Tobey from Brand Networks, April 8, 2014 at 6:02 p.m.

    @Paula - I believe in experimentation and I do think it's possible that syncing your ads to weather or health advisories can move the needle, but if those examples don't tickle your fancy, I'll give you a real example from our NCAA campaigns on Twitter. We ran constant campaigns for top seeded teams (always on) and campaigns for underdog teams ONLY when those teams were winning (using a real-time sports signal). We found that CTR on the score-synced campaigns was > 20% with $0.25 CPC. We also ran the same test on Facebook. Results here:

    @Mike - You have a fair point that average CTR on Facebook is low. That said, most of the CTRs we're seeing with our clients is multitudes above that due to our ability to optimize on the fly (divert budget to well-performing campaigns, auto-pause poor-performing campaigns, and yes trigger ads based on when we think they will be most relevant). Also, I agree that many consumers "tolerate" ads, but again it comes down to good ads and bad ads. Bad ads drive down the numbers for everyone, and it diminishes the great work that's being done by advertisers who DO care about their consumers. Just take a look at the YouTube videos of ads that still manage to rack up millions of views (consumer opt-in!). I'll take the glass-half-full approach here and say that there's a lot of opportunity for everyone to focus on the consumer and deliver great ads that are relevant to them.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 9, 2014 at 7:13 p.m.

    Twits during a specific occasion for a specific product/service relating to that occasion is not the same as ROS twits. And CTR does not necessarily move to act to depart with money. See MediaPosts.

  9. Diana Tobey from Brand Networks, April 9, 2014 at 8:02 p.m.

    @Paula - That's precisely right. Our entire product is about synchronizing your social ads around the moments that matter. There's a big difference between an advertiser saying "LOOK AT ME" vs "I know you care a lot about X so here's an ad that is specifically targeted to a need around X". In this case, it was advertising a team jersey for people who would be interested in supporting their home team when their team was winning in the NCAA match. In social advertising, with such rich targeting and an ability to align with the data that matters to you, it's an incredible opportunity for advertisers. As for CTR, I agree with the other MediaPost articles that CTR is not the end all metric, and there are more important metrics along the conversion funnel that need to be measured. In fact, Open Signals works with 1st party data for that exact reason - if you don't care about CTR and only about purchases, you can optimize your social ads based on 1st party purchase data. That said, I don't know any advertiser who'd turn down 20% CTR ;)

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