By Gerry Shih
Aug 30 Twitter Inc will begin allowing
advertisers to directly target users based on the interests they
reveal in their tweets, the social media company said Thursday.
In an effort to draw advertisers to its paid ads program,
the company also slashed the minimum price of "promoted tweets"
to just a penny.
No longer content to be a "dumb" bulletin board, with 400
million micro-messages posted daily, Twitter has moved to a
strategy of actively sifting through what each user is reading
and tweeting in order to discern every individual's interests.
Google has long reaped huge profits by displaying
ads based on what a user searches for in its search engine,
while Facebook, a Twitter competitor, encourages users to
proactively input their "likes." But Twitter has long faced the
challenge of indirectly inferring these preferences.
Twitter will now allow companies to send paid ads in the
forms of tweets to groups of users, bunched in more than 350
interest categories curated by Twitter itself.
CEO Dick Costolo has said in recent months that his
company's value lies in its ability to mine its flow of
information to build "an interest graph" showing its users'
preference profiles -- which could be used by marketers to
deliver targeted and relevant ads.
For instance, sports apparel retailers can target soccer
fanatics for promotions, or film distributors might send tweets
directed at keen Bollywood fans.
The new offering will allow companies to reach a "very
narrow, very specific and incredibly focused audience," Kevin
Weil, a Twitter director of product management, said in an
Twitter engineers believe they can build a compelling ad
delivery platform, particularly if marketers craft ads that seem
to blend in with the tone and format of the service's flow of
tweets, which are seen by some 140 million monthly active users.
In building its interest graph, Twitter analyzes "a host of
signals," Weil said, including which accounts a user follows, as
well as the subjects of tweets that are most frequently
recirculated or replied to by the user.
The company's algorithms closely evaluate the latter, giving
"a direct measure of what you're interested in," Weil said.
Between 1 and 3 percent of users who see a "promoted tweet"
-- a paid ad -- click on the tweet in some way. But early beta
tests have shown the engagement rate to be higher when tweets
are directed using its new interest-targeting tool, Weil said,
while declining to discuss specific results.
Valued at more than $8 billion but expected by analysts to
make less than $300 million in revenue in 2011, Twitter has
aggressively ramped up its advertising capabilities. But in
streamlining its product to better show ads, the company has
cracked down on how third-party services may use its content,
sparking an outcry from Silicon Valley technologists who would
like Twitter to remain a neutral media platform.
In protest against what they viewed as a Twitter experience
increasingly corrupted by advertising, software developers in
California this month launched App.net, a Twitter-like rival
that is supported by a $50 membership fee rather than ads.