As media innovations go, last week's launch of Twitter’s event-targeting feature might not at face value seem the most dramatic, but it does add to a series of changes that the company has introduced over the past few months in order to make it more ad-friendly.
It's a logical step for Twitter: It empowers brands and individuals to schedule their editorial plan in a more sophisticated way and lets them hone in on what is relevant to them, thereby increasing scale and engagement.
Event targeting provides marketers with a searchable calendar of upcoming global events that are predicted to result in a spike in Twitter interest – such as the Super Bowl or Coachella — that might align with their target audience, and help them plan a campaign accordingly.
At its simplest, therefore, it’s a diary that any agency would already have access to. On a more granular level, however, users can drill down to obtain more sophisticated information about the characteristics of the audience — such as gender split or age — for each event based on previous data. They are also able to create a campaign for the event based on segmentation information on an event audience.
Those brands that want to be disruptive or "clever" during events can therefore better plan moment marketing content (communications or marketing efforts that drive engagement with consumers on up-to-the-minute events or topics) to create tweets to respond to scenarios taking place. This is something we did to great effect in 2013 when Nokia Lumia hijacked Apple’s launch of a range of colorful handsets that emulated its own in our #Thanks, Apple ;) campaign. This became the most retweeted brand tweet of the year.
So far, so obvious, you might think. But the implication for brands being able to take this and potentially tie in Periscope (copyright laws allowing) could result in a still-more-powerful set of marketing tools. By combining relevant or disruptive tweets with video content, branded communications would feel more authentic and seamless compared to marketing messages pushed via banner ads.
Moreover, event targeting does seem to be part of a reinvigorated commercial strategy following the departure of Dick Costolo, who had been blamed by analysts for failing to monetize the platform and to grow user numbers. In its second-quarter results, announced yesterday, Twitter's average monthly active users came in at 304 million for Q2, 12% higher than a year earlier but only up slightly from 302 million in the previous quarter. Shares in Twitter fell by more than 10% amid investor disappointment.
While Twitter has always espoused that its platform creates a product that touches billions of people across the planet — and that ad revenue is a byproduct of this reach — Costolo's fate cannot be ignored.
Twitter’s ad revenue still lags behind Facebook's; it accounted for less than 1% of the $145 billion spent on digital advertising worldwide in 2014 compared to Facebook’s 7.9%, according to eMarketer. It seems to have followed its platform philosophy by building tools that empower brands while also keeping an eye on ad revenue. When balancing the demands of shareholders and the needs of its user base, this in theory looks like a smart move.
Ryo Murad is the senior client director at Wunderman.
This article first appeared on campaignlive.co.uk.