I’ve heard the world of digital advertising described as a “never-ending arms race.” For ad platforms, innovation isn’t just a requisite for growth, but an ongoing, desperate means to survive. Newcomers are posing a greater threat to more established players, as evidenced by Instagram’s ad revenue projections to surpass that of Google and Twitter by 2018 (eMarketer). While this is both an exciting and lucrative time to be in digital advertising, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with an industry in constant flux.
Within the realm of social media advertising in particular, one of the most remarkable developments has been the evolution of audience targeting. As someone who’s regularly in the back end of various social ad platforms managing paid campaigns, I’ve observed some of the most rapid expansion of targeting capabilities within Twitter’s native campaign builder. It’s not uncommon for them to push a new update or feature every few months. I’ve compiled three of my top targeting best practices, which have helped us drive greater precision and efficiency for our clients’ campaigns.
Reach influencers by targeting influencers
Say you’ve launched a new Twitter account and are looking to target policymakers in tech with Promoted Account ads. Rather than targeting the followers of @TechCrunch or @ForbesTech, consider going after the likes of someone like @smithmegan (chief technology officer in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy) or @stevenvDC (Former White House CIO). Individuals who are experts in their field tend to attract other influential users who run in the same circles. They also they tend to have fewer “fake” followers than the behemoth accounts of publishers and big brands.
According to Twitter Audit, a free tool that analyzes an account’s followers, 13% of @stevenDC’s 10,910 followers are fake. Now compare that to @TechCrunch, which has a whopping 37% fake follower rate, based on the tool’s analysis. That means when you target @TechCrunch’s 5.9M+ followers, the likelihood that your ad is being served to a fake or spam account triples compared to targeting @stevenDC’s followers. Nobody likes paying $4.70 for a follow from a bot. Sure, it can be good optics to have quick gains in new followers, but chances are a substantial number of those accounts will unfollow within a week. Aim to build your handle targeting list based on quality of followers over quantity, and you’ll increase your campaign’s chance of success and return on those acquired followers over the long haul.
Harness user behavior from outside of Twitter
Last I checked, there were more than 3,500 possible tailored audience segments available to Twitter advertisers. These segments are created by trusted third-party data providers including eXelate, Dstillery, Acxiom and Dialogic. Using a combination of purchase-based data, rich demographic and financial insights, segments range from “households likely to purchase a meal from a drive-thru,” to “consumers who have taken active role in an environmental cause during past year.” My personal favorite is titled, “Men in Trouble” which is aptly described as, “Shopping – Flowers and Gifts & Gender: Male.” Considering both the variety and specificity of the segments available, you’d be hard-pressed not to find several that match your desired audience. Currently, you must request specific segments from your Twitter sales reps to be added into your account. However, in the future Twitter likely will make this available as a self-serve feature.
Own the conversation at key events
In July, Twitter rolled out a new feature called event targeting. Advertisers can browse a robust list of global and regional events, enhancing their ability to deliver timely, relevant messages amidst a dynamic conversation. Out of this update also came the Twitter events calendar. This allows advertisers to schedule campaigns months in advance, similar to buying on a TV network. Whether you plan to advertise around an event or not, this is a hidden gem within the Twitter ads ecosystem. By clicking on an event, you can see insights about past event conversations, such as total reach, tweets by geography, and top tweets by engagement. If you’re planning a social activation around an upcoming event, getting a pulse on last year’s topical trends through this feature could help inform both the paid and organic efforts of your strategy.
Recently, our reps at Twitter shared a “Targeting Pack” that they developed for brands looking to join the conversation around IFA 2015 in Berlin. The list included handles of presenting sponsors, notable attendees, keywords related to product launches, and general terms related to the show itself. If you’re looking to make a splash at an event that’s not on the master Twitter events calendar, try asking your reps if they’re planning to develop a targeting guide and save yourself some of the legwork.
For more Twitter ads best practices, I highly recommend the Twitter Ads blog or following @TwitterAds. Staying up to date on the latest and greatest in the digital advertising world is no small task. Start small and aim to master several key features at a time. This can go a long way in building your skills and offering lasting value to your clients.