Programmatic Twitter: Agencies And API Partners Discuss The Opportunity

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Twitter futureTwitter is getting serious about programmatic. Its recent moves – and reported moves – have included lead capture forms in the Twitter stream, CRM matching, and website retargeting.  The latter two seem to follow directly in Facebook's footstep.

“It's one area where they seem to be following Facebook’s lead,” comments David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer for MRY agency. “Eventually, Twitter will be very eager to be part of those massive buys and make it really easy for advertisers to plug in there."

But he adds, "One thing I don’t see Twitter doing at any point is devaluing their inventory. That’s what made them very unusual when it comes to most other publishers out there… they definitely don’t want to just compete for impressions at whatever cost.”

If Twitter follows in Facebook’s programmatic footsteps, Ross Sheingold, chief strategy officer for New York-based social agency Laundry Service, says he would expect a “next wave” of Twitter's Ads API partners to include retargeting platforms. Twitter, he adds, is the “perfect medium” for retargeting since it’s all about “what’s happening now.” Thus, generic messaging will not work and will require marketers to keep up, in real-time and in context.

In addition to retargeting platforms, the data management space is an area Twitter could tackle. But, as Media Kitchen’s Darren Herman points out, such a move could “undermine the third parties building around their ecosystem.”

With Twitter’s shift toward fine-tuned and tailored ads, one of the most attractive things for one Ads API partner is the delicate balance the platform strikes between the likes of Facebook and Google.

“If you ask Twitter what they ‘are,’ I’m not sure they’d tell you they’re a social network,” remarks Zvika Goldstein, director of product for Kenshoo Social.  “We see the targeting capability as very similar to what we know from Facebook and what we’ve seen for years on the search side. There’s something there that’s very compelling for a company like Kenshoo.”

Digital marketing agency PPC Associates has noticed positive results stemming from the Custom Audiences email matching it has done on behalf of clients through Facebook, and the agency’s Director of Social Andrew Foxwell says he’s pleased that Twitter has come out with two similar ad targeting features. But, he notes that these new releases will ultimately need to be paired with other forms of targeting [ 1] to yield full value, not unlike Twitter’s keyword targeting product.

Another need, on the client side, is stronger performance reporting, Foxwell notes.

“Twitter operates on a CPE or cost-per-engagement method, which is tough for showing people quick results that they feel they've received a good ROI from,” he says. “I think Twitter should create their own engagement scores that combine statistics and create something like what Facebook has with unique reach. They should tell a greater story about how many people reacted and how quickly to the Promoted Tweet, since Twitter is all about timing.”

In addition, Twitter, which recently launched a Lead Generation Card to allow users to respond directly to a brand, content, or campaign natively, hints that “this direct-response, and performance-advertising kind of sector would be huge for Twitter where you’re driving engagement, but maybe your primary goal is to drive people to take an action,” comments Laura O’Shaughnessy, CEO of SocialCode.

She added, “That would be an enormous area for them if they step in there, and this is all my speculation, but you can see an ad exchange where you can target Twitter users or followers of certain folks and…really create a 'whole circle' marketing program. We’re really just at the beginning of Twitter advertising.”

AdExchanger checked in with the second wave of Twitter Ads API partners and asked them to share what they’ve been doing with their new integrations -- and, if they felt so inclined, what they’d put on their wishlist for Twitter. Here’s what they said. 

Laura O’Shaughnessy, CEO, SocialCode:

“A lot of it is being able to do everything in a less-manual fashion. Twitter is so much about temporal trends, so there’s an event happening or a TV show is on or a political uprising is happening in the world. It’s a real-time news source and conversation of our time right now. What’s really essential for brands is they want to be part of that conversation at exactly the right time to communicate with exactly the right people. What we’ve done is introduce proprietary targeting sets so brands are able to target their ads in a much more advanced way than before. In addition, we rolled out a much tighter targeting set, so brands can schedule ads not just during a TV show, but also to run at the same time as a TV commercial, so you can reinforce a message on Twitter at exactly the same time or slightly later, depending on the optimal schedule. This kind of control has led to a huge boost in performance, and honestly, a decrease in cost for brands. For these companies, it’s much less manual & now, it’s easier, to execute scheduled campaigns.”

Zvika Goldstein, director of product, Kenshoo Social:

“Twitter is bringing a different experience to our clients in terms of their ad products and we’re really trying to scale activity like bulk changes and budget management...initially, I think we saw a lot of focus on creation and how to create keywords or ads in scale. We feel this is important, but creating ads is not necessarily the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is managing, providing insights, optimization, and reporting. Kenshoo is really focused on measurement and the majority of Twitter’s clients are brand advertisers. I think in the next year or so, you’ll start to see them explore (more from the) direct response and performance marketing aspect. I think it’s still early in the game, but we see this as a big opportunity.”

Missy Godfrey, CEO, SocialFlow (in a statement):

“Brands are searching for the best solution to get the most value from social media. There are 200 million users on Twitter. If advertisers want to grow reach, engagement, and conversions on Twitter, they need a technology solution that will connect their content with the audience that is most likely to engage. Clients use SocialFlow because they can focus on creating great content, and we focus on delivering the most impactful, cost-effective engagement and conversions at scale.”

Rob Leathern, CEO, Optimal:

“By having direct access to the Twitter Ads API, we can quickly extend both our automation (a strong differentiator for us in the Facebook Ads API world today) and our engagement-tracking/optimization and audience similarity models to our existing agency and direct advertiser customers and the new ones who have been asking us for access to Twitter. There's a very small number of API partners like us who can efficiently address both brand budgets and direct response, and some of those who do so on Facebook who don't yet have the Twitter qualification. As Twitter adds other features that allow them (as Facebook before them did) to address more than brand advertisers, we'd expect those other companies to want to get access. Attribution is also a big deal for everyone, so seeing data companies like Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon and others play a role with Twitter in some way (directly or indirectly) would make sense too.”

Calvin Lui, president & chief strategy officer, Unified Social:

“There are a couple of things we can do with the API. One, is the ability to programmatically set up a campaign in the Twitter platform for promoted tweets or promoted ad units. Rather than going into a manual methodology of sending in an insertion order, etc., we can programmatically tap in to that API for the creation of the ad campaign, and to do the editing, uploading, and switching of creative, or changing bids. It just makes it so much easier for people to activate engagement models with the Twitter platform. On top of that, you get much faster programmatic reporting and in real-time, see what the performance rate of (a campaign) is, what people are responding to, and optimize it all from the self-service platform or through our services. In real-time, you have access to campaigns in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with analytics and real-time monitoring of all posts and tweets…if I were to offer a guess about Twitter’s next move, I would say they’d bring in even more data partners. You don’t want to boil the ocean, but you do want to take what’s happening, understand what’s happening in real-time, and translate that into actionable executions.”

Alok Choudhary, founder & CEO, Voxsup, (See related AdExchanger story):

“There are things clients can do now that they hadn’t been able to do before in terms of productivity and performance. It was very tedious and unproductive to have to do things one-by-one. Our platform allows clients to create hundreds of thousands of small ads and campaigns that are tightly targeted with a few clicks, and the productivity goes up an order of magnitude in real-time…without the APIs, this would not be possible…Twitter is always thinking about pain points of clients and not just creating too many APIs and ways of doing things, which can become complex. They’ve been very responsive and back-and-forth taking our feedback on requests we’ve made. From that perspective, (we’ve placed) a special emphasis on simplicity and understanding of business needs. We have communicated a few things to Twitter that we’d like to do, in terms of being able to provide performance (data) to the clients, and I’m sure that’s already in the works.”

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