Is Twitter Laying The Ground Work For Better Targeting And An Ad Network?

Twitter Ad NetworkWell, if Facebook isn’t going to do it, maybe Twitter will?

More data for informing the “interest graph” could be on its way to microblogging service Twitter as the company announced Tuesday its newest “Follow” button – a javascript “widget.”

Widget alert! Tags-on-a-page!

Twitter’s Brian Ellin explains in a post on his company’s blog:

“Using the Follow Button is as simple as a single click. You can also see the profile and latest Tweets of the account you want to follow by clicking the username next to the Button.”

Hmmm. Things may have become more interest-ing. 

This new widget is much different than the old Twitter “Follow” widget which was simply a hyperlinked graphic hosted on Amazon Web Services. The new widget could set a cookie if it wants to.

So, what are the implications of a Twitter cookie?

Well, just as Facebook learns more about its users as they run around the web and click “Like” buttons (or not) that inform the user’s “social graph” created on Facebook’s site, now Twitter users could inform their Twitter “interest graph” by clicking the “Follow” button. Moreover, users potentially don’t even have to click “Follow” as the Twitter cookie could still inform about the Twitter user’s interests. Either way, users could be retargeted on Twitter or any publisher, network, or exchange that is selling media to which Twitter user cookies can be mapped.

Targeting Data

So, application #1 is web-wide, interest graph, targeting data similar (but different) to targeting data offered by ShareThis, AddThis, AddToAny or even Quantcast. RadiumOne, among other social ad targeting companies, must be eyeballing this scenario as it looks to continue to refine its ShareGraph technology and positioning.


Another part of application #1 – let’s say #1a – is “interest graph” analytics for any publisher.   Why not? Twitter could map the users on a publisher’s site to the data collection it has on these users and their interest graphs -and then offer its unique interest graph analytics and visualizations to the publisher. The publisher could, in turn, use this data to inform themselves on their audience whether for content or marketing purposes a la Quantcast.

Ad Network

Application #2 is an ad network with two audiences:

  • Twitter users: Twitter could start allowing their users to be targeted through Twitter, ad exchanges or any publisher which is running a Twitter ad tag.
  • Anyone who sees a Follow button: Any user who visits a site with a Follow button and is accepting cookies could be targeted. Now that’s big reach – and overcomes skeptics who wonder how big Twitter’s audience really is. Intent-based data could be compelling here (autos, travel, etc.) and “interest graph” targeting could even be applied to non-Twitter users through look-alike modeling with existing Twitter users.

Finally, Twitter isn’t stopping there with its potential data targeting grab. It’s going to be in the Firefox toolbar as the Twitter-with-Firefox site states that “The pinned Twitter app tab lights up when new Tweets arrive.” Lots of good data in the toolbar – just ask Google and Yahoo!.

Twitter has been very pragmatic, if not hesitant, with its initial foray into media and ads.  I wouldn’t expect widget-enabled, ad targeting data for wider use any time soon. But the managers of Twitter-land can no doubt see what’s possible. The interest graph speaks to the almighty brand dollar.  “Big reach” appeals to TV dollars – let alone, brands.

And, if Twitter management can’t see what’s possible, I’m here to help.

Start crunching the “big data,” Twitter.

By John Ebbert

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