Twitter tests cookie-based ad retargeting

Twitter is to offer brands targeted ads based on users’ browsing behaviour and their own customer databases, which the site says will make its advertising properties “more useful” for both marketers and users.


In a blog post, Twitter’s senior director of product for revenue Kevin Weil explains a florist wanting to advertise a Valentine’s Day special on Twitter can share with the site a scrambled email address (otherwise known as a “hash”) or a cookie. Twitter can then match this information to accounts in order to show them a Promoted Tweet with the Valentine’s Day deal.

The new feature is currently being trialled in the US only, but if successful will likely roll out to other territories and possibly raise the price of Twitter’s ad rates because retargeting can improve the ratio of ads aimed at those with purchase intent or high levels of engagement.

Twitter has stressed the update will not result in users seeing more ads, “but they may see better ones”. 

Users can also adjust their account settings to ensure Twitter does not match their accounts to information shared by brands for tailoring ads. Twitter also supports “Do Not Track”, meaning the site will not receive cookies from ad partners if users have the service enabled in their browser.

In 2011 the EU E-Privacy Directive required all websites operating in Europe to inform visitors cookies were being placed on their computers. 

Twitter is forecast to generate $582m in advertising revenue this year, almost double that of 2012, according to research group eMarketer.

Elsewhere, Twitter has also made changes to its video sharing app Vine as it looks to improve the service in the wake of the launch of Facebook’s Instagram Video.

New features include the launch of 15 new channels – ranging from comedy to cats -, an “on the rise” discovery section, the ability to “Revine” posts, additional editing and video capture tools and protected accounts.  

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