Good news from Twitter today for those of us looking to reach potential customers where they hang out online. The explosive growth of social media in recent years should (in theory anyway) have been a Godsend to any advertiser looking to make a personal, and hopefully effective, connection. The problem is that despite all the hoopla and excitement, the verdict still seems to be out on social engagement as an effective medium. Today’s announcement from Twitter that it will allow advertisers, especially small businesses, to target by interest, gender and device represents another step in the right direction. The use case they point to is (for example) a golf products company who might want to target people who follow Tiger Woods.
It certainly seems like a good idea. My concern is that, as far as I can see so far anyway, it doesn’t allow for geo targeting which would be problematic for a bricks and mortar local business looking to drive foot traffic or a plumber looking for more clients in their service area. In our experience, a good majority of local businesses only want local clients… running a national campaign would be potentially wasteful. We have tested with social media multiple times, but for the kind of results we are looking for it simply doesn’t convert as well as search does by significant margins… orders of magnitude in some cases. Is it likely that this Twitter approach will work any better, only time will tell. There are some reasonably good stats out there, which indicate that for the kind of local and time sensitive clients we serve the more immediate level of Twitter engagement scores better than the more passive Facebook engagement.
Whether either will rise to anywhere near the level and target-ability of search remains to be seen. The complicating factor here is of course as always, mobile. As mobile usage continues to explode, the available real estate for any kind of advertising declines. Social media has sprinted to mobile devices; indeed so, that Facebook was caught so flat-footed with mobile contributed to their stock problems last year. All the signs are that end users are resistant to ads in their mobile social experience. They don’t mind it quite as much in search, as frequently the commercial result is the right answer to the question. It will be interesting to see if squeezing albeit targeted ads into the limited Twitter real estate on mobile devices will fly. We will certainly test it out and we will keep you posted.