Twitter today announced it will soon start experimenting with making its ads “more useful” to US users by letting its partners target them more directly. The company says it will be displaying promoted content from brands and businesses that its American members have shown interest in, but not just on Twitter.
Businesses looking to advertise on the social network will be able to share hashed email addresses or browser cookies to identify who they want to target. From there, Twitter will be able to match that information to its own accounts in order to show these users a promoted tweet from those businesses.
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Twitter offers the following example:
Let’s say a flower shop wants to advertise a Valentine’s Day special on Twitter. They’d prefer to show their ad to floral enthusiasts who subscribe to their newsletter. To get the special offer to those people, who are also on Twitter, the shop may share with us an unreadable scramble (called a hash) of emails from their mailing list. We can then match that to a hash of emails that our users have associated with their accounts in order to show them a Promoted Tweet for the Valentine’s Day deal on Twitter.
Another way this works is when a person visits the flower shop’s website. In that case, the shop may share with us browser-related information (a browser cookie ID) that we can then match to an account that may receive the Valentine’s Day offer.
Does this mean you’ll get inundated with ads on Twitter soon? The company says no: “Users won’t see more ads on Twitter, but they may see better ones.”
While using browser cookies means companies will be able to target anyone who visits their site, a list of email addresses could potentially go further than that. If you can get your hands on a list of email addresses for certain Twitter users, you could thus ensure the ads show up for them.
The good news is that Twitter users can choose to turn this off: all you have to do is go to account settings and uncheck the box next to “Promoted content.” Twitter says this is the only place you’ll need to disable this feature so that it does not match your account to information shared by its ad partners for tailoring ads.
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