'Don't treat segmentation on Twitter like other channels'

Marketers are addressing the limitation of audience segmentation on Twitter to ensure their tweets are not being wasted on irrelevant audiences. But the site and social media experts have urged brands not to attempt to use Twitter in the same way as other communications platforms and instead use its “more timely” - if limited – user interest data to their advantage.

Nokia Twitter

This month Nokia launched what it claims is an “industry first” Twitter app – Tweetsender - to address “concerns” it had found in segmenting its audience on the site.

Thomas Messett, Nokia’s global editor in chief of social media, says the industry will “move in this direction” next year with less focus on acquiring fans and more on delivering “mutual value”.

Messett says: “If we have a software update for Lumia or a cool app for Asha devices, by tweeting it to our whole base we know only a very small percentage of the relevant audience see it and a large percentage of the irrelevant audience do.”

Its Twitter followers can now sign up to receive personalised information based on their device and location about handset upgrades, software updates and apps delivered to their Direct Messages inbox so that its messages do not go to “irrelevant” audiences.

Robin Grant, co-founder of We Are Social, says Twitter’s targeting capabilities are somewhat “limited” because it does not capture much user data at the point of registration - meaning there is a “long way to go” before it becomes as sophisticated at segmentation as Facebook.

He adds, however: “I think brands need to learn to communicate with users in their preferred environments, rather than blasting them with ad messages and hoping that one in a thousand will convert. Success on Twitter means offering unique content, entertainment or offers - not treating it as standard display advertising.”

Kristin Brewe, chair of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s social media council, advises marketers should try to have one-to-one product benefit conversations where possible. Brands should work to find out which users are retweeting them and what in particular has interested them to make their Twitter communications more effective, she says.

Ultimately, the best way for marketers to target specific users with specific messages on Twitter is to look to its advertising products, its UK sales director Bruce Daisley explains, defending against criticism of its segmentation capabilities.

“People set up to use Twitter based on their interests and passions for their own personalised news feed and Twitter segments around that. This forms the basis of how our ads work as we can give brands a tightly defined set of interests and they are increasingly using that interest map to build their targeting - only paying for the ads people engage with,” he says.

While Twitter is “a little more challenging” than Facebook because does not collect defined data like Facebook’s Open Graph, TBG Digital’s strategy director Karl Harvard says it offers “a great opportunity” because its advertising targeting algorithms are based on more recent activity.

He adds: “If someone is following brands and has sent a bunch of tweets from a certain location on a specific subject, communications with this individual can become more timely and relevant. Twitter’s segmentation data is a living thing and will change dynamically; Facebook offers a similar thing but retains old interest information, which may become less relevant over time.”

Lara O'Reilly


Twitter has come a long way in improving the data it can offer to brands looking to pay for its promoted products – by offering targeting by interest, inferred gender, region and mobile device, for example.

Unfortunately, as far as Twitter’s free products to brands are concerned, it is a little more tricky to prevent wastage when sending out tweets to followers – many of which may not find specific product or service news relevant to them. This is especially so when compared to Facebook and the third-party tools that can be used to send updates just to certain audience segments on its platform.

Daisley says Twitter would discourage brands building their own apps and instead keep their core experience on the platform.

If that’s the case, brands will be hoping Twitter provides them with more options to reach smaller segments of their follower-base beyond advertising – which is arguably more useful for acquisition than retention.

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