Twitter’s Kevin Weil Says The Big Advantage Of The Company’s New Keyword Targeting Is Timing

Earlier today, Twitter announced that it will allow advertisers to target their promoted content based on the keywords in a tweet. I had a brief conversation with Senior Director of Revenue Products Kevin Weil who laid out Twitter’s perspective on the announcement’s significance.

“People always say that you are what you tweet,” Weil said. (Always?) At the same time, he noted that the content of those tweets haven’t been a significant part of Twitter’s ad targeting — instead the company uses things like your device, geographic location, and “interest graph” based on people you follow. With today’s announcement, he said the content in public tweets have now become a “first-class citizen.”

Coverage of the announcement, including TechCrunch’s, has emphasized the ability this gives Twitter to target ads based on purchase intent, similar to Google’s search advertising. Weil made a similar point, but with a slightly different spin. He said that Twitter’s current interest graph targeting allows advertisers to find the “who” — in the other words, the audience that’s likely to be interested in the topics that they want to promote.

“With keyword targeting, you get the when,” he said. So an advertiser isn’t just targeting based on your general interests, but also what you’re interested in right now. Twitter’s blog post described this as reaching an audience “at the right moment, in the right context.”

Weil said that this shouldn’t change the experience for the user. They won’t see more ads — it’s just an extra way to target those users. Nor does it change Twitter’s emphasis on only showing ads that are genuinely engaging to users, he argued. Engagement rates for Twitter’s ads are usually 1 percent to 3 percent, but they’ve been significantly higher in early tests of ads that also use keyword targeting.

He added that this is something that could be useful to both small and large advertisers. For example, if there was a big sporting event, a large brand advertiser might want to run an ad targeting anyone who’s talking about the game. A neighborhood bar, on the other hand, could advertise their happy hour deal by targeting similar keywords, then use geotargeting to limit their audience to users nearby.

Weil will be speaking on our advertising panel at Disrupt NY, and I hope to get more details about the program from him then.