Twitter is unwrapping new targeting features, a revamped interface, and more detailed analytics on its self-served ad platform.
While the company positions for broader interest in its paid media products, it is expanding the tools and services it offers marketers to encourage more small- to mid-sized brands to increase engagement on the platform.
Twitter doesn't provide exact numbers, but says "thousands of business" are using the platform today.
Although a year has passed since Twitter made room for more paid content in users' timelines, the service is still only available by invitation in the United States.
It is unclear whether Twitter prefers to hide growth patterns, tamper expectations, or maintain control over which brands or marketers gain access to its burgeoning ad platform, but it's likely a combination of those factors and others.
For Doug Schumacher, co-founder of Zuum, it was "just an option, a click, and we were in," he says, adding that the process may have been streamlined because he had an existing campaign running on Twitter at the time.
"Twitter is making its native advertising portfolio approachable to small- to mid-sized businesses because it needs to," says Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. Having studied the promoted and sponsored space for quite some time, it's clear that businesses of all sizes can not solely rely on earned or owned media in social channels."
As for the new features now available to self-serve advertisers, Schumacher tells ClickZ that targeting by device type is the most exciting and potentially rewarding for marketers.
"That's a pretty big step for self-service advertising, and for the right businesses - like mobile app developers - it could give them some great efficiencies in connecting with the right target," he said. His interest wanes from there, however.
"Beyond targeting by device, I don't think there's that much that will surprise people. Self-service platforms like Google and Facebook have a lot of great features, so the bar is high," adds Schumacher. "But for the right brand, with the right audience, being able to target effectively on Twitter will be tight-enough targeting. Twitter has a distinct platform and audience, so by delivering targeting and campaign management tools that are comparable to other platforms, they can still give an advertiser a distinct capability."
In addition to targeting by device or platform, brands can direct their promoted tweets to users based on gender, interests they share with others (similar to Facebook's lookalike audience targeting), or 350 specific interest categories.
While Twitter has made improvements to its interface and began offering deeper analytics, reporting and real-time campaign controls, Schumacher tells ClickZ that the analytics are not a high point. "I don't find them very intuitive, and they seem to be missing some obvious ways that marketers would want to view their creatives. Categorizing creative messages into groups seems like an obvious omission," he adds.
"Paid media allows every business to expand their reach, but it takes more than money," adds Solis of Altimeter Group. "It takes a unique understanding of the culture of the network and the ability to engage users in something more interesting than a tweet or post, but instead a story or experience. Twitter's self-serve platform is making promoted products something for almost everyone to evaluate easier and with greater access and metrics."