Twitter recently launched a new ad retargeting product called Tailored Audiences. The gist of it: Now, you can tag users who have visited your website, and hit them with your ads while they're browsing Twitter.

To understand what this really means for your business, let’s back up and look at how Twitter ads have typically performed, how retargeting actually works, why social retargeting is different, and how you can tap into the power of retargeting.

Do Twitter Ads Work?

Previously, they were pretty awful.

I recently analyzed Facebook vs. Twitter ad performance, comparing the two across a number of key factors including network reach, ad performance on desktop or mobile, and average cost.

  • Click through rates with Twitter Ads can be ten times higher than Facebook ads because Promoted Tweets appear prominently in the Twitter stream–they have an inherent edge over Facebook Ads, most of which appear in the right sidebar.
  • However, Facebook ads crush Twitter ads in terms of their ability to drive sales and leads. For example, revenue per visitor was more than two times higher for Facebook ads compared to Twitter ads.

Bottom line, if your ads aren't driving revenue, what good are they?

But all bets are off now that Twitter has released new Twitter Tailored Audiences. The company is claiming that it has seen some pretty spectacular results in early retargeting testing, including:

  • A 45 percent lift in engagement for a B2B advertiser.
  • 74 percent lower cost per acquisition (CPA) for a technology company.
  • 195 percent higher conversion rates for an enterprise-level app performance management brand (which proves how badly the previous Twitter ads worked).

Tailored Audiences offer a great opportunity to increase ad performance because you can drive more targeted ad creative to reach specific segments of users... but can it really be that good?

How Retargeting Works

Retargeting is an ad tactic that involves tagging your website visitors with a cookie, then targeting them with banner ads after they left your site and continue surfing on the Web. It's an important tactic, especially considering that 96 percent of website visitors leave without converting to a sale or lead.

Using an ad network such as the Google Display Network, you could then target those same website visitors who had just visited your site, and show them your ads while they're they're watching a YouTube video, or checking their email, or reading the news, etc.

The key here is that these retargeted ads always outperform generic banner ads because they’re relevant to a user recent browsing history–people are far more likely to buy something when they've already looked around for it.

Retargeting can help with:

  • Turning people who abandoned or bounced from your site into leads and sales.
  • Increasing brand recall and branded searches for your company.
  • Encouraging repeat site visits and engagement.

The Social Media Retargeting Opportunity

Americans spend over three hours a day on social networking sites and over a quarter of the total time we're online is spent on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Add to that the fact that 65 percent of the time spent on social networks happens on mobile devices, and you can see why advertising networks have tried so hard to tap into this audience.

There was a problem, though: people aren't interested in buying products or services when they're looking at pictures of cats on social media. Previously Twitter ad targeting was pretty broad, limited by user demographics like gender, age, location, and who they’re following.

And that was Twitter's challenge. It needed to get more granular and specific, for advertisers to truly let brands connect with consumers with the right message, at the right time.

How Twitter's Tailored Audiences Works

Tailored Audiences is a tool worth trying out. Twitter is working with a number of ad network partners, who hold the keys to the user tracking data needed to make retargeting work. Now, you can use Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts to target people who visited your site, searched for information about your brand, recently purchased from your company, clicked on a previous tweet, and more.

Here's how to get started:

  1. Determine the objectives of your campaign. Do you want to get your current customers to follow you on Twitter, find new customers, connect with brand advocates, reconnect with people who clicked on a previous tweet, build customer loyalty, or achieve some other objective?
  2. Connect with a Twitter ad partner, who creates your tailored audience segments and sends Twitter the anonymized data. There is no limit to how many audience segments you can have in a campaign.
  3. Craft a Promoted Tweet for each specific audience (or choose which segments to target with Promoted Accounts), based on the information provided (which comes from tracking based on their web activity, email address or Twitter ID).
  4. Choose "tailored audiences" as your primary targeting method, to give you access to those segments.
  5. Choose the audience segments you're targeting.
  6. Choose which audience segments you would like to exclude from the campaign--this is very important to ensure your targeting is tight.
  7. Decide whether to expand the audience by allowing Twitter to show your ads to users with interest and behaviour profiles similar to those of your target audience.
  8. Add more targeting options using Twitter's regular ad targeting parameters, if you wish.
  9. Set your bids and other campaign preferences.
  10. Use Twitter's audience segment-level reporting to monitor ad performance and make adjustments as necessary.

Important Things to Remember About Tailored Audiences

Twitter's Tailored Audiences is only days old, yet we already have a few tips to help you get a better return on your social retargeting ad campaigns.

  • Optimize for mobile: The majority of Twitter users are on mobile devices. Tailor your ads for mobile users--if your ads point users to your website, it had better be optimized for a fantastic mobile experience.
  • Don't overdo it: Use ad frequency capping to limit the number of times your ads are shown to a user.
  • Be engaging: Use questions, appropriate humor, captivating images in your ads. Never forget that it's still a social network. Promptly respond to any questions or comments about your ad.

Twitter's Targeted Audiences can be a great tool for marketers looking to reconnect with potential leads and existing customers--now on Twitter, the ads follow you!