Twitter expands keyword targeting so Nestlé knows you 'luv' coffee

Twitter said the new capabilities won't increase the number of ads users see in their feeds

Do you love, no scratch that -- "luv" espresso? Do you "adore" it even? Twitter advertisers may now know how you feel about their products no matter how you choose to express yourself.

On Wednesday, the social network added some smarts to its ad targeting system so that marketers can understand people who use synonyms, alternative spellings and "Twitter-specific lingo" in their tweets. The ability to display ads to users based on keywords they type was introduced in April, and the improvements are designed to let advertisers target those whose tweets might previously have gone unnoticed.

The new feature, called "broad match for keywords," could provide a boost to Twitter's efforts to monetize its service. It's designed to make it easier for marketers to reach users based on the conversations they're having on the site, at the right moment and in the right context.

The tool automatically expands the targeted keywords in a marketer's campaign. So if a coffee shop runs a campaign targeting the keywords "love coffee," broad match will allow them to also reach people who tweet that they "luv coffee" or "love latte" or, for the truly enamored, that "coffee is my first love."

Broad match will become the default matching type for targeted keywords, the company said. But it won't change the frequency of ads shown to users, according to Twitter.

"Users will not see more ads than they already do," a Twitter spokeswoman said.

Broad matching provides some flexibility -- for marketers who don't want to go overboard, they can use a "+" modifier. By targeting "love + latte," for example, users who tweet "luv latte" will be included, but not people who tweet "luv espresso."

As a public company, Twitter faces growing pressure to demonstrate its value to investors and turn a profit. Twitter generated sales of US$317 million last year, its IPO documents revealed, but its loss was roughly $79 million.

As a result, the company is continually looking for new ways to let advertisers find people who might be receptive to promoted content. In addition to keywords, Twitter looks at signals such as who a user follows and how they interact with tweets to determine when to place sponsored tweets in their feeds.

It works both ways though, because Twitter also offers tools like negative keyword targeting. That means that, say, bacon companies won't inadvertently deliver ads to people who tweet about the actor Kevin Bacon. And who knows if Kevin Bacon fans are bacon fans.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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