28/07/2019 Matt Horne

Why Twitter Adverts Are Rubbish For Age Specific Adverts

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I don’t tend to hide the fact I’m not a massive fan of Twitter ads. Sure they can be a cheap and viable solution for mass awareness big brand campaigns. But if you’re looking for some decent hyper targeting, it’s not a channel I’d recommend.

But what do I base this theory on? Well, other than over 8 years of running social ad campaigns, how about this?

The proof point

Here’s an advert that popped up in my Twitter feed the other day.

An advert on Twitter from ViralStove that claims to provide Abs after 40! with a topless man holding a camera.

Cool abs bro

“What’s wrong with that?” you might be asking. You’re a man, you’re white and you have a beard. That’s pretty good targeting no?

Now I’m not here to dissect the super bro-beard or the hyper homo-erotic aggressive copy. But at the time of writing (and the ad appearing) I am a spritely 36 years old. Devoid of abs, that maybe, but in the 40 plus bracket I’m definitely not.

Digging in to the targeting

Now Twitter, like Facebook, provides you with a “Why am I seeing this ad?” button. Clicking this is always interesting if you want to find out why you’re getting pummelled by random crap. Here’s what this advert had to say:

Twitter's "Why you're seeing this ad?" dialogue that states "You're seeing this ad because ViralStove wants to reach people above the age of 35 and located here: United Kingdom."

Twitter facts

“Well you’re over 35 and you live in the UK.” you may now be saying. Twitter has done its job right? Well yes, but also no.

Why it’s wrong to use Twitter for detailed age targeting

You see, with creative like ViralStove are running, it needs some specific age targeting. I’d say targeting that’s of people over the age of 40. Or maybe at a push, those that are soon to become 40.

But Twitter just doesn’t give you that ability.

When you’re using age targeting on Twitter it gives you some very random ranges to choose:

Twitter's age targeting options showing 30 and up (japan only), 30 to 39 (japan only), 30 to 49 (japan only) and highlighted, 35 and up.

Hey why the special treatment for Japan?

As you can see, outside of Japan ViralStove have picked the most relevant age target for the copy, but like the dude in the photo’s shorts, it’s not the best fit.

The hidden problem

It’s clear the age targeting options on Twitter are dodgy. But there’s also another problem at play. Twitter don’t require you to provide a date of birth when you’re setting up a profile.

They’ve made more of an effort in the past few years to try and get people to add this info to profiles (want to get some sweet floating balloons on your page when it’s your cakeday? Best add in those digits). But it’s not a wide spread practice.

So much so, when they first offered age targeting I had a chat with a Twitter account exec who admitted it’s mainly powered by A.I. They guess what age a profile is based on the kinds of accounts they follow and the things they post. A tactic which gives them a margin of error arround +/- 5 years.

5 years! Add in the weird age brackets in the ad platform and our super ripped abs-arific protein shake gulping dude could potentially be bragging about his 45 year old abs to 30 year olds.

That’s some wasted ad spend.

The solution

Hate to say it, but it’s Facebook. If they were using Zuck’s ad platform, they’d have much more control over their age targeting.

Facebook lets you target people between 13 and 65+ at any interval you fancy. Much more flexible than Twitter.

And considering most people will add their actual birthday to their Facebook profile to ensure they get lots of people they don’t remember connecting with say “Happy Birthday xox” it tends to be more accurate.

The alternate solution

Using Twitter isn’t always a bad idea. It can give you reach at scale and low cost. But if you’re going to use it, I’d recommend avoiding age specific copy and use interest or keyword targeting to find your ideal audience.

At the same time, make sure your creative takes in to consideration there might be some major over-spill from your key persona.

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Matt Horne

Freelance digital marketing and social media consultant dedicated to making your internet awesome.