Twitter’s growing pains have culminated in a number of interesting changes this year as they try to straddle the divide between user interests and their own business needs but courting brands. Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trending Topics were two changes that caused an uproar in the user base earlier this year. Adding an interest graph to better help brands target customers on the service may cause another in a user base who’d rather the service concentrated more on consistent uptime and defeating spam and less on adding features for a while.
Twitter representative Shiva Rajaraman calls this new service a “targeting mechanism”, a phrase sure to make users nervous in the wake of other social networks, like Facebook’s, shenanigans with user data. Twitter plans to approach the build out of this mechanism through a user’s following.
It has long been known that who you connect to online says a lot about you, though in the case of social services it isn’t entirely accurate information – too often people follow a brand or person and then simply get too busy to go back and unfollow if they find no value there. Because of that tendency to wander off from a passing touch point that bears little weight for a user, I’m not sure the data will be entirely accurate.
Twitter assured attendees of Ad Tech in London, where they made the announcement, that the user data collected would be anonymous and not attached to your user name in any way. So far Twitter has done a good job of respecting user privacy, so user shouldn’t be too concerned about their data being abused.
The new targeting mechanism, not yet live, will help companies who are using promoted tweets and promoted trending topics. The idea is to help businesses get a better return on their investment without abusing the user base’s trust in the service.