Seeing more ads on Twitter? It might depend on who you are

Users have privacy options to turn the feature off, the social network said

The way consumers identify themselves on Twitter can now be used by marketers in their decisions to place ads in individual feeds, under a new expansion of the site's advertising program.

On Tuesday Twitter said it would be adding some new capabilities to its "tailored audiences" program that will let marketers target their ads to specific users based on their email address or information in their Twitter bios. The program, if enough advertisers take advantage of it, could help the social network raise revenue at a time when the pressure is on for the now-public company to turn a profit.

Part of the idea is to help advertisers better reach people on Twitter who are already loyal customers. If, say, you're a membership cardholder for a fashion retailer, the new tools are designed to let that retailer better reach you on Twitter. Under the new program, the retailer can share scrambled email addresses of its members with Twitter, and then Twitter would match that information to the accounts of those people, assuming they operate accounts on Twitter under those addresses.

A tweet from that advertiser might then appear in the person's feed, Twitter said in its announcement.

Scrambling is a process used by Twitter and its advertising partners to anonymize people's account information so their identities are not revealed. Twitter uses a behind-the-scenes software program that automatically matches people's email addresses and user IDs that are scrambled in this way. The process is meant to keep Twitter in the dark on whom exactly is being targeted this way.

The technology fits in with an ad analysis program Twitter unveiled last year, designed to look at how users' activity on the site might affect in-store sales.

Twitter's tailored audiences program was originally announced as a way to let marketers deliver ads to people based on their browsing activity outside of Twitter -- a concept that is already rampant across the Internet. Google and Facebook have operated their own re-targeting programs for some time now.

Tuesday's expansion shows Twitter is looking to give marketers even more ways to target individual people on its site.

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The new advertising program also makes use of people's Twitter usernames and basic bio information. The idea here is to help marketers promote themselves to people who aren't yet loyal customers, but who might be receptive to their ads.

The retailer might be able to use public information on Twitter like a user's bio, follower count, verified status, or past tweets, "to identify the specific accounts on Twitter which are the most appropriate potential customers," wrote Kelton Lynn, product manager for revenue at Twitter, in a blog.

Twitter has partnered with a number of ad technology companies like Datalogix, Epsilon and Liveramp to make all the targeting work.

If Twitter users do not want to be targeted by advertisers in this way, they can adjust their privacy settings to turn off the matching, the company said. In users' privacy settings, there is an option to "Tailor ads based on information shared by ads partners." If people uncheck that, Twitter will not match people's accounts to information from ad partners, the company said.

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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