Social Retargeting: Where to Spend it

It has been a few months now since Facebook and Twitter announced retargeting capabilities on their networks. Speaking as a marketer, the news has been aplenty – Facebook launched retargeting on FBX (Facebook Exchange); Twitter launched retargeting; Facebook launched a retargeting alternative to FBX; Google tied up with Facebook for retargeting. Phew! Almost makes you wonder what else is going to happen in the next few months.

In this column, I’ll take you through the Facebook and Twitter offerings and hopefully help you decide where to invest that budget you managed to eke out for a social retargeting campaign (or experiment).

The offerings

Facebook Exchange offers retargeting ads on the right hand pane as well as within the news feeds (for desktops only). Research suggests that news feed ads have a CTR (click-through-rate) 49 times that of the ads on the right hand pane and also a CPC (cost-per-click) that is 59 percent lower on average. However, both these ad spots have different capabilities and should be used for different purposes.

Retargeting on Facebook Custom Audiences, the freshest bun from the oven, allows advertisers to retarget users via email addresses, phone numbers or even through a website visit / mobile app use. The biggest advantage is the ability to retarget users on mobile devices (as many as 68 percent of Facebook users access it via mobile devices!). Also, advertisers are allowed to use demographic information from the users’ Facebook accounts to further enrich their retargeting campaigns.

Twitter’s retargeting allows marketers to show sponsored tweets to users who visited their website or to customers whose Twitter account email address matched with those in the advertiser’s CRM (customer relationship management) system. The challenge for marketers here is to ensure that the native ad content delivered is appropriate and useful for the user. Any annoying promoted tweet can result in an immediate reaction from users, which can then travel fast on the 140 wheels of Twitter.

The users

Facebook has about 1.2 billion active users per month and of these almost 700 million use Facebook from their mobile devices. This makes it a fertile ground for extending your reach beyond traditional publisher networks. Twitter boasts only about half as many users. The demographics are very comparable.


Source: Social Media Statistics 2013

Ad content and customization

On Facebook, the right sidebar ads allow a 100×72 thumbnail image – thus eliminating the chances of displaying a multi-product banner. Most retargeting advertisers use images of a product already seen by the user, a category image or a general branding image (e.g. logo). The headline text allows for only 25 characters and the body text 90 characters (including spaces). The need to be direct cannot be stressed enough. “You love these red shoes? Here’s $20 off the price for you” would work wonders.

On the other hand, Facebook’s newsfeed ad can have an image size of 200X200 pixels and an ad text of 500 characters. More leeway for creativity and hence also the higher CTR’s, I say!

Twitter provides no RTB (real-time bidding) platform like FBX (though an AdAge report suggests it’s in the works) but allows advertisers to target users based on their location as well as other preferences, all within 140 characters of course. Twitter ads do not include any opt-out option – a user needs to opt out of all Twitter promoted ads in her settings page.

Horses for courses

Based on the above, it would be safe to say each of the social retargeting media offer something for someone. Social retargeting cannot be a useful experiment unless it’s part of a larger retargeting portfolio, which involves website / mobile retargeting across display networks. Also social retargeting ads on tweets or newsfeeds can be shared and hence have viral potential. Large advertisers (with higher budgets) who have a large product portfolio and advertise to multiple audiences should continue to work with DSPs (demand-side platforms) to use FBX. For smaller businesses that may not work with third parties, Custom Audiences is a better solution that places bidding and retargeting controls directly in the hands of the resident PPC (pay-per-click) expert.

There are subtle differences in the purpose as well. While right hand pane ads on Facebook as well as promoted tweets work best in direct response scenarios, the newsfeed ads are more suited for spreading the word on promotions, sending out alluring content to audiences as well as to promote sharing.

So dear marketer, take your first pick carefully. And if at first you don’t succeed, there will always be other media.

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