Targeting Twitter Ads by Postcode

In late January, Twitter announced a brand new feature for their advertising programme – the ability to target users by postcode.

The current situation

Up until now, advertisers could only target users by broader regions or ‘urban areas’, which isn’t always particularly intuitive. In most cases it isn’t possible to target individual cities, and trying to figure out the most appropriate ‘urban area’ can be a bit of a minefield. If you’re looking to target Cardiff, Wales’s capital city, you’re out of luck. But it doesn’t fall into any of Twitter’s predefined regions either, leaving Wales as your only option. Considering Wales is a country of almost 21,000km2, this isn’t ideal.

England has things a little better. A haphazard selection of the county’s biggest cities can be targeted directly, such as London or Glasgow, but there are only a small selection. Some ‘urban areas’ exist, such as the ‘West Midlands urban area’ and ‘Liverpool-Manchester’. But what if you want to target Newcastle, one of the biggest cities in the north of England? There’s no option to target just the city, so what about the county, Tyne and Wear? No, you can’t do that either, but Twitter will be kind enough to suggest ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’, a region that doesn’t actually include Newcastle. A bit of trial and error and I finally stumbled across ‘North East’, the region which covers Newcastle… and another million people on top.

The confusion doesn’t stop there. What’s the difference between the urban area named ‘West Midland’s Urban Area’, and the ‘West Midlands’ region? Targeting by location is a very useful feature of Twitter Ads, but, for the UK at least, there’s still plenty of ways it could be improved.

The future – super-local targeting

While you may struggle to target specific cities or regions within the UK, you can now be super-specific, and target your adverts at individual postcodes.

For overseas readers, a postcode is broadly the same as a US zip code – it’s used by our Post Office to determine where mail gets delivered. Almost every household has one, and they’ve commonly been used as a way for traditional direct marketers to reach specific demographics.

Now, Twitter is jumping on board and allowing you to target one or many postcodes for your adverts. So how does Twitter know what postcode you’re in? You’re probably well aware that geolocation has been possible for years – but it’s still far from accurate, as it depends on a number of factors, including where your IP is based. You could be sitting behind a desk in Cardiff, but if your work network or ISP is based in London, Twitter and the rest of the internet may well think you’re in London.

But the rise of smartphones and tablets opens up a whole new world for geotargeters. GPS can locate you to within meters of your location, and even with GPS turned off, your phone’s WiFi or mobile network connection can track you to within a few streets. Twitter has 15 million users in the UK, and a massive 80% of these access the site through their mobile device, so there are plenty of people ready and waiting to be targeted.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Well, for hyper-local businesses, such as supermarkets, cafes, restaurants or dry cleaners, you could offer tailored adverts to those customers in close proximity to your business. There’s no need to waste money on a customer 200 miles away clicking on your half price muffin offer only to never have the chance to use it – you can now entice in local customers and draw them in on their lunch breaks or morning commute with offers tailored to them.

A national supermarket chain with 400 stores across the country can now create tailor-made adverts, highlighting the special offers available in particular stores, rather than having to run a more general campaign at the city-region level. The ultra-specific targeting that’s been available to offline marketers for years is now coming online.

Twitter launched its postcode targeting to coincide with the upcoming UK general election, and uses this as a prime example. Local councillors can now focus their messages on users in their constituencies, sending local messages on the issues that matter to their community. This could be combined with regional or national-level campaigns from the political parties themselves to create a powerful campaign in the run up to the big day in May.

Conclusion

Postcode-level targeting may not appeal to everyone, and, for advertisers looking to reach a large number of people, it’s still probably easier to target a wider region than individually enter a hundred different postcodes. But for local businesses, and larger businesses wanting to integrate into their local community, this new method of targeting seems like it’ll have some interesting uses.

As of today, it doesn’t seem to be 100% accurate. You can target up to the first number of the second part of the postcode (i.e. W1J 9, or CF14 4), but I’ve found a number of postcodes that don’t show up. For the CF14 4 example, this legitimate postcode doesn’t show up as an option, though CF14 2, 3 and 6 are all possible targets. I’ve contacted Twitter about this and I presume it’ll improve in time.

These teething problems aside, it’s good to see Twitter expanding its geotargeting options. Hopefully the future will bring the ability to target a better selection of individual cities, but this is a step in the right direction.

Have you started using postcode targeting? How are you finding it? Let me know in the comments.

If you or your business are looking to use Twitter Ads to reach new customers, remarket to existing customers, or engage with your local community, and need a helping hand, get in touch.