As the investigation continues into how social media platforms were used to push political ads in the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential Election, Twitter has announced a new approach to ad transparency which will help raise awareness of political content, and how their ads are being used more generally.
This new initiative won’t address bots, but it will give audiences more options to help them understand the purpose, and process, behind each ad.
First off, Twitter’s introducing a new Advertising Transparency Center, which, according to Twitter, will be “an industry-leading transparency center that will offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads, and tools to share your feedback with us.”
More specifically, the Transparency Center will provide oversight into:
- All ads that are currently running on Twitter, including Promoted-Only ads
- How long ads have been running
- Ad creative associated with those campaigns
- Ads targeted to you, as well as personalized information on which ads you are eligible to receive based on targeting
The mention of ‘Promoted-Only Ads’ refers to Twitter’s variation of Facebook ‘Dark Posts’, promoted tweets that don’t appear on the advertisers own profile, and are only visible to those targeted.
In addition to the Transparency Center, Twitter is also adding a new marker to ‘electioneering ads’:
“Electioneering ads are those that refer to a clearly identified candidate (or party associated with that candidate) for any elected office.* To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such. We will also change the look and feel of these ads and include a visual political ad indicator.”
Twitter will also broaden its transparency on political-based ads – in addition to the above noted insights, Twitter will also provide data on total campaign spend by political advertisers, targeting demographics used and historical electioneering spend information.
And finally, Twitter's also putting new regulations in place for ‘issue-based ads’:
“We’re committed to stricter policies and transparency around issue-based ads. There is currently no clear industry definition for issue-based ads but we will work with our peer companies, other industry leaders, policy makers, and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above.”
The new initiatives are a positive step for social media ad transparency - but interestingly, they may also provide more insight into competitor tactics, and notes you can use to refine your own marketing campaigns.
With the capacity to see all ads being run by any advertiser on the platform, and understand how long they’ve been running, that could provide some valuable insight into the viability of their process, detail you can use when formulating your own Twitter strategy.
The information available on non-political ads will be less than what Twitter will look to provide on political content, but still, there could be some key marketing insights there. We won’t know until the Transparency Center is launched, but it may be worth a look, from this perspective alone.
In the next year, all social platforms are going to come under more scrutiny to reveal more insight into how their systems work, pushed forward by the investigation into potential election tampering. This can only be a good thing – for general consumers and for marketers – as it will give us a better understanding of how their internal processes operate, better informing our understanding.
For Twitter, making an early stand is another key step in them evolving their platform in line with audience demand. It may not be as influential as Facebook, but moving on this issue early can only help in underlining their intent to improve accountability.