Twitter Canada talks targeting, engagement at official launch

Alicia Androich June 14, 2013

The “text-based communication device” that has changed the social space 140 characters at a time celebrated its official launch in Canada on Thursday at The Carlu in Toronto.

Twitter Canada is open for business and ready to help brands make some of their own changes, from enhancing their messages to improving perceptions to fostering deeper engagement with communities.

In a presentation to media, agencies and influencers, Twitter Canada shared some of the ways it can work with brands to make the most of their presence on the platform.

Its director of international brand and agency strategy, Jean-Philippe Maheu, kicked things off with a snapshot of how far Twitter has come since its beginnings in 2007. It now has more than 200 million active users, and there are more than 400 million tweets posted each day.

While being limited to 140 characters may have initially seemed stifling, Canadian managing director Kirstine Stewart said the “flexible and expandable platform” has prompted brands to invent their way out of the box.

One of the new programs mentioned at the event was Twitter Amplify, which allows brands and broadcasters to get real time video out via Twitter by embedding it within a tweet. As Stewart said, Twitter Amplify can be used as an extension of or a promotion to a program on air.

It allows broadcasters to “take bits of content that tell a different story than what you’re telling on air,” she said during an interview with Marketing. And with all the recent talk of—and broadcaster concern about—disruption in the TV world, she stressed that Twitter Amplify is a way for brands and broadcasters to extend and increase their reach through Twitter. “We’re not in competition with television, we’re actually marrying to television,” she said.

Jim Prosser, the San Francisco-based senior manager, communications for Twitter, added that Twitter only gets paid if it’s interacted with, either by someone engaging with the content, replying to it or re-tweeting it to their followers, for example. “That’s where we succeed,” said Prosser. “It’s not just in taking stuff from TV and throwing it up in the stream; it’s about getting it in the right hands.”

Twitter Canada is also bringing Twitter Ad Targeting this side of the border. TV Ad Targeting lets brands engage with specific people on Twitter who have seen their ads on TV. “It’s an opportunity to take your own market and own it,” said Stewart.

She mentioned the common practice of Canadian broadcasters buying U.S. programming and simulcasting it here. When viewers starting talking about a show via Twitter, since it’s an international platform, the conversation typically will happen around whichever U.S. network is broadcasting it. “When the Canadian simulcast of the same show is on, there’s an opportunity there to reach beyond the usual followers of that broadcaster,” said Stewart.

But Twitter Ad Targeting will allow Canadian broadcasters to create a community here around the show. “You engage with content and promotion to be able to push that out… Normally the U.S. was owning the conversation; you can actually create a conversation here in Canada about it,” she said.

Prosser pointed out that beyond broadcasters, even medium-sized businesses can benefit from this feature. A car dealership that wanted to reach out to people in the Toronto area talking about Ford Mustang, for example, could specify “Ford Mustang” as a keyword and decide to only show its Promoted Tweets or its account to people that have talked about Ford Mustangs in this area, he said.

Right now Twitter Canada is housed in rental space at Yonge and Richmond in downtown Toronto. “We’re unpacking boxes and had to hit the ground running,” said Stewart.

She said the team – which will have between 10 to 12 employees to start – is being assembled now, and that eventually Twitter Canada will be looking elsewhere for a permanent office. (Prosser added that there are currently job postings up for account executives and account managers.)

Addressing the company’s foray into Canada, Stewart said “There was obviously a lot of pent-up demand and I think we’ve unleashed that.” The broadcast veteran left her post as executive vice-president of English Services at CBC/Radio-Canada in April to head up Twitter Canada.

For the time being, Twitter Canada is focused on educating Canadians about “what Twitter can do for you whether you are an individual that will be using it or whether you’re a client who is trying to figure out how best to reach that person,” said Stewart.