Your Ads on Twitter Will Now Be Targeted: Convenience or Privacy Overstep?

By Katie Kindelan Comment

Twitter is finally giving advertisers what they have long wanted: the ability to target their audience by geography.  So now that advertisers can know exactly where you are at all times, is your privacy at risk?

The 5-year old microblogging site announced this week it will provide its more than 600 advertisers with the ability to create ‘geo-relevant’ ads, or targeting “promoted tweets” based on the location of individual users.

Twitter’s President of Revenue, Adam Bain, made the big announcement this week before a very receptive audience at the 2011 Ad Age Digital Conference in New York City.

“Geo-relevance for promoted tweets and accounts allows marketers to reach the audience in the right geographic areas,” said Bain said. “A regional chain that is only available in a certain part of the country can now promote their account or tweets in the right metro areas. If you want to advertise against the term ‘jeans’ to people in Cleveland, you can now do that.”

Twitter’s geo-targeting, Bain explained, is based on an aggregate of data that users provide through their tweeting behavior.

What that means for you, the user, is that if you list, for example, New York as home in your profile, but actually send most of your tweets from San Francisco, you will get, thanks to geo-location, ads from San Francisco-based companies over New York.

And the ads you get will not only be targeted, but also likely much more frequent.  Bain also revealed that Twitter is developing a self-service tool that, the company hopes, will grow the number of advertisers from 600 to 60,000.

The move to geo-targeting puts Twitter in the same lane as geo-location networking sites like Foursquare and Gowalla who led the path in ‘geo-relevant’ technology for their advertisers.

It also puts Twitter’s advertisers in the path of the massive market, and money, that geo-targeted tweets can capture by opening the local ad market.

That’s big money considering Twitter’s reported 175 million registered users send more than 140 million tweets per day, up from 55 million a year ago.

Geo-targeting on Twitter is available now in 210 cities in the U.S. and more than 100 countries, although Bain said Twitter will be adding to both totals quickly this year.

McDonald’s Canada is already testing the technology, sending tweets in Canada alone that promote Canada-specific products such as peach pie and chocolate-coffee milkshake.

Tell us what you think.  Would you rather receive a peach pie, Canadian McDonald’s-specific tweet if you’re in Toronto, or keep your location private?