Twitter Advertising A Guide to Ad Formats and Targeting Options

While advertisers have access to a range of technology and advanced measurement techniques, in today's socially driven advertising environment, they continue to struggle with ad irrelevance. Hence, advertising on Twitter, especially, requires careful consideration and precision to achieve the most effective results.
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Twitter's numerous ad formats and targeting options empower marketers to present their ads in a manner that aligns with their brand's campaign objectives — app installs, website traffic, brand awareness, etc. — while ensuring that they reach the right audience.

If your product is visually-driven, for example, video ads might seem ideal. However, digging deeper might present you with better options that could enable you to get even more creative with your messaging. This article explores the variants of ad formats supported by Twitter and the targeting options available to you.

» Learn How to Deal With Ad Fraud in Your Twitter Ads

Types of Twitter Ad Formats

1. Promoted Ads

  • Text: this allows you to promote text-only tweet-like content. It supports the platform's native 280 characters, replies, and retweets; enabling you to reach an audience beyond those you're paying to reach. Each long link will be automatically shortened by a hefty 23 characters — we advise you use the space wisely.
  • Image: this allows you to highlight your product in a single photo. It supports all the features of Text ads, as well as the option to pair the image with Polls, App, Conversation, or Website buttons — more information below. Also, any gif in this ad format will be rendered as a static image.
  • Video: this allows you to be more visual in showcasing your products. It supports all the features of Image ads, except that the media file has to be a video of 15 seconds or less. Only select advertisers would be permitted to upload up to 10 minutes. Contact Twitter to find out if you're eligible.
  • Carousel: this allows you to advertise on up to six horizontally-swipeable images or videos. The format supports Website carousels of 70 characters leading to a desired webpage, and App carousels of 200 characters accompanying a chosen app from the relevant app store.
  • Moment: this allows you to create and promote a collection of relevant tweets. This format is especially useful in telling an immersive story from different Twitter accounts, beyond the restrictions of Twitter threads and Carousel ads. The format allows advertisers to curate the discussions around an event — the launching of a SaaS product is an example.

2. Follower Ads

These ads are used to attract new followers to a particular Twitter account. It supports 280 characters, as with Text Ads, with the "follow" CTA button auto-rendering on the ad's card.

3. Twitter Live

This ad format allows advertisers to go live with a targeted audience, encouraging real-time interaction between brands and the public. Advertisers can use this format for events like fashion shows, art exhibitions, product launches, sporting events, etc.

4. Twitter Takeover

  • Timeline takeover: this allows you to showcase your brand at the top of your target audience's timeline. It requires a Trend hashtag, of 20 characters or less, and an optional Trend description.
  • Timeline takeover+: also called Trend Takeover+, this puts your brand alongside what's trending on your targeted audience's Explore tab. The ad format also requires a Trend hashtag, Trend description, and Trend name & description — each a different entry — and will even allow for a static image or a 6-second looping GIF or a video.

Both Takeover and Takeover+ work well for campaigns that require massive reach within a short time frame.

Left to right: Takeover and Takeover+
» Source: Twitter

5. Twitter Amplify

  • Amplify pre-roll: this enables you to get in front of your intended audience with an in-feed video of up to 2 mins 20 secs, that kicks off other videos your audience might be interested in. Those videos come from a collection of over 200 top TV networks, sports leagues, and professional news organizations.
  • Amplify sponsorships: help you to better build a brand association with reputable publishers. It allows advertisers to sponsor events or Twitter Moments through pre-roll ads before video clips, pre-roll ads before live videos, and other branded content integration — a short "Promoted by YourBrandName" tag at the bottom of the sponsored content, for example.

6. Twitter Ad Features

  • Polls: allow a brand to gather the vote/opinion of a targeted audience about a certain topic. The poll question can be up to 280 characters long; a standard tweet. Advertisers can add 2-4 custom poll options, each within 25 characters or less. Additionally, Polls can be created with or without media — images or videos — and can run for a minimum duration of 5 minutes and a maximum of one week.
  • Conversation buttons: allow advertisers to prompt an intended audience to start a conversation about a given brand via a button embedded in ads. Conversation buttons must be paired with media and require a hashtag of 21 characters or less.
  • App buttons: these let advertisers add yet another clickable functionality in their ads, except unlike in Conversation buttons, App buttons link to a specific App store or Play store download page. The button can be configured such that users that already have the promoted app installed on their devices can, instead, launch it directly.
  • Website buttons: allow businesses to add a website card directly to their Image or Video ads, directing whoever clicks on the button to a specific webpage.
  • Branded hashtags: allow advertisers to express their brand's personality by displaying a 72x72-pixel emoji following the brand's hashtag whenever it is used by anyone on Twitter.
  • Branded notifications: this allows brands to have 1-1 conversations at scale, sending time-triggered, automated mention tweets directly to users that engage with certain tweets or Twitter accounts. On the Twitter Ads Manager, you can customize which interactions trigger which actions from your brand and when they deliver — instant, scheduled, or others. Branded notifications are handy for businesses looking to seamlessly reinforce their relationship with thousands of users around critical dates, building hype for upcoming events.  

Targeting Options for Twitter Ads

1. Demographics Targeting

  • Geolocation: this allows advertisers to reach people using the names of countries, cities, metro areas, or by entering postal codes. Not all countries might have specific regions available yet, but you can always use those regions closest to the one you want to reach. Similarly, you can only reach countries where Twitter is available.
  • Age: this allows advertisers to target their ads to people in several age buckets — starting at 13 years old and going up to 50+ years old.
  • Language: advertisers can use this targeting option to promote their products to people based on the languages the users understand. As of now, Twitter only supports 46 languages. When you select more than one language, you will reach people who understand at least one of the languages.
  • Gender: this allows advertisers to reach people based on the gender users entered on their profiles.
  • Device, Platform, & Wi-Fi: this advanced targeting option enables advertisers to target users based on their phone model or Wi-Fi connected devices.

Twitter often relies on more than what users provide on their profiles to determine whether a user is of a certain age, lives in certain locations, or is of a certain gender. For starters, not all Twitter users accurately fill out a lot of these details on their Twitter profiles — if at all.

To achieve this, Twitter gathers data about users through other means: basing factors of account likeness to determine gender; identifying the languages that correspond to a user's activity on Twitter to determine which languages they understand; using IP address and GPS signal to pinpoint a user's location; etc.

2. Audience Types Targeting

  • Keyword: lets advertisers target users who tweet, search for, or engage in tweets containing certain keywords.
  • Interest: allows advertisers to target people interested in a certain topic, with over 300 narrow and 25 broad interests to choose from.
  • Movies & TV: allows advertisers to reach people who tweet about or engage in conversation around numerous movies & TV shows.
  • Conversation: allows businesses to reach people based on conversations around 25+ categories and over ten thousand topics.
  • Event: enables brands to reach people discussing major online and offline events. With this option, you can target events up to two weeks before they begin, and for three weeks after they are over. An example of such an event is the World Cup.
  • Tweet Engager: this is an advanced retargeting option that allows you to advertise to people who have previously seen or interacted with your paid or organic Twitter content.
  • Follower look-alikes: lets advertisers reach users who behave like @example_handle's followers. An example is targeting the @TechCrunch Twitter handle to reach people likely to be interested in tech news focused on founders and startup teams.

3. Your Audience Targeting

  • Follower targeting: this option is used to advertise to the followers of the Twitter account running the said Twitter ad.
  • Custom audiences: used for creating relevant remarketing campaigns for your existing followers and customers. The targeting option allows advertisers to upload their own CRM lists so they can reach highly-specific groups of Twitter users.


It can be overwhelming to navigate through these abundant ad formats and targeting options. Other relevant details about ads supporting media files don't make it easier — including file formats & sizes, aspect ratios, branding guidelines, etc. Making deliberate choices, however, about which ad formats to use and which targeting option to go with, over all the others, can mean all the difference to your Twitter ad campaigns.

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