If you've ever handed over your email at your favorite store or signed up for a retailer's rewards card, don't be surprised if you see incredibly specific ads from that brand on Twitter. On Tuesday the social network added new features to its tailored audience service for advertisers--basically, now it's easier for those companies to find you on Twitter.
If you signed up for a card from a store you shop at frequently, that store can cross-reference its cardholder database with Twitter accountholder email addresses and target you as part of a promoted tweet campaign about a sale or new products. Advertisers don't have direct access to Twitter email account information--they have to provide Twitter with email address hashes, which Twitter then matches to user information on record.
Companies can also appear as Promoted Accounts to you based on your Twitter ID and bio information. If a fashion brand wants style bloggers to get on board with its products, it can identify them on Twitter and figure out if they're high profile enough (using follower counts, verified status, retweets, and other public information) to target.
These new features are part of Twitter's efforts to become the delivery vehicle for advertisers' messages--the newly public company's gotta make that money somehow, and you and I are definitely not paying.
Twitter rolled out the tailored audiences program in December, serving up ads to users based on which sites they visit outside of Twitter. The ads come in the form of promoted tweets based on your browsing activity. Trying to book a flight on Delta while signed in to your Twitter account? You might see a promoted tweet from Delta pop up in your Timeline.
If all this hyper-targeted advertising is a little too creepy for you, head on over to your Twitter privacy settings and uncheck the box that says, "Tailor ads based on information shared by ads partners." Twitter also abides by Do Not Track, so if you've got that turned on, the social network won't be able to use your browsing activity as part of its ad sell.