Elon Musk Doesn’t Get Geotargeting

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Advertising—some get it; some don’t. Elon Musk, for example, doesn’t seem to get it. He bought one of the world’s premier social media platforms, Twitter, for $44 billion. Twitter relies on advertising to sustain itself. But Musk doesn’t like advertising or understand geotargeting. In fact, he hates it.

A recent Twitter thread highlighted his misunderstanding of how it all works. Musk dismissed the idea that geotargeting to Jiffy Lubes customers is even possible during a recent Twitter Spaces. Leveraging store visit data for advertising is nothing new. According to Kochava CEO, Charles Manning, it’s a $10-$15 Billion market segment.

Need more proof? 

Burger King’s “Whopper Detour” campaign is a shining example of how geotargeting can be used to win over customers. In this geotargeting coup, BK pinged customers within 600 feet of a McDonald’s with a message that offered a flame-broiled Whopper for a penny using the mobile Burger King app. After grabbing burger lovers’ attention with the penny Whopper, the app provided directions to the nearest Burger King and guided customers in to collect their order. 

Hungry customers don’t even have to ask, “Where’s the beef?” anymore—geotargeted ads will show them the way. 

How Does Geotargeting Work?

Geotargeting is a powerful tool that allows advertisers to deliver tailored ads to specific groups of people in specific geographic areas. The technology behind it is pretty slick, too. By collecting information about a person’s location through their device’s GPS or IP address, advertisers can send more relevant messages. The data is often collected by companies like Foursquare, which then sell it to aggregators like Factual or PlaceIQ.

But that’s just the beginning. Advertisers can then combine this location data with other types of targeting data, such as demographics, interests, behaviors, and TV viewing habits, to create incredibly effective campaigns, using the data to retarget or geo-conquest a competitor’s customers, luring them away with targeted ads and messages.

Popular apps like Waze and Grindr are also collecting and sharing user location data with advertisers. While some people may find this creepy or invasive, the reality is that most users opt in to sharing their location data in exchange for a more personalized and relevant experience.

Advertisers either upload the data through a platform like LiveRamp to run complex campaigns or use it directly in their ad campaigns on platforms like Twitter. The data is used to target specific groups of users based on their store visit data, allowing for retargeting and geo-conquesting of a competitor’s customers. 

Putting Geotargeting In Action

As an advertiser for a multinational gas, oil, and energy company, I was on a mission to drive foot traffic to our gas stations. We tried all the usual advertising channels, but in 2018, it was Waze that did it for us. With its vast user base and location-based targeting capabilities, combined with its ability to display ads that were contextually relevant, Waze gave us invaluable insights into our campaigns’ performance.

But we weren’t going to stop there. That’s where location data platforms like Foursquare, Factual, and PlaceIQ came in. By leveraging their store visit data, we were able to target non-customers based on their foot traffic patterns and consumer behavior. And the best part? We targeted consumers who visited similar stores or areas, even if they hadn’t visited our gas stations specifically. Plus, we could retarget our existing customers with personalized ads based on their visit frequency, dwell time, and purchase history. It was a game-changer for us, and we never looked back.

It’s fascinating to see how this technology continues to evolve, and with the right tools, people, and approach, geotargeting is an effective way for advertisers to reach their audience and drive business results.

Musk’s lack of understanding seems to be a strange twist for the owner of Twitter, a platform reliant on ad revenue. 

But hey, he can have it his way.

Amelia Tran is senior director of marketing at WorkReduce.