Confession time. Writing this blog took a lot longer than it should have. Mostly because I got swept up in scrolling through my Facebook timeline. Sure, I spend a lot of time on Facebook at work for my clients, but in writing this blog, for the first time in months I spent more than ten consecutive minutes on my personal account. Digging into what Facebook thinks of me is interesting and a little terrifying.
I originally went looking for some insight into what Facebook knows about me and how it translates that into the ads it picks for me. What I found was a lot more than that. Today I want to look at the information Facebook knows about me and how it advertises compared to what it knows about our office cat Clyde (yes, she has a Facebook account) and how they advertise to her.
A few things factor into how Facebook approaches me versus Clyde. For starters, I have much more detail on my profile (which I now realize needs to change) about my likes, interests and experiences. This specific information makes it easier for the right advertisers to reach me with products I am more likely to be interested in.
When I set up my profile initially, I gave a lot of detail. I included a list of my favorite movies, books, TV shows and music. Over time, every time I hit a simple like button on a new band or a friend’s page it added to the likes section of my profile.
Based on my likes and interests, Facebook has been targeting me with specific messages they think I’ll like. Let’s look at a few examples.
Well played Facebook. These are things I am interested in. Taking a look back at what I listed as my favorite books, I’m not surprised by this ad appearing in my feed. Facebook uses the data I provide to create a persona for me. By listing books I like, Facebook can identify other similar products (in this case books) that I might like.
The other advertisement, for inbound.org, was identified for me by using cookies. I frequently visit the site and Facebook can track my movement online, then use that data to specifically target ads to fit my interests. I won’t go too far into detail about how cookies work, but you can read more about that here.
Next, I wanted to see how well Facebook could identify Clyde’s ‘likes’ with very little information. Digging through the ads that appear in Clyde’s timeline it’s obvious that Facebook knows more about her than I thought. We primarily use the ‘Clyde’ account to manage other Facebook pages for our clients. It allows us to keep them all together in one convenient location and switch back and forth without logging out. Needing a name for this account, Clyde seemed like the perfect candidate.
What I did find in her feed were ads for business related products and services. More interestingly, I found a lot of ads promoting Facebook ads themselves. Since Clyde manages business accounts, Facebook is leveraging their own space to encourage Clyde to advertise too. According to Facebook, the platform hosts over 40 million business account. Of those accounts, 3 million advertise. It’s no secret Facebook is pay to play as a business and getting businesses to buy into their advertising system is a great way to leverage the power of advertising and make money.
Not just one ad for Clustertruck, but two! Facebook must think I really like to eat, which is true, but this ad most likely identified me based on my location. Indianapolis is listed on my page as my current city. Clustertruck does not operate outside of a specific location, downtown Indianapolis, so it used the information I provided about where I live to target me. Obviously, Clustertruck has done a good job targeting people in their service range.
Clyde also lists her location as Indianapolis, Indiana. Similarly to my timeline, these ads are specific to Indianapolis and surrounding areas. Just from the hour or so I spent scrolling through her timeline, I found ads for the local radio station and a fitness center in Broad Ripple.
Depending on the type of business you run, identifying audiences by service location is one of the most important things you do with targeting tools. Advertising to people outside of your service area is a waste of money. Also, these are pretty annoying for the person on the receiving end. You wouldn’t send direct mail promotions to people outside your service area, don’t do it on social media. We’ve written a lot about targeting on social media, specifically Facebook. It’s worth the time to identify a few locations within your area to target.