Facebook Expands Targeting Opportunities for Advertisers

I spotted Patrick Ruffini referencing a post about Facebook demographics in his twitter feed today and was surprised to see the detail they had on a chosen set of demographics. Turns out, they were able to compile those demographics via the interface on the flyer creation page on Facebook.

Funnily enough, I had just mentioned to rmay last week that I had begun seeing ads for the sixth season dvd set of the Sopranos on Amazon.ca when I was logged into Facebook. I had mentioned being curious as to whether or not that was random or based on me having the Sopranos listed as one of my favorite television shows in my profile. I guess now I have my answer.

Back in February I did a post on reasons to use and watch Facebook and in it, on the ninth point, I touched on the under utilized advertising/targeting opportunities that social networks historically overlook and haven’t figured out how to monetize… and my prediction/hope that Facebook would be the social network to finally grasp the concept of monetization based on information being handed to them.

They collect a ton of information via my profile – they simply need to use it to offer me relevant advertising…

— If I’m listed as single, I might be interested in dating ads.

— If I list my political views definitively, during election time show me political ads.

— If I list a website in my profile, I may be interested in hosting advertisements or the like.

— If I list activities and interests, advertise products I’d use to do them to me.

— If I list favorite music, books or movies, use something like Amazon to find products I’d also like based on my listed likes and show them to me.

— If I’m an underclassman in college in Guelph, Canada, I’m a prime target for sites that offer to find me student housing in Guelph or college bookstores I can order from online. Same with any other location.

— If I list no college information and am over a certain age, ads for online degrees might make sense for me.

— If I list being in a specific job, it gives advertisers the ability to target very specific education services. If I have a bachelor’s degree in a certain field, I may be interested in seeing ads about getting my masters degree in that same field online.

— If I’m listed as unemployed, maybe a resume creation service or job sites will catch my interest.

— If I live in a local area, show me advertisements for local businesses, bars or events that may be of interest to me (as Ryan mentioned he was starting to see).

There are a ton of ways to classify me and serve me relevant and targeted advertising. I’m not a random surfer. I’m not an unknown user. I’m giving you everything but my social security number and blood type when I sign up. Monetize me!

It appears they may be the first social network to “get it”.

Now an advertiser can advertise to those who are single (dating ads), married, in a relationship, engaged (hello wedding supply people), in a certain geographic area, are of a certain sex, are between a certain age, based on whether their liberal, moderate or conservative in political views (hello election campaign people), based on their current education status, based on their college major and year of school (hello head hunters), or their current workplace (head hunters everywhere need a tissue).

Think of the possibilities… some real world examples…

– If you sell concert tickets, target the people in the cities near the shows who have the musical group you’re selling in their profile. Suddenly, you can advertise the latest Rascal Flatts concert in Albany, New York to the 1,520 fans in the Albany network.

– If you sell NFL tickets, then you can target the people in specific cities who have football or a specific team’s name in their profile. For instance, you could advertise tickets to the next Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins game (they’re heated rivals) in Miami to people who have football, Buffalo Bills and/or Miami Dolphins in their profile and are members of the Miami (or surrounding) network.

– Screw rock the vote… reach one of the biggest MIA from the polls group is on Facebook. If you’re a conservative representative of the house looking for re-election in Tampa, remind the 16,580 conservative people in the Tampa network on Facebook to get to the polls this year.

– If you’re a firm or business who would like to scoop talent from the competition, you can advertise directly to them. If you’ve gotten funding for a new search engine and would love to scoop talent from Google, you can show a headhunting flyer to the 4,680 people in the United States on Facebook who are listing the search engine as their current employer.

– If you are wedding cake designer located in Austin Texas, you can now advertise to the 2,300 engaged women listing Austin, Texas as their network on Facebook.

– If you sell SAT prep guides, maybe you can try advertising to the 1,774,520 high school students in the United States who list their age as being between 17 and 18 years old. If you run a job placement service in San Francisco, try advertising your services to the 5,240 college seniors who list San Francisco as their network on Facebook.

– If you run a local bar that is having a wet t-shirt contest in Ithaca, New York, advertise it to the 680 college aged men listing Ithaca as their network or to the 1,940 men who list Cornell as their current school (which is based in Ithaca).

– If you own an online store selling golfing supplies, you could advertise to the 366,200 people on Facebook who list golf as one of their interests. Better yet, maybe target the 77,860 people who listing golfing as an interest (which implies they play and not just enjoy watching it).

– If you’re handling the newest release of a movie sequel (we’ll use Die Hard 4 as an example) in the theaters, you could advertise it to the 139,480 people who list Die Hard as a favorite in their movies section.

– If you’re an affiliate, you might try advertising Stephen Colbert’s new book to the 288,860 people who list The Colbert Report (aka, the greatest living American) in their interests. Or advertise to Colbert fans to influence the latest election.

– If you’re a florist in the Louisville, Kentucky area, you might be able to try running an ad the day after Valentine’s day telling all of the bad boyfriends/husbands (there are 8,640 boyfriends/husbands in the Louisville area) who might have forgotten Valentine’s day that a big bouquet of flowers makes up for anything.

There are a ton of possibilities out there with this type of targeting. What works and what doesn’t will still depend on your demographic, your ad, your pricing and your timing… but Facebook has given you the ability to target advertising on a social network that up until now, was unseen to “the average advertiser”.

There are still a lot of ways to further segment the information… maybe I want to see people who list the Sopranos AND Goodfellas AND The Godfather in their movies/TV shows/interests so I can identify a “mafia buff” vs. someone who simply likes one show (right now, you can add multiple interests, but it shows as OR… there is no AND function at the time I am writing this). I could also see the ability to choose a single state, versus individual cities as a plus (a candidate for Governor might find this useful, as an example).

Being able to pick everything “but” a demographic would help to… as in maybe I want to advertise to people who list their current education status as nothing, alumni or college – and specifically *not* high school students without having to use the age as a “work around”. Knowing if a single person is interested in men or women can help further identify a target demographic as well as being able to target religious views (currently left off the targeting tool). Being able to identify keywords that may be in groups they belong to in addition to interests, movies and TV is another wish.

Additionally, think of the possibilities for the “bigger companies” who may be able to do enough ad spend to get an API to run their database against (total guess/foresight… I know of or do not know of any such thing being in existence)… a site like Amazon.com being able to run their product database against interests/movies/TV shows (like the ad I saw for the Sopranos targeted to me, I am guessing, because I have the show listed in my profile) or a company like ticketmaster being able to run their entire ticket inventory against geographic locations and group/comedian names and show *relevant* ads.

I think social media can eventually become a gold mine for small local business owners as well… companies who only wish to reach a very small, segmented portion of the population. In addition to doing seo for their local business, they can also directly target consumers similar to direct mail campaigns of the past, but with much higher targeting. Direct mail marketing has always had lower return rates… it will be interesting to see if direct social media marketing can outperform the traditional direct mail roi in the coming years.

This is also powerful for data mining and identifying new niche markets if you do affiliate marketing. You can use this tool to find out what topics are gaining interest with the population and what topics are declining in interest. Trending can be tracked directly from the humans who create them rather than relying on what they type into a search bar.

You might also be able to identify that 77,120 people in the states have an interest in UFC… by checking the male tab, you can then see that 63,220 – over 80 percent of them – are men. You can clearly see who your site should be identifying with (or maybe see smaller niches, like a UFC site aimed at women for the 19 percent of female fans). Additionally, of the 63,220 men interested in UFC, 61,860 – or over 97 percent – are under the age of thirty. Starting to get the possibilities?

If targeting like this can continue to evolve, the naysayers who say that monetizing social media is too hard to do, may find their thoughts starting to change in the future. Everything evolves – social media is no different… the money is there… either directly via advertisements or indirectly via learning information about trends and demographics unheard of without massive testing and focus groups in the past.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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