Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Facebook targets ads to very specific users

By Catie Paul | April 4, 2013

In October 2012, Facebook hit a new milestone yet again, announcing that it had reached one billion users. Even after overlooking the thousands of fake or duplicate accounts, this announcement meant that nearly one out of every seven people on Earth has made Facebook a part of their daily life.

But Facebook doesn’t just want to be a social networking site: the company is also aiming to become the most effective advertising site. Their next endeavor is to gather as much information of users as possible, including information that people don’t even share on Facebook.

In order to provide individualized ads that target a specific audience, Facebook has recently signed deals with four companies — Aexiom,

Datalogix, Epsilon, and BlueKai — that collect behavioral data about people.

This collaboration suggests that Facebook users may start seeing ads specifically meant for them, including clothing and food brands that they prefer. Facebook has stated that they do not provide users’ personal information to advertisers and that e-mail addresses and Facebook user names are encrypted before they’re matched.

Furthermore, it is possible, although troublesome, for users to opt out of seeing these ads. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued step-by-step instructions for how to stop third-party data partners from sharing personal data with anyone.

They suggested that anyone who does not want their information to be distributed should install tools that block Web trackers and be vigilant about with whom they share their e-mail address with online.

This isn’t the first move that Facebook has made towards targeted ads. Last fall, the company started allowing businesses to provide Facebook with the e-mail addresses of each customer. Facebook was then able to locate these customers show the ads that the businesses provided.

One company that has been successful with Facebook ads is JackThreads, an exclusive men’s retailer. The company provided Facebook with users’ information and Facebook managed to locate almost two-thirds of its members on their site.

This strategy seemed to have been effective for businesses like JackThreads. According to AdParlor, the agency that manages Facebook advertisements, business sales have risen 26 percent.

Other strategies that Facebook has implemented is Lookalike, which allows companies to display ads to people whose profiles are similar to current customers.

As people spend more of their time online, personal data is becoming easier and easier to collect and share. While it may be too soon to say whether Facebook users will enjoy having personal information used to provide them with targeted ads, marketing researchers think that Facebook’s new strategy will force people to become more aware of what information they are supplying companies with on the Internet.


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