Facebook's New Ad Tool Targets You Online and Off
The next time you shop at a mall store where you are a member of a loyalty program, the results could show up in the form of a targeted ad on Facebook. The social network's new agreements with four data companies may help advertisers spend their money more wisely on Facebook ad campaigns, thanks to the ability to harvest more online and offline information.
Facebook users will soon see ads in their feeds that are more specifically targeted to what they like and where they've shopped -- both online and offline -- thanks to a series of agreements with data companies announced Wednesday.
The agreements expand the social network's Custom Audiences program released last September, which was designed to allow advertisers to target their existing customers via Facebook. Now, marketers will also be able to use information from data gatherers Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom or BlueKai to enhance those ads.
The data providers can gather information from cookies on recently visited advertiser websites or email sign-up pages to help marketers create targeted ads. Facebook's new agreement also allows marketers to use information from physical in-store purchases, which can be tracked through loyalty programs.
Advertisers that already use one of those data partners for other digital ads can start using that information for Facebook. The social network said that marketers that haven't worked with one of the partners can now collaborate with Facebook to determine certain demographics they want to target, such as gamers, users who prefer a certain type of soda, or those shopping for a new car.
Facebook did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
Digging Deeper for Ads
Facebook's efforts to help marketers better target specific demographics or existing customers is a huge step in the right direction if it wants to become a prime site for advertisers, said Jennifer Sheahan, founder of FBAdsLAB.
"One of the biggest complaints we hear about ads on Facebook is that they're not relevant," Sheahan told the E-Commerce Times. "That's because so many advertisers don't leverage the intense power of the Facebook targeting platform.They simply throw up an ad targeting all men in the US, for example. And that's a huge waste."
It's a waste because Facebook already has access to so much information about its users, but so far the company has only made incremental steps in putting it to use. Now, marketers can potentially save money and have their ads be more effective, making Facebook a new hotspot in their eyes.
"Facebook has now brought this specific targeting functionality direct to the everyday advertiser," she said. "This will save mom and pop business owners and huge corporations alike a huge fortune in wasted ad impressions, because their ads will be laser-targeted. Facebook already knows so much about us. Now, they're combining forces with some of the most powerful consumer data companies out there. It's going to be big."
That opportunity to use its consumers for added revenue might not delight the average social network user, but it is a bonus for Facebook investors who want to make sure the site has a sustainable business model.
"There are a few trends on social media platforms in 2013," Pim Bilderbeek, founder of Bilderbeek Consulting told the E-Commerce Times. "Protectionism is in and customer focus is out, meaning platforms are putting the power of their own platform before the needs of the customer."
Keeping Info Private
One of the biggest concerns with the onslaught of highly targeted ads is privacy. Facebook is no stranger to controversy about previous platform changes that users and privacy advocacy groups have found invasive.
Consumers might be getting used to the idea of sidebar ads relating to their recent search history, or having nearby results pop up when they search for Mexican restaurants. Many marketers even claim consumers are welcoming that newfound advertising and search result relevance.
The fact that users' offline habits could be reflected in ads appearing on their feed shouldn't be a privacy concern, said Sheahan. The data being collected and shared won't be private information, and Facebook also pointed out that users can opt out of receiving the ads.
"As for privacy, this won't change anything," she pointed out. "There is no personally identifiable information being shared. This data is already being collected by third-party companies. I don't see it being a big issue."