Facebook has transcended its role as a social network focused only on making connections, and has become a huge vehicle for advertising. Companies are putting more and more money into the Facebook advertising machine, which consists of sponsored statuses, ads and Facebook-only promotions that appear on a user’s home page, many of which are tailored to the user.
Facebook uses different information from a user’s profile to spotlight specific companies and advertisements for a user’s homepage. They compile demographic information such as age, gender, location and education. Even more personal aspects like relationship status are included. The site also uses psychographic information, the majority of which comes from users’ “Like” preferences. These may include music artists, movies, hobbies and books.
When setting up an advertisement, advertisers are asked to select specific demographic goals so that Facebook can choose who will receive the ad. This becomes more and more interesting as you begin to observe what kinds of advertisements are appearing on your homepage, and how deeply companies are looking into your profile.
On my homepage, I frequently receive advertisements from the National Republican Congressional Committee. This makes sense, as I identify as a Republican on my profile. On a different platform, I receive advertisements for my fraternity as well as relevant Greek clothing companies. Facebook was even able to see a group of girls that I connect with through wall posts and photos the most, which led to me receiving advertisements for their sorority on my homepage. Putting it in perspective, the depth that Facebook goes to advertise a specific product is almost eerie. While I appreciate seeing advertisements that are relevant to me, seeing those advertisements has changed how I look at what I do online.
While it is common knowledge that what you do on the internet is almost always public, seeing things that “interest” you on your timeline may make you think twice before posting a picture or adding someone you don’t really know. Generally, I think Facebook does a good job of targeting the right audiences for their advertisements, and learning about how they target their audiences may affect how you use Facebook.