The way Facebook operates is by allowing members to create and join their “friends” or groups. When a user adds a new friend they are in effect adding that person to their social network. Facebook also allows members to search for other people based on a wide variety of criteria, including age, sex, likes, interests, and location. Members can then browse through the collected data of that person and see what information and settings they wish to share with their friends. But what if you don’t want to share any personal information with your “friends?”
Well, Facebook has provided a mechanism for users to share information with each other without having to do anything. This method is called “tagging.” When a user taps a friend or a location on their timeline they are automatically sharing that information with that person and anyone else in their social network who uses that service. Facebook calls this sharing “playing.” Because Facebook has enabled users to play with their profiles by offering the “Like” feature, advertisers can use this new medium to target their ads to potential customers.
In Facebook’s effort to improve its community features and make the site more accessible to all, it has created two separate networks: a social network designed for the college and university students and a commercial network designed for merchants and others who are selling products on Facebook. A University student might be interested in learning about a local business. They might be researching a hobby, finding out about a band or finding a genealogy resource. By using Facebook’s tagging system, a University student can tag the source institution and then let their Facebook network users know about the tagged source (tagged institution refers to the website or app being referred to and tagged by users).
University students have a different scenario to apply this idea to. If the University had an ad campaign using Facebook data, but users weren’t allowed to tag their own source, the advertising campaign could be rendered ineffective. By allowing users to label their own sources, advertisers would be able to target their ads to those members of their network who would be interested in those particular services or products. By having the ability to target students by institution, advertisers would be reaching a much more responsive target audience. This would translate into a higher return on investment from their end and higher revenue for Facebook overall.
Merchants and others who are selling products or services on Facebook have similar issues. There is so much competition between websites and other online platforms that they’re all trying to attract users who are likely to buy their goods or services. They’re also trying to attract users to their website by giving them options such as adding friends based on location, age, gender, language or even sending a custom advertisement. All of these actions require access to very detailed data about each person who is a member of the network. This data is particularly useful because it enables merchants to make educated decisions about whom to advertise to.
By allowing members to label their data fields, advertisers can see exactly which ones are relevant to them. For example, if a user was interested in receiving coupons for a specific service, an advertiser wouldn’t need to see whether that person regularly shopped for that type of service, just what they might do with it. All they’d need to see is whether that user tagged any service that they frequently use. From there, they’d be able to create targeted advertisements for their clients to run. With this type of technology, any demographic targeting becomes a lot easier.
Users can also opt out of being part of the Facebook network. Through a user’s privacy settings, they can choose whether or not their data should be shown to advertisers. They can also choose to only be alerted on the activities of people who specifically ask to receive such notifications. Though this type of service may seem more intrusive than it actually is, it still has its uses. It makes it much easier for Facebook to provide relevant ads to the networks’ users.
As these types of programs continue to evolve and grow, it’s critical that users continue to have a say in the type of information they see. By taking an active role in what they choose to display, they can choose what is relevant, and what they don’t. They can choose to remain anonymous if they so choose, allowing Facebook to use their data only for as many relevant ads as possible. This article has discussed how Facebook will show how advertisers use our data and what users can do to stop it.