Facebook advertising


This is hardly a revelation but ads on Facebook are targeted, which means that Facebook looks over your profile and shows you ads that it thinks you’ll be interested in. For the most part, it does a pretty decent job. I’ve seen ads for Rush and the Tragically Hip, both of which I like. I even once clicked on an ad for a musician that I had never heard of because the ad said he was similar to Dream Theater, which I also like. I’ve seen ads for programming jobs (I’m a programmer), guitar lessons (I play guitar – sort of), books that are along the lines of what I might read, and games that I might play if I were into video games at all.

The other day I saw an ad for a golf video game and another for golf equipment (I like golf), another about Blackberry tips (I’m an Android guy myself, but given my technical job and interests this is a good guess), one that said “Western graduate?” (yup), and another that said “Star Trek fan?” (yup) – all on the same page at the same time. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the ad selection.

I’ve even seen ads for lacrosse-related things. You may or may not be aware of my interest in lacrosse.

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Just the other day, I posted a status about my garage door spring having died. A day later, I saw an ad for a company that services garage doors in my area. Neither Home Depot (where we bought the door) nor Rona service garage doors, so seeing this ad was perfectly timely. I gave the guy a call and he came out on Saturday to give me a quote. Thanks Facebook.

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But it doesn’t always work. I frequently see ads for “Find Mature Love – for Singles over 40”. My status is clearly “married”, so I’m not sure why it decides to show me that. I wonder if it takes into account the fact that my wife is not on Facebook.

Some of the ads are premium and show up regardless of whether they match anything in your profile, like these ones from a group that tries to get pardons for convicted criminals. I’m OK with this idea in general – if someone commits a crime, pays his or her debt to society, and is unlikely to re-offend, in certain cases granting a pardon may be reasonable. But the advertising people in this group may want to re-think the pictures they choose. I know this is totally judging a book by its cover, but I’m not sure I want these scary-looking people who have already committed crimes walking the streets:

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I found it interesting that each of the ads (captured at different times) has a different “deadline”. I’m not saying these deadlines are all meaningless and fake, but… oh wait, yes I am.

Many people complain about advertising on the web, but we all know that Facebook and Google and Microsoft and all these other companies aren’t providing all of these services for free just because they’re nice people. They’re in it to make money. They can do it in a number of ways but the easiest two are (a) sell advertising, and (b) charge users to use their services. Most companies choose (a) because if you charge people directly to use your services, your services better be useful, reliable, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and popular, not to mention either unique (i.e. nobody else offers such a service) or the best available, otherwise who’s gonna pay for it? But lots of people will use a web site that’s free, even if it isn’t the absolute best available. And having to sign into your account in order to do things like web searches is a pain (to say nothing of privacy concerns) so people won’t do it.

But the only way a company is going to allow you to do stuff for free is if someone else is paying for it. You don’t pay to listen to the radio, do you? Nope, because there are advertisers. TV used to work the same way, but now you pay the cable and satellite companies. Technically, they’ll tell you you’re paying for the delivery mechanism and not the TV content, so I guess it kinda still does work the same way. But anyway, if some advertising is what lets me use gmail and blogger and google and twitter and facebook and the majority of the rest of the web for free, I’m OK with that. As much as I like facebook, I’m not going to pay for it.

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