How social media is changing the way we view advertisements.
Have you ever shopped for something online, and then seen an ad for the product pop up on your Facebook feed the next day? What about if you’ve read an article, and then later see a sponsored headline for a similar story appear on your “recommended for you” tab? This type of specified content is taking the advertising world by storm and proving just how public the internet – and the information that you share – really is.
Today, the internet has become integrated into nearly everything we do on a day-to-day basis. From checking the weather to checking our email, smartphones are our lifeline to staying connected. As advertising switches from traditional methods of spreading messages to utilizing our dependence on social media to influence audience members, companies have grown smarter and been able to shift their methods to better target their viewers.
Enter: audience matching and social listening.
Audience matching is a concept that was introduced in late 2016 and has continued to gain recognition by large media companies for its ability to target internet users and their interests by means of data collection. Companies are no longer sticking to traditional mechanisms of data analytics like clicks, page views, and hashtags, and audience matching is a prime example.
Large internet conglomerates such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram share their users’ information – such as email subscriptions or things they “like” on social media – with advertising partners so that media outlets can more effectively target and influence viewers. By analyzing the types of products and activities that their consumers are interested in, advertisers can directly target their ideal customer in efforts to increase sales.
Advertisers and social media sites can also see the different types of websites you visit, and can effectively match you to other sites or products that they think will also match your interests. These will often pop up as “sponsored content”, and usually blend in seamlessly with actual posts from your networks (especially common and well-camouflaged on Instagram).
Although it is convenient to see products that are actually relevant to your interests, it does seem somewhat invasive that corporations are using these interests as a way to market their own corporate agendas.
While audience matching seems, to an extent, unethical, the concept of social listening is even more invasive. Social listening is the concept of tracking certain keywords, conversations, and reactions in relation to the topic an advertiser is trying to focus on. While this might sound similar to hashtags or mentions, social listening aims to focus on how consumers actually feel about their brand.
Through facial and video recognition and location-sharing among others, companies are now able to capitalize on the reactions and emotions of their audience to better target their consumers and influence their buying patterns. These sweet spots are known as “micro-moments” to marketers; they are the moments and decisions that lead a consumer to buy a product. By tracking micro-moments and the activity on your smartphone, analytics can help brands specifically steer the type of information you see – a concept that is similar to Search Engine Optimization.
In addition, Facebook is capitalizing on who you associate with in order to market brands. In 2015, Facebook data analysts revealed that their new algorithm can recognize you in group pictures with up to 83 percent accuracy. Recently, this number jumped to 98 percent with the introduction of new and improved algorithms. While this is convenient when you’re tagging friends in photos, companies are also able to use this information to track your activity and use it to market their brand, as well as to determine other potential customers.
Earlier this month, it was reported by CNBC that Facebook is beginning to use a method called “household targeting”, meaning that they would be able to reach family members of the initial target consumer in addition to the consumer. While these methods are in fact completely legal, it raises questions as to just how private the personal information we share with our individual networks actually is.
With the advanced capabilities of this new type of audience analysis and the values it presents to many different companies, it’s no wonder that the data analytics industry is projected to reach a value of $9.5 billion by 2022. Over the past several years, there have been many class-action lawsuits against certain companies and efforts by the Federal Communications Commission in order to limit excessive amounts of data collection and ad targeting. However, few concrete laws are in place that actually hold corporations accountable.
Technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and as social media continues to grow and develop, topics like audience matching and social listening may very well become even more mainstream.
Do you have thoughts on ad targeting, or have you experienced ways it has been made visible to you firsthand? Share Your Story!
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