How does Facebook use my data? A Scientists Guide

A question that gets asked a lot and one that will become even more relevant this year is How does Facebook use my personal details? Here we discuss how your data is used, why Facebook has been so successful and ultimately how as an advertiser you can benefit from Facebook's commercial services.

Facebook has 1.79 billion active monthly users

That’s a lot of users, over a quarter of the world's population! Now let us consider that it also made revenues of $7.01Bn in Q3 of 2016. With each user reportedly worth around $2 to Facebook, let’s take a look at why your data is worth so much.

Why am I seeing this advert?

In an effort to distance itself from being the evil all-knowing entity… Facebook is trying so desperately to appear more transparent by explaining certain details. Surprisingly few people know this, but you can use the down arrow at the top of any sponsored post to adjust your ad preferences and even understand why you are receiving certain types of ads by selecting Why am I seeing this Advert?

Of course, they say that it is all part of the user experience:

“We believe the adverts you see should be useful and relevant to you”

Whilst holidaying in Asia and Australia, I conducted a little experiment to see how the ads I was seeing would change in conjunction with the actions I was taking.

Why am I seeing this advert?

Having posted that I was cycling on holiday, I noticed my adverts began to show offers to attend the national cycling events being held at the Manchester velodrome (just down the road from me).

Why am I seeing this advert? Explained that British Cycling were targeting people interested in cycling. It went on, albeit somewhat vaguely, to say: There may be other reasons… and that they were also targeting 18-54 year olds who live near Macclesfield.

Although the second reason appears to be quite broad, it’s more likely that this campaign was targeting BOTH people interested in cycling AND 18-54 year olds living in towns near to Manchester, UK – That’s a pretty specific target from within the 1.79 billion or so active users.

Checking in - Valuable Data

Similarly, I “checked in” whilst on vacation in Malaysia and the next sponsored post I saw was from Air New Zealand. When I clicked on Why am I seeing this advert, it explained that Air New Zealand are running campaigns targeting people aged 25-60 who have recently been to Malaysia – i.e. Travellers who are likely to need flights.

Even when idly scrolling through the feed, your seemingly inconsequential actions have consequences; you just need to like a sports video and you'll see your ads change to healthy lifestyle and gym supplements.

It's NOT 1984!

Now, "Advertising" and "How's work going?" were obvious dinner topics for conversation over the recent holiday period. But unlike some of the elder members of my family, I actually appreciate when adverts are targeted, useful and relevant to me (Yes Dad, they know when you've been looking at flights, and No, they don't know your bank details!)

Air New Zealand may well have some great deals on, and i've heard that track cycling at the Velodrome is a fantastic day out! It is all geared towards an enhanced user experience... So capitalize on it!

User Entered Data

Give it a go yourself: Next time you like something or check-in somewhere different, keep an eye on how your adverts begin to change, then hit the arrow in the top right to see Why am I seeing this advert?

You can manage a history of what you have liked, where you have checked in and lots more just by clicking “More” when on your profile page.

Advertisers define who they target by your interests

Even with basic information like education, employment and location, you begin to understand why Facebook and big data is so valuable. Take it one step further by factoring in the behaviour of users (i.e. likes, shares, check-ins and more) and you have the world's most succesful advertiser.

Now let's flip this around

Are you involved in selling or marketing products and services in any way, shape or form?

If so, take a second to think about your ideal target reader/customer/prospect. They might be college educated, work for a certain employer, have a particular set of skills, be interested in Science, Engineering or Research - The list goes on...

Now, remember the 1.79 BILLION active users that frequent Facebook every month, and the $7Bn+ they make in revenue?

How advertisers reach people through Facebook Ads

If you were able to target people by job role, employer, education and more information such as their interests and behaviours, would that be a channel worth considering?

But our Audience doesn’t use Facebook at work -

The time and the place are largely irrelevant. If you can engage and entertain with your messaging, it doesn’t matter if they are eating lunch at their desk, watching the kid’s soccer practice at the weekend or commuting on the train to work.

Our Products and Services aren’t right for Facebook -

1.79 Bn people use Facebook each month - and no two feeds are alike: Each user is served with content and ads, specific to them. Whether they are interested in Drug Delivery and Protein Analysis or Imaging and Materials Characterization, there is a niche for every market, the trick is finding the right messaging.

A Winning Fomula

Facebook is the richest commercially available data source on the planet. There is a reason they are so succesful. In today's day and age it's possible to achieve a winning formula with the right messaging and audience targeting. To discuss your Social Media Lead Generation strategy, contact us today.

Posted by Frank Barker

Having spent his younger years playing Rugby in the sunny climes of Spain and Western Australia, Frank graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc in International Business. Over the past 4 years, he has since forged a career in Digital Marketing and developed a passion for combining big data with great content to deliver messages that resonate with specific audiences. A sportsman at heart, Frank still enjoys lacing up the boots for his beloved Macclesfield 1st XV Rugby or pulling on the whites to represent the more serious Macclesfield 3rd XI Cricket team.

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