While poking around Facebook this afternoon, desperately
pondering which photo to select as my new profile picture, I noticed an
interesting ad pop up. It read (and I quote):
“Like if you are lesbian.”
Now let me preface this explanation by saying I don’t have
anything against anyone from the LGBT community. In fact, Facebook probably
thought to place that ad on my page because
I am a fan of some gay rights pages, including the Human Rights Campaign
and the It Gets Better
Project. However, I also have indicated on my profile that I am interested
in men. Does Facebook think that the “interested in” status is merely a façade
to hide my true identity? Call me crazy, but I think that’s digging a little
deep. Why would they advertise something to me when there may be conflicting
signals? Also, does liking a gay rights page automatically mean you are gay? In
the real world, absolutely not. But in Facebook Land where they try to scan
your interests and appeal to you on a personal level when advertising to you,
apparently it does.
I also noticed another problem with Facebook ads earlier
this week. I have a habit of hiding people from my news feed if I don’t have
the guts to just unfriend them but don’t necessarily care to know what they’re
doing in their everyday lives — or if they are just on the path to un-friend
status. I noticed there was a suggestion for a particular music group, and the
first friend it listed as liking said band was a person I hid from my news feed
about a month ago — we’ll call him Jerry. Now, I don’t really care to know
what’s going on in Jerry’s life, hence why I hid him from my news feed but
decided not to pull the trigger all the way and unfriend him. If I decided to
hide Jerry from my news feed, why would Facebook think I want to know that
Jerry and 20 other friends like this band? I don’t care who Jerry likes. At all.
Why choose him as the lure to make me like said band? Why not mention one of
the 20 other friends who like this band?
While Facebook advertising is slowly gaining popularity and becoming
more selective about which ads are displayed to which users, apparently there
is still a lot of work to be done. From a marketing and social media
standpoint, these flaws might actually hurt marketing campaigns if they target
the wrong people. Going back to the ad targeting gay women, if the business or
organization that sponsored this ad was more specific when deciding whom to
target, they could increase their chances of reaching their ideal audience.
This organization likely targets women who are fans of gay rights pages, but doesn’t
go so far to ensure these women also are romantically interested in other women
(or at least not listed as interested
in men). My scenario is a good example of how they might reach some of their
target audience, but they are still appealing to people who are not interested
in what the organization has to offer. For the ad suggesting I like a
particular band, what if I hated Jerry’s guts and had a strong negative
connection to seeing his name? Could that connection in some way be linked to
any product or service he is linked with through Facebook ads?
These are pretty big “What if” questions to go off of, and
Facebook ads still have a long way to go before they are extremely accurate.
But these two examples are just some food for thought for marketers trying to
use these ads to reach their target audience. While you may be reaching some of
the people you desire, you’re also reaching the Jerry-hating, non-lesbians like
myself who are a bit perplexed as to why you think I might like your page.