The word on the street is that Facebook is preparing to introduce a new advertising plan that will let marketers customize ads for its more than 37 million customers. When you consider the amount of personal information Facebook members have put into their pages, the potential for advertisers is unparalleled as is the value this may bring to the consumer. While for many this is great news, others have quickly begun to voice an immediate wave of concern around the issue of privacy. I say, “have no fear, your privacy is in good hands.”
With the Internet becoming a key component of our daily social experience, and people sharing more and more of their personal information, protecting one’s privacy has become that much more of a challenge. The reality is that those using sites like Facebook and MySpace (rumored to be following in Facebook’s footsteps) need not worry because while behavioral targeting’s media exposure is just now gaining momentum, its practice has been honed over a period of many years.
Seriously, just think about how long marketers have been targeting consumers through their behavior. For example, while growing up in the 1970’s my family had a Britney Spaniel named, “Wellesley’s Louie P.”, or “Louie” as we called him. My father, who knows little about marketing, always put the Time magazine subscription in the dog’s name so he could have a good chuckle when direct mail credit card offers would come pouring in for the dog or a telemarketing person called asking for “Louie Coffey.” While cute, this example really shows just how long ago marketing organizations began using personal data to better target consumers.
Since the days of “Louie,” the practice of targeting has evolved into the Internet boom and came out the other side with even greater promise. Over the past few years, behavioral marketing has replaced other far less effective models such as the static banner ad. Now flash forward to the summer of 2007 and behavioral marketing has reached yet another plateau, social media. The industry is all “a buzz” about Facebook’s plans to use profile information to target ads. The issue revolves around the depth of personal information that its users include in their sites. This information ranges from a person’s favorite book to their top local restaurants.