Targeted Marketing: How Facebook Can Seem Creepy

Recently, my friends have had many conversations starting with: “Is Big Brother always listening to my conversations and planning my next Facebook ad?”

It can be downright weird sometimes. I mean, I just mentioned dog food, and now I’m face to face with a Purina ad on my feed.

From a business owner standpoint, I often think about how companies can benefit from this type of targeted advertising. The thing is, I can’t seem to figure it out for myself. My favorite show, Arrested Development, describes us as “How’d he do dats?” when we look at this sort of magic happening before our very eyes.

The truth? You may just be more predictable of a buyer than you may like to think. No one likes to feel like someone has them figured out, especially a sentient being like Facebook. But, often times, that’s what happens.

To break this down into simple and actionable terms, and as a shameless plug for you to wish me a happy birthday in a couple months, take a look at this advertisement I received this weekend.


Picture yourself as an entrepreneur in the early 90s. Could you imagine creating a t-shirt company where all you sold was “Legends are born in October” t-shirts? You’d go belly up trying to market this thing. Advertising on billboards, in newspaper ads, or magazines would be splattering paint across a canvas. You’d just be hoping to reach someone with an October birthday. Not only that, but the cost of acquisition would be astronomical and unsustainable.

We live in an amazing world. Here, someone can make an incredibly specific t-shirt about birthdays. Then, that shirt’s in front of their target audience with minimal cost and effort.

Thanks, Facebook!

This ad was presented to me because I was that target audience. The creators of this shirt told Facebook that it’s a shirt for men, located in the US, who have a birthday in October. Then, Facebook took this info, looked at their database, and found me, the one that needs to see this ad! Also, depending on their set up, the ad creator could only be paying when Facebook gets it right and the user clicks their link.

You can even take it a step further. On ads, you can set up rules to show only to users that show an interest in fashion or have a high likelihood of shopping online. Men are typically more difficult to get to purchase fashion online, so maybe instead of advertising to men, they advertise to women who have a significant other with an October birthday.

The moral of the story is that my birthday is in a couple of months.
Alternatively, maybe this post is a sign for you to rethink advertising on Facebook. Set up a time to come chat with me about your product. Together, we can discuss how you’d like to use targeted ads to get in front of the perfect audience.