March 24th, 2011
Facebook Test Mines Real-Time Conversations for Ad Targeting
Ad Age Digital
This month—and for the first time—Facebook started to mine real-time conversations to target ads. The delivery model is being tested by only 1% of Facebook users worldwide. On Facebook, that’s a focus group 6 million people strong.
The closest Facebook has come to real-time advertising has been with its most recent ad offering, known as sponsored stories, which repost users’ brand interactions as an ad on the side bar. But for the 6 million users involved in this test, any utterance will become fodder for real-time targeted ads.
For example: Users who update their status with “Mmm, I could go for some pizza tonight,” could get an ad or a coupon from Domino’s, Papa John’s or Pizza Hut.
To be clear, Facebook has been delivering targeted ads based on wall posts and status updates for some time, but never on a real-time basis. In general, users’ posts and updates are collected in an aggregate format, adding them to target audiences based on the data collected over time. Keywords are a small part of that equation, but Facebook says sometimes keywords aren’t even used. The company said delivering ads based on user conversations is a complex algorithm continuously perfected and changed. The real aim of this test is to figure out if those kinds of ads can be served at split-second speed, as soon as the user makes a statement that is a match for an ad in the system.
With real-time delivery, the mere mention of having a baby, running a marathon, buying a power drill or wearing high-heeled shoes is transformed into an opportunity to serve immediate ads, expanding the target audience exponentially beyond usual targeting methods such as stated preferences through “likes” or user profiles. Facebook didn’t have to create new ads for this test and no particular advertiser has been tapped to participate—the inventory remains as is.