Is Facebook Stereotyping Users?

By Haley Fierstein, Paid Search Specialist, Advertising Solutions

In search marketing, we have seen great success in targeting searches ads based on search queries, and now Facebook has recently taken this technique and begun an advertising system that would let advertisers target users with ads based on the information people reveal on the site about themselves.

What is great about this feature on Facebook is that it displays your ads based on lots of different criteria found on a user’s personal profile, which allows you to directly choose your ideal audience. Facebook allows you to target by country, city, gender, age range, political views, relationship status, education level, workplace affiliation, or any other information in a person’s stated interests. However, having all these more personal options of targeting based on profiles can have a negative effect.

Last September, I became engaged and though I am embarrassed to admit, within just a few hours of my fiancĂ© asking me to marry him, I went online and changed my Facebook profile status from “In a Relationship” to “Engaged” allowing my closest friends, family and the millions of other people on Facebook to know this personal detail about my life. Upon changing my relationship status, I started to notice that the majority of the ads being shown on my profile revolved around getting married.

While Facebook targeted ads provides a great opportunity for wedding planners and photographers in my local area to take the information of me getting engaged and turn this into a potential business opportunity, there were also other ads appearing on my profile that I didn’t care for. What I found was every time I logged onto my Facebook profile, I was targeted ads about losing weight for my wedding. While this may or may not be the case for me, advertisers assumed that just because I was getting engaged, I also needed to get in shape for my upcoming wedding.

What I began to find interesting was the type of targeted ads shown to women based not only on their relationship status but also on assumptions advertisers have made about their personal life outside of the information provided on their profile.

Click to view larger image.
Facebook Ads Targeted Towards Varying Relationship Statuses
Where I think Facebook has succeeded in targeted ads based on user profiles, is allowing advertisers to reach exactly the audience they want. However, I believe advertisers should be careful about targeting ads based on stereotypes from information shown in user profiles if they do not want to end up getting “thumbs down” from users.

Click to view larger image.
Facebook Pop-up for Thumbs Down Ad


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.