• Marc in Madison

Swaying with the (algo)rithm: Facebook Targeting Criteria


This was written for CAS 839: Media Analytics Communication in the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA program.

Image: amocrm.com


In CAS 840, we learned how to determine why we see specific ads in our timelines. If you click the three dots on the top, right-hand corner, you can find out what aspects of their campaign you fulfill. I listed the specific Facebook ad targeting criteria for a handful of my frequently seen ads. In the interest of brevity, I will include the targeting criteria for the remainder. Of course, I probably agreed to use of my email through a terms of service for some of these companies–not realizing how my consent would become marketing metadata (Zomorodi, 2017). In the Facebook Help Center, there are steps users can take to “show more relevant ads” and to control what ads are displayed (Facebook, n.d., p. 1).

This month, top social media CEOs testified before Congress yet again this month, discussing misinformation and targeting, and a bill drafted by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif., the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act. The latter would remove litigation protect for tech companies when algorithms lead to offline violence—in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (De Vynck, Zakrewski, Dwoskin, & Lerman, 2021; Bond, 2021). So clearly, the issue of data privacy still is a current, ongoing discussion. My top-line analysis: I am mostly targeted by age and by geography. The latter ranges from very general (United States) to specific (Madison). The age targeting represents a large net (18+, 21+, 24, 25+). There are some psychographic aspects also. My online behaviors—or predicted behaviors, at least—include a proclivity for sunglasses, online shopping, Michigan State University, and a congruence with home buyers. Additionally, I was targeted by predicted interest in the LGBTQ community, business, marketing, retail shopping, and advertising.

1. Coastal.Com

Behavior: In CAS 849, I submitted a discussion post on eyeglass retailer Warby Parker. This project entailed many clicks to the Warby Parker Facebook page and website. Since then, I’ve seen many eyeglass-related ads.

Targeting criteria:

  • Coastal.com is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Sunglasses.

  • Coastal.com is trying to reach people, ages 18 to 55.

  • Coastal.com is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

2. Harry’s Shaving

Behavior: I am a Harry’s customer. After purchasing my first razor, I signed up for a free refill kit. So, my email address—the same one I used to log into Facebook—is in the Harry’s customer database.

Targeting criteria:

  • Harry's is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Online shopping.

  • Harry's is trying to reach people, ages 18 and older.

  • Harry's is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

3. Tribal Chimp

Behavior: I recently followed this brand—which sells men’s haircare products—on Instagram. Describe product. I have liked several of their posts, which makes me an ideal candidate for sponsored content. A Wisconsin-licensed barber, I also have “barber” included in my Instagram profile.

Targeting criteria:

  • Tribal Chimp is trying to reach males, ages 18 to 50.

  • Tribal Chimp is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

4. University of Wisconsin-Parkside 100% online MBA

Justification: I’m sure all StratCom students are targets for online master’s programs. No doubt you have all had similar ads for “100% online” or “online master’s” in your feeds. I see many University of Wisconsin graduate school sponsored ads in my feed.

Targeting criteria:

  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Business, Advertising and more.

  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside is trying to reach people, ages 21 to 54.

  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside is trying to reach people whose primary location is Wisconsin.

5. The Wall Street Journal

  • The Wall Street Journal is trying to reach people who listed Michigan State University in their profile.

  • The Wall Street Journal is trying to reach people, ages 18 and older.

  • The Wall Street Journal is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

6. PrEP Hub

  • PrEP Hub™ is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in LGBT community.

  • PrEP Hub™ is trying to reach males, ages 24 to 64.

  • PrEP Hub™ is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

7. My Perfect Resume

  • MyPerfectResume is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Employment.

  • MyPerfectResume is trying to reach people who speak English (UK) and English (US).

  • MyPerfectResume is trying to reach people, ages 18 and older.

  • MyPerfectResume is trying to reach people whose primary location is the United States.

8. MIT Sloan Executive Education

  • MIT Sloan Executive Education is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Retail, Marketing and more.

  • MIT Sloan Executive Education is trying to reach people who speak English (UK) and English (US).

  • MIT Sloan Executive Education is trying to reach people, ages 30 and older.

  • MIT Sloan Executive Education is trying to reach people whose primary location is Wisconsin.

9. Redfin

  • Redfin wants to reach people who may be similar to their customers.

  • Redfin is trying to reach people, ages 18 and older.

  • Redfin is trying to reach people whose primary location is Madison, Wisconsin.

10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is trying to reach people, ages 21 and older.

  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is trying to reach people whose primary location is Madison, Wisconsin.

References

Bond, S. (2021, March 25). Facebook, Twitter, Google CEOs testify before Congress: 4 things to know. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/25/980510388/facebook-twitter-google-ceos-testify-before-congress-4-things-to-know

De Vynck, G., Zakrewski, C., Dwoskin, E., & Lerman, R. (2021, March 25). Big tech CEOs face lawmakers in House hearing on social media’s role in extremism, misinformation. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/25/facebook-google-twitter-house-hearing-live-updates/

Facebook. (n.d.). How can I adjust how my ads on Facebook are shown to me based on data about my activity from partners? https://www.facebook.com/help/568137493302217

Zomorodi, M. (2017, March 29). Do you know how much private information you give away every day? Time. https://time.com/4673602/terms-service-privacy-security/

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