Facebook Tests Real-Time Status Ad Targeting

Recently, Facebook began a test that delivers real-time targeted ads, based on user status updates.  The test involves a group of 6 million users, so it represents only a tiny percentage of the Facebook universe right now.  Chances are you won’t be seeing these tests yourself (unless you happen to be selected for the test group), but here is a quick rundown on how it works.

Facebook will deliver immediate, real-time ads to users based on current status updates.  For example, if someone posted “I’m gearing up for some home improvement projects this weekend” they might immediately see an ad or coupon from Home Depot or Lowes.

The idea of using status updates and wall posts for ad targeting isn’t new for Facebook, as they have been doing it for some time now.  But, the real-time twist is brand new.  Up until now, the user data was collected over time and available for later targeting.  However, that approach doesn’t provide the ability to deliver a targeted ad when the user has actually posted something that suggests an immediate need or interest in a specific product or service.  The new real-time targeting capability would overcome that hurdle – if it works.

A big part of the current test is to determine whether or not the algorithm can deliver appropriate ads in a split second, as soon as a user makes a post or update that matches up to an ad in the Facebook system.

The program offers tremendous potential for a wide variety of marketing initiatives, with local advertising being a major component.  If you post “I’m thinking about pizza for dinner tonight”, you might see an immediate ad for your local Domino’s or Pizza Hut with a coupon.

Facebook hasn’t announced how long the test will run or when the feature might be rolled out to a larger audience.

In addition to this test, Facebook also began making some other changes to its ad targeting options, allowing advertisers to utilize both Keyword and Category targeting options.  From reading some other blogs, it appears that different advertisers are seeing varying options (some get just Keyword or just Category targeting options, while others have both options available to them).  But, if both options become broadly available to all advertisers along with the eventual rollout of real-time targeting, Facebook becomes an even more effective advertising platform.

From an affiliate marketing perspective, all these changes should be pretty exciting.  Imagine if you could target a dating ad based not only on demographics and keywords, but also in real time.  Suddenly, when someone posts about their recent breakup and updates their status to “single” they could immediately see your dating ad.  Maybe that timing is too quick for some types of offers, but it would be pretty amazing to have that kind of real-time targeting capability.

Category targeting also provides some definite efficiencies when combined with Keyword targeting.  It could be an easy way to test out new niches or round out your keyword campaigns to pick up residual traffic.

Bottom line, the more targeting options that Facebook provides, the more opportunities for smart marketers to more effectively connect with their audiences.

  • Yes… targeting options are a gift for the Facebook marketer who takes the time to test and tweak.

    Another Facebook ad strategy is to switch to CPM (from CPC). If you’re able to get at least .1% CTRs, you can get precisely-targeted Facebook users to your site for about 4 cents a click!

    I go into detail about this in my Facebook advertising tutorial (it’s FREE – no optin).

  • IbariGroup

    yep, i just checked a couple of my accounts and i have the new specific category vs broad category option. Looks pretty cool can’t wait to run a test with it

    • Thanks for checking in. I would love to hear how the test goes!

  • dk – purposeinc

    Thanks Tom, this is the first time I heard about this. 🙂

    • Hey DK – I was surprised the announcement didn’t get more coverage last week. But, I did see it get picked up a bit on Friday and over the weekend.

  • Thanks so much for this Facebook update. You are so right about local advertising. I think the immediate showing of ads will work better in some niches and not very well in others.

    • It will definitely be interesting to watch. If ads are targeted well and written effectively they could be very effective. But, I do wonder if this new feature will give the site too much of a Big Brother feel. People expect to see real-time targeted ads in search, but I’m not sure if they have the same perspective on a social network.

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