By Francesca James

In today’s economic climate it is important for businesses to get the greatest possible value out of their advertising and marketing pounds.

The dream for any marketer would be to only pay to get your message across to those with a chance of being interested.

For example, if you are a wedding planner in Cardiff, wouldn’t your ideal audience be engaged women in South Wales? A quick search shows me that there are 12,520 females who live within 50 miles of Cardiff who are over 18 and engaged and currently using Facebook. So, a small wedding planning business, who needs to keep a close eye on marketing spend could theoretically reach exactly who they want with few wasted pounds. This can rarely be said of other marketing channels.

Social networks are a great platform to be able to target effectively, because of the social nature of the sites users are likely to be truthful in their demographics therefore allowing advertisers to almost certainly reach a more valid prospect.

Facebook has well and truly established itself as the social network of the moment. They have over 150 million members and with those members come 150 million names, birthdays and other strands of data.

Facebook targets it’s advertising to users based on the information they share when setting up their accounts. You’ll know that this is by no means a new concept. For example, children are targeted during CBBC programmes, the Tweenies will never star in an advert after the watershed and, perhaps more relevant, anyone familiar with Gmail will certainly have noticed the targeted adverts based on keywords within email conversations.

However, The Facebook boffins have taken this to a whole new level. They know when my birthday is, where I went to school, my sexual orientation, my favourite member of TakeThat and that I, along with thousands of others wanted to bring back Cadbury’s Wispa. Facebook uses information on users social and professional relationships to create social graphs that allows pin point targeting.

Based on the information the site holds about me, I was intrigued to see what Facebook thought I needed. I quickly noticed that they had stopped with the dating sites, my relationship update clearly proved to them I could do it myself, so now those ad’s were replaced with adverts for concerts and CD’s of the numerous bands I listed in the about me section and for anyone that knows me, that’s certainly where I’m likely to spend my hard earned cash.

Many a Blogger has voiced an opinion on the targeted technology Facebook employs and when I Googgled ‘Facebook Flyer ads’ I found a very funny article by Rachel Beckman, a writer for the Washington Post. She humorously opens her story with ‘Facebook called me Fat!’. She goes on to say that her update to ‘engaged’ sparked a flurry of ‘Do You Want to Be a Fat Bride?’ taunts.

Then, upon announcing to all on Facebook that she had tied the knot, the adverts assumed that she would now want a baby.

‘Trying to get pregnant? Visit our site now. We’re a natural network of fertility specialists treating male and female infertility.’

Stories like this, while being quite funny and assuming everyone conforms to a stereotype, certainly show that there is potentially an untapped goldmine for small businesses to maximise chances of ROI on their advertising spend.

However, one needs to consider what the consumer thinks of this step forward for marketers. DO they appreciate Facebooks ‘proverbial Brain’ sharing all their intimate details? As you can imagine, stories such as Beckman’s have outraged privacy advocates and sparked many a debate in the Blogosphere.

Also, I think I’m probably an advertisers dream, I constantly click on adverts that interest and intrigue me and it often finishes with me making a purchase but I struggled to think of the last time that I clicked through from a Facebook Ad. Why? Because, when I go to Facebook, I go there to stay, to chat, and to be nosey whereas if I’m on Google I visit it purely as a gateway to another site.

However, having said this, I do think it is an incredible step forward in marketing technology and should be experimented with because it has great potential. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can set a budget as low as £10 per day and only pay on a PPC basis (you previously had to pay per thousand impressions) and what’s more, you don’t have to be a computer Whiz Kid to get started.

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