Earlier this week, a “secret Facebook marketing tool” was revealed to be an option for big budget brands, or “priority accounts.” Regarded the Brand Affinity tool, the concept is basically a new data offering that allows advertisers the ability to reach audiences beyond the basic demographics and interest categories currently available to everyone.
Right now, advertisers can, for examples, target women in Minnesota between 25 and 50, interested in traveling, or anyone in the U.S. who has recently moved, gotten engaged, or are expecting a baby. While the interest categories are constantly expanding, what hasn’t been possible is to target users who, using Adweek’s example, like Coca-Cola and also American Idol, which it sponsors.
The unnamed sources “familiar with” this magical tool have said that so far, it’s being used on a one-off basis for brands with big bucks. Furthermore, these users have had to visit a Facebook office in order to be granted access.
After Adweek initially published their article about the feature, and before too many people could start to blog and tweet about Facebook selling users’ information to anyone willing to pay enough, the social giant released the following statement:
“To help marketers build better campaigns, Facebook offers aggregated insights to managed clients that help them understand trends about their fan bases. These tools do not provide marketers with any data about their competitors’ fan bases. As always, Facebook does not share user-specific data with advertisers.”
In other words, yes, this is happening. However, they say they’re not actually giving the information to the brands, but are instead providing trends and likely steering these big budget advertisers in specific directions, which to me, seems just about the same as giving them the information, minus the transparency, assurance and control for said brands.
The whole thing, while inevitable, brings up a lot of questions. For one, is this fair to all the other advertisers? If you don’t have X million to spend, you’re out the option to target people who like Gap and also Adele?
Another, probably more obvious question is, is this even necessary? Given the roll-out of Facebook Exchange for retargeting and Custom Audience segmentation, as well as the Precise Interest targeting options, couldn’t brands target users based on their own research and consumer insights already at their disposal? Of course, Facebook wants to make things seemingly easier, for the brands that can afford it, that is.