One of the greatest things about social media is that it allows advertisers to target their messages to certain demographics and consumers with identifiable buying habits.
Initially, this sounds insidious. However, targeted advertising is largely a boon for both sides of the sales equation.
Advertisers don’t need to waste time and money reaching the wrong audiences. Consumers are less likely to be bombarded with advertising messages with little on no relevance to their personal tastes and habits.
In fact, much has been written on the topic already, perhaps never more famously that Jeffrey Zaslow’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Oh no! My Tivo thinks I’m gay” from December 2002. So, I won’t bother attempting to address the pros and cons here.
What I will say is that I was slightly dismayed to discover today that Facebook thinks I need Weightwatchers and might want to ‘friend’ Matthew Guy MLC, Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Planning.
Now, I’ve never been one to speak publicly about my political views, other than to support or voice my concern regarding political decisions. To put it lightly, there are aspects of both sides of politics I would gladly change if given a magic wand.
But, of greater concern, how did the algorithms responsible for the placement of Weightwatchers banner advertising decide to single me out? Have I been posting too many updates about my love for Skittles? Or was it the photo from 3am, with kebab in hand, that took me less than 2.7 nanoseconds to ‘remove name tag’?
Am I being paranoid? Should I be concerned that Facebook thinks I’m a overweight Liberal? I doubt it. But it would be interesting to hear of any other examples and causes of aggregater anxiety.