There has been some superb work recently on Facebook’s inexhaustible hoovering up of information about its users.
Mark Goodman’s book Future Crimes is most illuminating on why Facebook is so ravenous.
He calls it “a marketer’s dream”.
This piece, called “You Are The Product” by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books is magnificent too.
Facebook’s addiction to information about you is because that information is valuable.
Amongst other things, it can place you in a precise category of user in order for advertisers to better show you their wares.
I recently realised that I’ve never once been tempted to even look at a Facebook “suggested post”, let alone complete the “customer journey” by buying their merch or services.
In fact I never even look at what’s on offer behind the often absurd names and underwhelming messages.
So to break the habit of a Facebook lifetime, I did, and what I found is that Facebook either doesn’t know the first thing about me, has put me in the wrong category, has a totally inaccurate picture of what people in my category like, or I am totally out of step with the people I share a category with.
Whichever one it is, Facebook’s advertisers’ efforts are falling on barren ground when they are chosen to do their thing on my feed.
Below I’ve listed what was “served”. To my taste, a truly grim and unappetising buffet.
This is not just a source of curiosity though.
Between them, Facebook and Google have taken such an immense percentage of all new advertising spend (this piece has it at 83%) to have decimated my industry – the print industry.
Given the relationship people have with their devices, it’s not hard to understand why advertisers may have rushed to digital.
What is harder to fathom is whether the people authorising the marketing spend are happy with the results, given that my own little off the cuff test shows they have without exception wasted their money.
This is what I was served up either as the first “suggested post” or in the little “sponsored” box on the right of the feed every time I refreshed my Facebook page.
- Zendesk I’ve never heard of this company. They are a “Customer Service Software and Support Ticket System”. I have no customers. Their post teases me with the promise of “10 interview questions to ask ”…to help me understand “if the person you’re talking to can be an effective customer service rep.” Of all the people I have spoken to in my life, I am yet to wonder if any could be an effective customer service rep.
- Mentorbox “The average CEO reads 60 books a year” claims their ad, which I doubt, and they offer no supporting evidence. Their company offers “proprietory speed reading cheat sheets” to help you through a library of truly grim business volumes, including one by Arianna Huffington. People undeniably need help reading these books, but not for the reasons Mentorbox think. They give no indication as to how much this “Powerful tool for success” might cost either. If I’ve been served this because I like books, then they’ve made a big mistake – this is a service for people who don’t like reading.
- Betvictor This was a viral video about a dog on a football pitch. I was looking at some football odds this week, but don’t want a new betting account and have no interest in dogs.
- Masterclass.com David Mamet teaches dramatic writing. I have never searched for information on how to write dramatically. Does Facebook think I need to up the drama?
- Sprezzabox “2 boxes for just $20” – 2 boxes of what? This unfortunately named business offers “Effortless style for just $28 a month.” Sadly for Sprezza, I am confident I can get through the foreseeable future without needing a tie, pocket square, cigar cutter(!), sunglasses, collar stays or something called a lapel flower.
- (Over in the “Sponsored” box, our old friend PPI! Plus something called planet-body.com is offering “impressive muscles”.)
- Spoke “Sober but not not sombre chinos”. I don’t wear chinos.
- Ancestry.co.uk I am not curious about my family tree, nor have ever attempted to trace it.
- Kenco Introducing “the Kenco Millicano Wholebean instant.”I like coffee. I’m even quite keen on ordinary, casino coffee. But not instant coffee.
- (In the sponsored box. Do I “Need a cheap 1080 HD endoscopic camera?” No. No, I don’t.)
- The RAF Benevolent Fund I’m being offered me the chance to win an Aston Martin. This is starting to feel a bit desperate when they are reduced to trying to flog raffle tickets.
- British Gas My apartment doesn’t have a gas supply.
- Dapulse “The new generation of project management tool is here and it’s visual,” claims the ad. A quick look at their website, however, claims “You don’t need a project management tool.” You got that right, Dapulse.
So for all the brilliance and precision of their famed algorithm, Facebook has not managed to serve me a single piece of sales material that sticks.
I have no use for, need for or interest in a single one of the products or services suggested.
In their stampede to pour money into Facebook and Google, are advertisers happy with such uninspired “targeting”, I wonder?