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Facebook Likes are all the rage. From getting consumers to ‘like’ a brand to establish a regular communication channel to using ‘likes’ for targeting, the ad world has officially liked ‘likes.’
Although ‘likes’ are a powerful mechanism for connecting your brand to consumers using Facebook, they’re not the targeting panacea many would make them out to be. The main problem with the ‘like’ system is that consumer interests are based on a user’s declared interest, versus inferred interests derived from their actual behavior.
There are three problems with using declared interests as a proxy for interest-based advertising: interests change over time, interests are not black and white, and finally our interests are not necessarily what we tell our friends.
1. Interests change over time. Just because I liked Jim Carrey in High School, it doesn’t mean that I want to see his movies as an adult (sorry Jim). Moreover, the song I liked four months ago would drive me bonkers if I heard it on the radio today. When we ‘like’ something on Facebook it is permanently stored in our profile. Thus, when targeting based on a ‘like’ you may be hitting an audience that has already moved on.
2. Interests aren’t black and white. Unlike the computers we’re hopelessly addicted to, we don’t think in binary. We don’t just like, or dislike something. For example I don't just 'like' movies about Marvel Comic books, I love them. Just ask the guys at Marvel Entertainment that I harass for free stuff. The difference is priceless. Our interests not only vary over time, but also in terms of intensity per topic. It’s like the difference between black and white television and color television.
3. Interests aren’t necessarily what we say they are. Remember in high school when everybody liked a certain band? You’d be at lunch shouting their praises and then go home and listen to something different. That same lunch-room dynamic can be applied toward socially declared interest on social networks. We want people to think of us in a certain way, even if it's not really who we are. If an advertiser were to include the 'lunch-room' crowd in their targeting scheme, they'd be leveraging false positives.
'Likes’ are undoubtedly are a treasure-chest of information. With that in mind, using declared interests to blindly to power interest-based, ad targeting has its drawbacks. When you’re considering interest-based advertising, it's critical to leverage data derived from real behavior and actions - or implicit interests. Using that approach, you can overcome the problems associated with a declared interest scheme.