How Facebook Tracks You: Gaining The Marketing Benefits
We all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. We want to stay in touch with friends, play a little Candy Crush, know when someone in the family has had a baby or has died – unfortunately Facebook has become the premier tool of all things news. Because we use this platform so often to gather news, a laugh or two, or just to stay in touch – data is being collected via our engagement.
A database, of sorts, is assigned to each Facebook user and it accumulates data regarding your interests. To show people how Facebook’s data tracking, predictive analytics, and collection works to some degree, a company created a program called Your Data Selfie. The software must be installed on your computer, and from there it brings up a screen that simulates what Facebook is doing. This allows you to have an idea of how you have been categorized.
What does Facebook track you might wonder?
Facebook can monitor your mouse button and how it is used on your screen. So, for instance, if you hover over a specific Facebook news article for a while, it tracks this interest. It also tracks what you click on, which pages you comment on, the types of content you comment on, the types of comments you make and what you like or share. Whose pages or what company, interest group or profile pages you follow are also captured.
Images are also now scanned for data. What kind of photos do you most often post? What types of photos on other people’s pages do you tend to like or comment on?
Why Does Facebook Gather Information About Me?
The first reason, is to deliver into your feed, posts that are of interest to you, or what Facebook has gathered is of interest to you. Wonder why you only see a handful of your friend’s posts, all of the time? That is Facebook’s algorithm in place.
Facebook is also tracking this information so that they can put you into its collection of hundreds of categories, from which marketers (such as our company) can pick and choose which ad or message is delivered to which specific type of audience.
Psychographics Role in Facebook
Psychographics is not the study of psychos, well maybe sometimes, but is formally defined as the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyles.
If I am selling a white water rafting trip in Colorado, I have to first define the psychographic elements of my target audience. I can then narrow that audience, or a set of audiences, down to just one person if I wanted to refine to the umpteenth degree. For those of you who receive Facebook ads in your feed for items or events you have zero interest in, this is simply a mistake on behalf of the marketer, and all you have to do is click on the dropdown button in the top right corner of that post and Hide Post. The information will get back to the advertiser as – sorry, you missed your point.
As marketers, we can fine tune the back-end of a Facebook ad in ways you wouldn’t even want to know about. We can start by aiming for audiences with a specific income:
If we are advertising a specific family event and know that only families with children of a certain age can attend, we can narrow our audiences with this Exclusion or Inclusion.
We also can narrow the audience size by what types of magazines we think you read or other types of interests.
Then we can target individuals, who for instance, are traveling to a specific location. We chose people who read Outside Magazine, and who are traveling to Colorado – just to see what kind of audience size we can gather. It appears that gives us approximately 24,000 people – give or take.
To test affinity audiences and determine what types of people a company’s clientele looks like (this is not a profile of my clientele by the way but of another companys), we can use the Audience Insight button in Facebook, which is different than the simple, build an ad as shown above.
Audience Insights give us even more data on your current clientele. People get stereotyped and categorized in all sorts of Affinity Audience weird ways. For instance, if I just want to see what type of demographics and client interests everybody who has liked my company Facebook page look like, I can ask Facebook to show me just this information. Now, because Facebook wants to protect people’s privacy as much as possible, the statistics it is giving me includes 150m-200m people, and has also pulled people who look like my audience. This is a pretty broad picture, but it gives me something to start with.
And I can see what type of relationship they are in or their education level.
Lastly, I can see what type of job title my followers have.
And then there are all these other tabs and exclusions one can make depending on how far you dial the information down.
Should I be making a judgment about the type of income my visitor earns, this tool will clarify it, showing they are right in the middle of the road.
All of this information creates a great starting point in developing a psychographic profile around your potential consumer, client, shopper, etc.
Anyway, back to ways Facebook can track and categorize you.
Other Ways Your Data is Tracked by Facebook
Have you ever played those Facebook games where it tells you who you were in a past life? People who build those games aren’t doing it for your entertainment. Information is gathered once you opt into games or even apps. But not to worry, don’t beat yourself up for playing that game because information is collected on you if you have Facebook on your phone or every time you login to Facebook. Facebook also tracks when you want to login with your Facebook to a third party site.
And then there is “Cookie Tracking”. Not as in Cookie Monster cookies, but bits of code that are placed on your computer when you visit a website. That code collects information about what website you visited, which specific pages and products you looked at, how long you were on the site, whether you checked out or didn’t stay long – it’s all being tracked. The cookie also identifies other technologies and ‘identifiers’ associated with your device.
Facebook tracks who visits your website, which pages, who engaged with your Facebook post, who watched your video and for how long and whether that person bought something.
Facebook monitors where you go and shop, thanks to your phone and the geo-trace you leave behind. Shall I go on?
Then there are Wifi logins – Facebook will send a signal to the database of where you are, even if your geotracking is turned off. If you login using Wifi or use your GPS, Facebook is tracking you. And just to make you more nervous, and feel like ‘The Man’ is watching you, there are these little gems:
1. Image mapping. Facebook has become pretty good at matching your face with recognition software. You may have noticed this when Facebook would offer you a suggested person’s name to be tagged on an image you uploaded. They have not been using that feature as much as people were becoming creeped out about how sophisticated the tracking of Facebook has become. The fact is, there is a lot of image and video tracking software in the world now so that it is quite easy for a computer to scan video imagery to identify people and things.
2. The types of filters you use, such as a Pride filter, informs Facebook about you.
3. Deleted posts shares what or who you might not be interested in anymore.
4. Tracking of all visitors to Facebook’s Audience Network – which is large and we aren’t quite sure of all that includes.
5. Instagram usage, likes, follows images, videos, filters.
And lastly, there are the Lookalike Audiences. Lookalike Audiences help you find Facebook and Instagram users who are similar to people in one of your pre-existing audiences. Audiences can include email lists or simply people who Like your Facebook page, have engaged with your Facebook page or visited your website.
Oi. That is a lot of tracking and monitoring. We all leave a digital footprint behind and while Facebook may not be spot on with its categorization of you, it’s close enough that businesses can take advantage of advertising on Facebook to gain some real traction.
About the Author: Pamela Ravenwood has been providing digital marketing services for over seven years and is the co-owner of SEO Essential Solutions in Arizona.