Monday, April 22, 2013

Facebook’s New Emoticons Really Just Another Method For Facebook To Provide Targeted Ads

On the surface, it looks like Facebook is taking a page from MySpace and LiveJournal by introducing a new emoticon feature that will allow users to share different emoticons expressing what they're doing or feeling through the status update box.

Facebook's emoticons range from simple animations allowing users to express how they're feeling (tired, happy, wonderful, sad, etc.) to activity based, allowing users to let their friends know what they're up to (drinking a beverage, watching a show, reading a book, and others).

This may seem innocent enough, but the drop-down menu give users the ability to connect their activity with pages of interest, specific products or brands, businesses and anything else that's likeable on Facebook. For example, if you're drinking a cup of coffee, you can tag 'coffee' with 'Starbucks' Facebook' page or with a specific drink like 'Starbucks Peppermint Mocha'.
So while this new feature might seem like a fun and more interactive way for users to share specifics of what they're doing, this feature is really being introduced to allow Facebook to increase advertising without seeming invasive.

It was reported last month that Facebook is able to provide targeted advertisements based on a users offline choices. This new tool is just another method for Facebook to collect data about users to further their agenda of providing targeted ads.

As reported by Slate and explained by Josh Constine: “By selecting your current activity instead of merely writing it out, you structure data for Facebook.”

"If you choose a particular pre-formatted emotion, piece of media, or food, Facebook could potentially use that behavior to pinpoint you with ads. If you listen to a Daft Punk song, it could target you with ads for their new album or [a] nearby concert. Coffee shops might be able to pay to reach coffee drinkers, and Netflix would probably love to target sad users who could be primed to stay home and watch some videos. Going further, Facebook could even sell “Sponsored Activities,” where advertisers could pay to have themselves suggested as what someone was up to in the category selector."

Basically, emoticons along with 'like', hashtags and other features that Facebook offers gets its users to do much of the hard work themselves for Facebook.

Aside from being able to provide targeted ads to users, this is just another way for Facebook to go after Google and make a more determined play within the search niche. The more data that Facebook is able to collect about specific individuals, the better they can  integrate with Facebook's new "Graph Search" which allows members to conduct complex queries related to their friends' profiles, allowing people to find particular restaurants, products or websites based off of their friends.

It'll be interesting to see if users take to this new method of tagging or will see this for what it really is - a bid to capture more of their consumer habits.

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