The Logic Behind Facebook Ads Seems to be Failing…And How They Can Improve It

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This is not going to be a political blog; I hate political blogs.  However, it’s going to sound a bit political.

I’m a Democrat; it’s listed on my Facebook page.  Therefore, it came as a bit of a surprise that during the election I got so many ads telling me that I should give money to Paul Ryan, who, as we all know, is running for Vice President as, let’s see, a Republican.  Note that I never got ads saying that I should support Mitt Romney, just Paul Ryan.

This should seem, to anyone who knows anything about Facebook ads, as something odd.  In case you didn’t know, Facebook chooses which ads to show you based on your likes and what you post about.  For example, I say that I like Broadway, and so I get ads for Broadway shows.  That’s fine.  That makes sense.

I spoke with the man who makes the Facebook Ads at my company and explained it to me: the ads are also based on your friends’ likes and posts.  And I suppose I happen to have a large number of friends who like Paul Ryan, and so the Facebook Algorithm Gods have determined that I, therefore, should be giving money to him.  Which, obviously, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It would seem that Facebook takes every aspect of what you like or don’t like as being equal.  The problem with that is that some things should clearly outrank the other.  For example, let’s say I list as my likes “Gay Marriage” and my religion as “Christian.”  If you’re a Christian group running an anti-gay marriage campaign, you might make an ad targeting people who self-identify as Christians.  However, this would be a poor ad because I clearly am not the target audience.

I’m not trying to say that Facebook ads are terrible; I think they can be great and certainly very effective.  However, I feel like they should be tweaked.  I think when you pick the things that you want people you’re going after to have “liked,” you should be able to exclude people who have “liked” other things.

Say you’re making a movie that would probably appeal to people who like Movie A, but you know would definitely turn off people who like Movie B.  You should be able to designate in your ad that you want Movie A fans that have not said that they like Movie B.  That way, you can get even more granular and really get the people you want.

In the meantime I’ll just be sitting here, watching my Facebook Ads roll by.  I just got one saying I should listen to Rush Limbaugh.  Clearly this is a good idea.

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