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All Up in My Facebook Ads

I’ve revealed as little as possible about myself to the benevolent folks at Facebook. They have my real name, my email address, my birthdate, and they know that I’m male. That’s all I’ve provided to them or listed on my profile. Anything else that they know about me is inferred based on my activity on their site, and the activities of those I’ve identified as my friends.

Over 40? Yes, they know that I’m over 40. But how do they know I have a thing for Diane Keaton?

So what do they know, then?

They know I like word games. I’ve played Scrabulous, Wordscraper, and Word Twist on their site; lots of my Facebook friends play these games, too. I haven’t revealed where I live, but many of my friends have reported that they live somewhere in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I connect to Facebook from an IP address that can be traced to the Twin Cities. So they know where to find me. They have probably also guessed that I once lived in California, as I have a secondary concentration of friends located there.

They’ve been analyzing my “clicks” ever since I joined the site. Which links shared by my friends have I visited? (I must seem inordinately fond of stories that skewer the Bush Administration, and for a while at least, I couldn’t get enough of stories related to Sarah Palin’s comedic performance in the role of “Maverick Veep Candidate.”) My friends, too, are very likely to join causes like “Obama for Emperor of the Earth in 2012,” “Save the Spotted-owls of the Antarctic Ice Shelf,” and “Divorce Lawyers United for Gay Marriage.” So I’m identified as a left-winger.

There’s lots more. I haven’t created lists of my favorite books, CDs, and movies, and I’ve not identified myself as “a fan of chocolate pudding” or anything like that. I haven’t revealed anything about where I work, or what I do when I’m there. Inferences based on my friends and what they reveal is (almost) all Facebook has to work with. But they are in the business of targeted advertising. The better they get to know me, the more they can charge the advertisers who make appeals to me on their site. They are working hard with what they’ve got.

So based on what Facebook knows and is able to guess, here’s a short selection of the ads that are being presented to me today along with my speculations as to why I’m being targeted for each:

Buy friends real drinks No mystery here. I’m sure that every male registrant between the ages of 13 and 97 has been targeted with this one. A large percentage of the females as well, I’d guess.

Wow. Are those real? Look at the size of them (I mean the beer mugs, of course).

Tips for flat stomach At least 80% of Americans could use flatter stomachs (use for what, I’m not sure). Do they really think, though, that I’m so stupid that this is one of the “five mistakes” I’m making? Assuming the “proctological exam-ready” position while balanced precariously on a large blueberry gumball? No, that is not a mistake I’m likely to make.

Tired of shaving Now I just don’t understand how I was identified as the type of 40+ year-old male who might be interested in shaving his chest. Didn’t I spend my childhood diligently choking down all of the worst-tasting vegetable varieties after being told “this will grow hair on your chest”? Why would I now shave off this hard-won hair?

And hey, here’s a tip for the tired guy: You won’t be half so tired if you simply stop shaving after reaching the bottom of your chin, wise guy.

Shave in shower First of all, I already do shave in the shower. So the marketing research is both working (I’m that kind of guy) and not working (I already have a shower mirror).

Why is Santa Claus showering in his red suit? I don’t see how this will help sell shower mirrors; he’s obviously not doing a very good job in there (he’s leaving more than just a little stubble). Maybe he needs to shave in front of a larger, less fogged-up mirror. If he’s not seeing any better than that, he might get hurt.

Lastly, what is meant by “dermatologists recommend that it will soften your beard by 70%” anyway? It apparently doesn’t soften your beard this much, but a big, scary consortium of dermatologists is recommending that it had better start. Recommending to whom? To shower manufacturers? Is this a threat?

Another thing I’ve never done on Facebook is to “share a URL.” I’ll probably share this one, and when I do, I’ll open up another rich vein for them to mine. (The email address I’ve used to register on Facebook is on, so in fact, this vein is probably tapped out. I haven’t seen any ads for binoculars or bird seed, though, so maybe they have yet to stumble upon “Bachbird.”)

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