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Value of culture on Facebook

behavioral targetingLast Wednesday’s Colbert Report featured Wired editor in chief, Chris Anderson, who discussed the basics of making money on free online services—Facebook, Twitter, Turbotax, etc. To monetize, Anderson says you either have to upsell users to “freemium” services or, not surprisingly, sell your audience to advertisers. 

And while some companies surreptitiously collect data on your IP address for behavioral targeting, the public at large readily supplies social networking sites like Facebook with loads of valuable personal information. 

Sure, it’s creepy that Facebook and advertisers know I planned a wedding last year or work as a copy editor, but that’s the price I pay for keeping up with/stalking people in my social network. 

David Berkowitz, a blogger for Social Media Insider, monitors what he calls Facebook’s “Jewhavioral targeting.” Berkowitz lists no religious affiliation on his Facebook profile, but his name and perhaps his groups and literature preferences give away his heritage. Berkowitz is being served ads for Bloomberg’s reelection campaign (written partially in Hebrew) and book ads for “The New Jew.” 

Since we’re in Miami, I wanted to see if Facebook dabbled in Hispanic behavioral targeting. So I forced some of the Wax staff to open their Facebook accounts to reveal targeted ads based on the content of their profiles. 

In the five Hispanic profiles I viewed, none featured Spanish-language advertisements or overt Hispanic targeting. Maybe their profiles weren’t “Hispanic  enough” for Facebook, maybe it’s too difficult/risky to target people based on a Hispanic-sounding name since the word Hispanic embodies so many cultures, or maybe advertisers haven’t started targeting Latin Americans on Facebook. (If anyone knows any differently, please chime in!)

While my experiment didn’t unearth any extraordinary findings, I did uncover these (telling) ads targeted at Wax employees: 

  • Jason Baez – Muscle Building Miracles
  • Karla Gordillo – Discounts on Blackberries
  • Julian Orbon – Cool Apartments (and a cemetery ad)
  • Fiorella Juarez – Find Cheap Grub in Miami
  • Meg De Leon – Hot Cherry Pie Costume
  • Gretchen Schmidt – Class of 1973
  • Marie Pirolo – Date Rich and Successful
  • Caroline Hatchett – French Bulldog Puppies

–Caroline Hatchett