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Why Facebook cares what you like

May 21, 2010

Ready for a massive generalization?

There are two kinds people online: shoppers and buyers.

Buyers are easy to spot, thanks to Google. When people are looking to buy something, one of the first things they do is search for it. Looking for a new HD TV? Google it.

This is called Pay Per Click, and it’s the reason all the people at Google are gazillioanires.

On the other side of the generalization is everyone else. I rather glibly called them “shoppers”, but we also call them people who might be inclined to buy stuff at a later date. As you can see, that’s a pretty long title.

Buyers go to Google (or Amazon or Best Buy or Walmart, etc). “Shoppers” surf the web.

In Google’s world, advertising to these people means buying the content network.

This “content network” is otherwise known as the internet. Content can mean anything from a blog to a Ning Social Network, to a gaming site. The Content Network is anything that gets eyeballs. Publishers get a cut of ads placed on their sites. I have ads on a blog that I use to write about my son and daughter. If I write about changing a poopy diaper, Google delivers an ad for diapers to the four or five people who read each week. Not surprisingly, Google has never sent me a check. But they always deliver ads based on my content.

This is Google attempt to make the ads on the content network relevant to the person consuming the content. This is classic marketing because all that is really known is what people like at the moment they like it.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Enter “Like” on Facebook

The Facebook “Like” button is an attempt to deliver ads outside of the walled networks of Facebook.

Here’s how it would work. A person writes on their profile that they like “Beer”. That person then goes to the “content network”, ie, the internet, and is shown a beer ad. Instead of the ad being relevant to the content (like Google), the ad is relevant to the likes of the person.

How does Facebook do this? Simple. People never log out of Facebook. As we surf the net, we’re logged into an engine that knows all the things we like.

In theory, the more a person “likes” on Facebook, the more data sets marketers can use to advertise to them.

We marketing folk can already use this data. If a marketer has an idea about what their target market (shopper) likes, then Facebook can tell them how many people are out there.

When Facebook launches their ad platform (and they will), we’ll have another option for “shopper” marketing. Unlike Google which places an ad based on ‘content’, this will be an ad targeted directly to our desires.

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