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Hypertargeting Registered Users

  |  December 8, 2009   |  Comments

The universe of hypertargeting opportunities is bigger than ever and promises to continue to grow.

Hypertargeting, a term coined by MySpace, describes the social network's ability, as it puts it, to, "tap into self-expressed user information" and "reach the consumers most likely to be receptive to your brand." Basically, MySpace is saying that you can target consumers by the information they post in their registration information and profiles. The team at MySpace adds, "Thanks to the unsurpassed reach of MySpace, you can target highly specific user interests while still reaching a significant audience." This is basically saying that even though you are getting super specific about the consumers you are trying to target, there are so many people on MySpace who have registered and populated their profiles that you can still reach tons of people.

While MySpace hasn't been the top dog for some time, let's give credit where credit is due. Its term, hypertargeting, perfectly describes what social networking, dating sites, and other sites that require registration can offer to marketers. They can enable marketers to target consumers with unbelievable accuracy and efficiency.

As consumers we get a great deal as well. We get a huge variety of free and low cost Web services for simply letting companies advertise to us in a more relevant and targeted way.

Typically, there are three main buckets of information that enable the "hypertargeting" of consumers, based on registration information a person reveals when joining a site or making a purchase. The buckets include:

  • Registration information: the information one enters into a site when setting up a profile or gaining access. This can include age, sex, geography, and other basics.

  • Profile information: the content a person actually posts on his or her profile such as favorite movies, music, books, restaurants, activities, and more.

  • Behavioral data: things that one does or looks at online, interacts with, and buys on a site or network of sites.

Read these sites' privacy policies to get a sense of the targeting capabilities. In its privacy statement, Facebook says marketers can reach people by geography, age, and interests such as soccer.

"We allow advertisers to choose the characteristics of users who will see their advertisements and we may use any of the non-personally identifiable attributes we have collected (including information you may have decided not to show to other users, such as your birth year or other sensitive personal information or preferences) to select the appropriate audience for those advertisements. For example, we might use your interest in soccer to show you ads for soccer equipment, but we do not tell the soccer equipment company who you are."

So if I wanted to, I could reach males ages 18 to 26 in New England who are interested in soccer. And because Facebook has 350 million registered users, chances are that even with that narrowly defined selects I will still reach a pretty good size audience.

Note that this technology is typically used in a very ethical way. All of this stuff is no more intrusive or dangerous than credit card companies targeting people with offers from partners and vendors via direct mail. As Facebook puts it in its privacy policy:

"We don't share your information with advertisers without your consent...For example, we might use your interest in soccer to show you ads for soccer equipment, but we do not tell the soccer equipment company who you are."

Now, the ability to target consumers based on registration information is nothing new. Sites and services like Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and gated publications like the Wall Street Journal have been able to do it for a long time. But now that you have behemoth social networking and user-generated content sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube, and even Match.com with hundreds of millions of users, the universe of hypertargeting opportunities is bigger than ever and promises to continue to grow. And, the addition of "self expressed" information that people post to their profiles combined with behavioral data makes for an even richer spectrum of targeting options. In many ways, this type of targeting is the future of advertising.

Furthermore, companies like IAC own an entire network of sites including Match.com, Ask, Evite, Citysearch, and Shoebuy. Reading excerpts from Match.com's privacy policy is very revealing. (See below.) Basically, it shows that IAC is combining registration information from different sites to formulate some pretty amazing targeting options for marketers -- all on an anonymous basis of course.

"We may collect information that can identify you ("personal information"), such as your name and email address, (i) when you (or other users) provide it to us when using our website or in some other manner, or (ii) from other IAC businesses, from our business partners, and from other third parties. We may combine the personal information that we receive from different sources."

It goes on to explain how this combined information may be used:

"We may use information to:

  • Fulfill your requests for products and services;

  • Offer products and services that may be of interest to you;

  • Customize the advertising and content that you see on our website;

  • Facilitate use of our website;

  • Manage your account and your preferences;

  • Analyze use of and improve our website, products and services;

  • Identify and protect against fraudulent transactions and other misuses of our website; and

  • Enforce our Terms of Use."

Like Facebook, IAC clearly states that in regards to the companies that advertise: "We do not provide any personal information to these companies."

The purpose of this column is not to whip up a whole needless privacy debate. All people need to do is not use these primarily free sites, clear their cookies, or opt out of ad targeting by all member companies at the Network Advertising Initiative.

Instead, my goal is to share the huge opportunity that we, as online marketers, have to hypertarget consumers more efficiently than ever dreamed possible in numbers that will soon make for viable advertising campaigns using exclusively hypertargeted media. This is huge and represents the future of advertising!

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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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