Social: The Next Frontier of Behavioral Targeting?

This year has never been bigger for social media. Facebook has more than 500 million active users, Twitter obtains over 300,000 new users a day, and YouTube exceeds 2 billion views per day. Devices designed to support social media, from Droids to iPads, are selling out before they hit the market. Even old standby brands like Old Spice are finding a new home in social media.

This evolving gateway into user-generated content is a behavioral marketer’s dream. Social media users take great care to self-identify themselves in painful detail – from where they like to eat to the bands they follow and where they went to college. They have a growing propensity to divulge all of their likes and dislikes, and they share their feelings and perspectives (good and bad) with anyone who will listen, not just a small group of friends or family. Imagine any other data set giving you so much rich detail to help tailor your ads and offer.

The challenge is to find the appropriate opportunity for behavioral targeting, without seeming to be too invasive or acting like a virtual stalker.

Targeting the Big Three

Each of the big three social networks has unique characteristics that open the door to extensive behavioral opportunities – from campaign extensions to standalone social campaigns.


Among the thousands of Facebook applications, “status updates,” “horoscope readings,” and “top friends” are among the most popular. Each of these provides insight into user likes and behaviors. For example:

  • A status update can serve as a mirror of interests a person has if they are seeking car advice, movie plans, or personal thoughts.
  • A horoscope reading could tip marketers in promoting ads for birthday parties and discounts around that person’s birthday.
  • The “top friends” application can give insight to who has influence on a particular consumer and the interest shared with friends.

Creating a compelling Facebook presence and gaining these users as “Fans” or “Likers” will enable you to monitor the sentiment and conversations that drive these interactions.


Evaluating when a tweeter “follows” certain topics or fellow tweeters, from sports stars to hotel chains, may prove more efficient than a television ad, due to the fact that the consumer is actively seeking out that particular celebrity/brand; letting marketers know they want a higher level of engagement. This can translate into marketers creating offer codes only available on Twitter that lead users to custom landing pages or contests that are only available to Twitter followers.


Finally, there’s YouTube. The average person spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube. The average time Americans spend brushing their teeth is less than a minute! The volume of user-generated content is amazing – 24 hours of video are uploaded every minute. With 52 percent of 18-34-year-olds sharing videos with their friends and colleagues, consumer-generated content peaks at YouTube. Serving up ads based on what videos users are watching, what they are recommending, and how they rate and post videos are potential avenues for the behavioral marketer.


Monitor sentiment and behavior prior to running any programs. With the large amount of noise in social media, it may take a more robust amount of monitoring and analysis to narrow down your target audience.

Don’t be too obvious – or too sneaky. Deceptive campaigns and ghost tweeting are easy to spot – and create damage that is hard to undo.

Finally, marketers must remember that not all social media users interact with their closest friends and family. So, analyzing peer influence will be another challenge that will require more time.

What you really want to know about your consumers might be staring back at you – just in a new format.


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