Before I switched careers, I did a big feature in the Globe and Mail on Facebook marketing. At the time, Mike Murphy, Facebook’s vice president of media sales, told me that while Facebook could theoretically target ads to consumers based on the personal data they entered into the site — hobbies, political leanings, favourite TV shows — it chose not to do so.
Back then, Facebook was weighing its revenue goals against potential privacy concerns, and determined that it was best to segment ad audiences according to a small number of criteria, such as network and gender.
Now advertisers can take advantage of Facebook’s vast gathering of personal user data and segment to their heart’s content.
But what’s really cool is that the data is all available for free to play with on the Facebook Flyers page. By way of Mashable, I found this post from online political strategist Patrick Ruffini, who used the tool to learn that while few Republicans were fans of the band Radiohead, they did love playing Halo 3.
I’ve had some fun running similar statistics on Facebook’s Canadian users.
Take the New Pornographers, one of my favourite Canadian bands. There are 10,880 people in Canada who have them listed as a favourite band. Of these 3,280 people list their political view as Liberal versus 200 for Conservative. 4,800 fans are male, versus 5,120 female. 3,440 are single, versus 4,320 that are in a relationship, engaged or married.
But among the 35,020 Canadians who list the Bible as a hobby, just 2,120 are Liberal compared with 8,180 who say they are Conservatives.
(One caveat: Facebook capitalizes Liberal and Conservative, although the terms are intended to refer to ideology, rather than party affiliation. I would guess that some Canadian Facebookers use the term one way and some the other).