Facebook testing ‘real time’ ad service based on your status updates

What has long been rumored as inevitable seems to be coming true, as Facebook has begun testing their ‘real time’ ad service that reacts to users’ online actions, taking into account their age, gender and passions. As reported by MarketingMag.ca the intent-based advertising test delivers real-time ads based on user wall posts and status updates.

For example: Users who update their status with, “The Vancouver White Caps dominated their first game!” could get an instant ad on my wall from the Vancouver White Caps for tickets to the next game.

Initially, the test only involves 1% of Facebook users (which turns out a to be 6 million people). For the initial test advertisers aren’t buying real time “relevant ads” rather Facebook is trying to match existing ads that are already in their system to relevant status updates and wall posts in real time, based on a combination of user profile data (including keywords and interests) along with the current update.

As the article suggests, offering ads relevant to a person’s immediate needs or state is one thing. But Facebook’s real opportunity – and what sets it apart from Google – lies in mixing that relevancy with all the information it already has about users based on their profiles, such as location, age and gender.

This isn’t necessarily a new venture for Facebook, as they have been using wall posts and status updates as factors for ad targeting for awhile, but never in real time.

Of course, privacy experts are out in full force to comment on the “Big Brother” factor of this venture. As the author notes, “how creepy is it to say you just got done with working out and instantly see a Gatorade ad?” And as USC Graduate School of Business professor Hank Wasiak notes “this development is also fraught with all kinds of possibilities of invading into the user’s inner sanctum. It’s essential to realize that everything you do may not be about a sale. The companies that do that will be the ones that succeed.”

The cynic in me sees the incredible targeting potential of the service, but wonders how intuitive the system can truly be? What if I update my status as: “I just had the worst pizza ever from Dominos” and the next thing I know I’m getting inundated with ads for Dominos. That’s going to rile me up even more. Chances are it isn’t going to understand the tone of my status update. But on the flip side, a coupon from Pizza Hut might be a welcomed gesture – so I guess it isn’t the worst thing in the world.

I’m also curious when Facebook’s ad platform will extend to mobile, since the performance of the Facebook app is increasing and more and more people are updating their status on-site from wherever they are. Will that extend to real-time as well?

Either way, this new venture is just another reminder of the true value of Facebook, and a clear indication that in order to maintain your online social networks it will always come with a price.

So what do you think? Is the looming Facebook ad platform creepy or cool?

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