Via Tim Peterson in Advertising Age comes another step in Facebook's efforts to connect its users with brands and ads, even at a hyper-local level. The article, "Facebook to Tell Brands More About Who's Near Their Stores, Tailor Ads to Them" lays out how Facebook will utilize its mobile users, which now number 727 million of the social media giant's 1.55 billion users, to connect to brands when they are near that brand's stores.
Starting yesterday, Facebook began providing marketers with location information about people who were near their stores, including, according to Peterson, "what percentage of those passersby may have seen the brand's ad on Facebook and other insights into foot traffic trends." And, in the hope of pushing that foot traffic into stores, brands will be able to tailor ads to nearby customers.
Peterson notes that cellphone carriers, who also have information about location available to them, have been attempting to woo marketers as well. The new information will be available within a business's Facebook page with the Insights tool, and will allow a business to see what amount of people near a store saw that store's ads.
The information is aggregated and anonymous, and only updates once per day, so it is currently unable to drill down to an individual level, which is good because with that comes a truckload of privacy concerns. Instead, the information will be generalized to allow a business to learn what the busiest time of day is, and breakdown foot traffic by age and gender demographics.
Separate from those breakdowns will be information about how far users have traveled to get to (or get near) the store, but only if the person came from out of town or further than 200 km to get there.
Left out of the measure is whether or not a person actually enters the store, which is information "we're not announcing that at this time," according to Matt Idema, Facebook's VP of monetization product marketing. This suggest it could be offered in the future, which feels a bit ominous. And of course, all of this can be cut off by disallowing Facebook to track your location in the app settings.
This is all an extention of a previous service Facebook had that sent ads to those in proximity to stores in a blanket fashion. The new updates allow brands to gather more data about who is visiting them, but it also brings up the never-ending question of privacy. The further expansion of the sharing of demographic information with brands by Facebook is a smart business decision, but could be more evidence of privacy creep.
Whether this is just Facebook exploiting another revenue stream, or ginning us up to forego yet another piece of information about ourselves, the places we shop and visit, that we might want to keep to ourselves all remains to be seen.