Progress of the Corporate Spies

corps Here are a few recent items on the most predictable of all human events, the growth of big business marketing.

An ex-Yahoo spy gone “independent” reports this in Ad Age:

Well, thanks to the rise of data and audience buying, there’s a relatively new offering now available to marketers called search retargeting. Search retargeting is the ability to target display ads based on user search history. This allows marketers to show advertisements to the right “in market” consumers and entice users who are already looking to buy a specific product or use a service. This combination of search and display results in the acquisition of new customers and drives targeted awareness across all sites.

With this in mind, other “news” is rather easy to reckon:

For Facebook users, the free ride is over.

For years, the privately held company founded by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room put little effort into ad sales, focusing instead on making its service irresistible to users. It worked. Today more than 600 million people have Facebook accounts. The average user spends seven hours a month posting photos, chatting with friends, swapping news links and sending birthday greetings to classmates.

Now the Palo Alto company is looking to cash in on this mother lode of personal information by helping advertisers pinpoint exactly whom they want to reach. This is no idle boast. Facebook doesn’t have to guess who its users are or what they like. Facebook knows, because members volunteer this information freely — and frequently — in their profiles, status updates, wall posts, messages and “likes.”

It’s now tracking this activity, shooting online ads to users based on their demographics, interests, even what they say to friends on the site — sometimes within minutes of them typing a key word or phrase.

Facebook’s ability to pinpoint paying customers has dazzled some small-business owners, including Chris Meyer. Over the last 18 months, the Minneapolis wedding photographer had Facebook aim his ads specifically at female users who divulged the following information about themselves on the social networking site: college graduates, aged 24 to 30, who had just gotten engaged and lived within a 50-mile radius of Minneapolis.

Meyer says his $1,700 ad buy generated $110,000 in sales.

“I could not have built my business without Facebook,” he said.

And, as always, the whole enterprise rests on exploited emotions and false promises:

[A] new study, led by Thomas V. Pollet of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, examined 117 people age 18 to 63. They filled out an extensive questionnaire about the time they spend on instant messaging and social network sites, the number of relationships they had overall and the closeness of those relationships.

The researchers found that spending a lot of time online was not linked to having a larger number of “offline” friends. Moreover, the relationships of people who socialized online weren’t any closer or stronger than people who didn’t socialize online.

And on this:

The social media giant Facebook, for example, has nine third-party data centers in the US, with plans to build a tenth in Oregon. Current estimates are that Facebook uses 60,000 servers to help its more than 500 million members reconnect with people they didn’t even like in high school.

The company’s data centers range from from 10,000 square feet to more than 35,000 square feet, and their energy use is enormous. The average leased data center uses between 2.25 megawatts of power and 6 megawatts of power. This could provide electricity for one month to somewhere between 1,730 and 4,615 homes.

Google is thought to have 36 data centers.

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Heavy Armor
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And all in the name of having one more paper Washington than the person next to you.

Or down the street.

Or around the corner.

But, the “Free Market” doesn’t call this stuff waste.