Most Americans are accustomed to the rules of engagement for direct
mail, which is very much an offline practice. (Subscribe to a new
magazine? Don't be surprised to see a raft of offers for credit
cards in your mailbox.) But Facebook is allowing its big
advertisers to match the email addresses and phone numbers they've
collected with profiles matching that data.
Giant brands will be able to sync their entire CRM databases to
Facebook to more efficiently target their customers, rather than
waiting for them to "like" the brands' content or page.
The move raises a number of privacy questions. When a consumer
gives an email address or number to a marketer, there's the
expectation he will get communication from the brand. But what
about when it comes to Facebook? "I don't think anyone who has
given an email and phone number to Facebook expected it to be used
by Tide to target ads at them," said Alan Chapell, an attorney who
consults with ad-tech companies on privacy policies.
Twitter's gentler approach
Facebook says it's giving users two opportunities to opt out.
First, a marketer must ask permission from customers to reach them
on Facebook. Second, users can opt out by clicking a box on the ads
Twitter, which billed its new targeting option as the biggest
change to its ad capabilities since they were first introduced, is
taking a more cautious approach. Twitter's interest targeting
includes 350 prepackaged categories, from the broad "pets" or
"films" to more niche subcategories like "documentaries" and
The categories are not created from the content of tweets
themselves, but from user actions on Twitter such as retweets and
favorites, and whom users follow. If you follow Anthony Bourdain,
for example, that 's a clue that you're a foodie.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter is intrinsically public and users have
no expectation of privacy. Yet Twitter's approach to targeting is
likely to be perceived as less invasive than, say, Google's mining
of search data or Gmail. "We have always been thoughtful and
deliberate in how we roll out our advertising products and
features," a spokeswoman said in a statement. "This certainly
applies to targeting as well."
From a revenue standpoint, Facebook is under decidedly more
pressure to ramp up revenue -- fast. One could also argue that
users have higher switching costs since many have spent years
accumulating connections, photos and apps. That's why we predict it
will keep pushing the envelope until the scope of its business
matches the ubiquity of its user base, and why the ad targeting has
only just begun.