Yesterday, Facebook announced its new advertising feature, local awareness ads. Their messaging portrays this as a tool primarily aimed at helping local businesses reach more people, but the way the feature works is it shows the ad to people who live in the area or were recently within a certain radius of the business.
What Facebook doesn’t elaborate on is how they know who had been near the business or where exactly – or within what one mile radius – people live. Surely geotagged posts and photos will play into it, but since a new feature can track your location through your phone (though so far, on a purely opt-in basis), it seems their precise targeting tools have only gotten more precise.
Local awareness ads are certainly appealing to brick-and-mortar businesses of any size and should help Facebook generate even more advertising revenue, but it also risks making users feel surveilled. So businesses considering implementing local awareness ads will have to consider whether their targeted ads will cause their audience to feel uncomfortable. Take the example of the marketer who hypertargeted Facebook ads for his roommate. The roommate became so paranoid he stopped talking on the phone for fear of being tracked. Though it was a prank, it’s a prime example of how targeting too well can backfire.
Of course, used with common sense and discretion, Facebook’s new feature won’t make people feel that way. We’ve talked before about how brand personalization can be done effectively without being creepy, so let’s revisit the topic with creating targeted ads that aren’t Big Brother-y.
Make sure it’s opt-in
Whenever you’re using a location-targeted ad platform or service, do your due diligence and make sure that data is collected on an opt-in basis. This means that the setting that collects data should not be a default; it should ask users explicitly to opt in, and then make it easy for them to opt out at any time. While making something opt in isn’t your responsibility, you want to make sure you’re using platforms responsibly so that you don’t find yourself a scapegoat or example of creepy behavior.
Don’t talk to them about where they are
Your location-specific ad probably shouldn’t say, “Hey! We see you’re just down the street, come on in!” This definitely sounds creepy. Craft a better, more engaging message like, “Looking for ___?” or, “We’ve got ____” or even something vaguely targeted like, “Whatever you need isn’t far away.”
The most important thing is that, even though people are being tracked by a lot of providers like Facebook, Google, and mobile companies, the key is to avoid making them feel like they’re being tracked. Instead, the goal is to be just helpful enough that your ad seems serendipitous
Don’t give people things they don’t ask for
This should sound obvious, and it isn’t something you could do through Facebook’s local awareness ads, but don’t give people digital things they didn’t agree to. Apple learned that lesson the hard way last month when they paid U2 lots of money and then delivered the new album to every iTunes user.
Just like a lot of other aspects of brand personalization and targeted advertising, it’s all about striking a balance and being helpful, not overly personal. Exercise common sense and go forth and reach that target audience!