You know what I mean? One minute you’re on your favourite shopping website then, next minute, the very item you were looking at appears as a banner ad, or on your Facebook feed.

It’s a little trick that Facebook (and Google) calls ‘remarketing’. When you visit a website, advertisers drop cookies on your browser.  The result is that, when you go back to your Facebook feed, the very product you were looking at shows up!

When I first read about this targeted marketing I did feel a sense of my privacy being invaded and that Big Brother was actually watching me! The thing we forget about Facebook and Google is that these are actually not owned by ‘The People’, but by corporates whose main mission for being is to make money. Much like a TV commercial helps pay the way for us to watch free to air television, these corporates are making their money by providing a way for its advertisers to promote their wares. The only difference is that they are also, to draw an analogy, taking a peek through our windows to see what we have in our home, to help their advertisers better place their promotions.

How does it work?

What I’m talking about is a product called Facebook Exchange (FBX). When you browse a participating FBX website store (you don’t know when you are!) that 1st party places a small piece of data on your browser – a ‘cookie’. 3rd party businesses associated with that site also place cookies on your browser. When you browse your Facebook page that data is picked up by FBX and then advertisers bid to have their advert put in front of you. A little bit like how Google advertising works (where you ‘bid’ a dollar value on keywords that people may search) but on sites that you have already been to.

In sales, we call this a ‘warm call’

Where Google advertising is a coldish call – the targeted person still has to choose to visit your website as a solution to the thing they are searching – the remarketing campaign is more like a warm call. They already know you have visited their site and know exactly what you have looked at, and so they can present it back to you for another chance to buy.

What we should be asking is, is this a good advertising medium for us to try in our business? But even before that decision can be made, we’re required to have a better knowledge of our consumers and how we interact with them. Do they want to be reminded to come back to us to buy something? If we know we are getting traffic to our website, but not so many sales, and we have checked our eCommerce process (for example) thoroughly, then should we try a mechanism that brings them back?

By paying attention to what we notice as consumers, we can find new promotion solutions for our business and not simply write these ‘social media interruptions’ off as a necessary evil of seeing what our friends are up to on Facebook.

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Amanda van Kuppevelt

Owner and founder of Delineate who's mad keen about client successes