A recent piece in the NY Times, You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome about database marketing monster Acxiom revealed such scary facts such as “..its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person.”
Acxiom may well have 1,500 data points on 500 million individuals, but Facebook has infinite data points on 900 million individuals.
Consider the following:
1. Facebook deletes no data.
2. Facebook records data about you based on your activity on third party sites.
3. Facebook uses face recognition to ID you in photos (they just bought Face.com)
4. Facebook knows who all your friends are. If you’ve installed Facebook Messenger on your phone, they also know what you’ve been talking about (refer back to point 1)
5. Third parties are handing over boatloads of their data on you to Facebook for any number of reasons.
6. Facebook did all of this before an IPO that gave them billions of dollars in cash.
As consumers get sharper, marketers get more effective (or they go out of business.) How do marketers get more effective? By custom tailoring messages to a precisely targeted individual.
One wonders, if the marketer knows more about a person than the person knows about themselves, does this become exploitation? In the earliest days of Facebook’s ad platform clever marketers targeted “engaged” women with ads such “Muffin top too big to fit in the dress?” While distasteful, the ad copy in itself certainly fell within the guidelines of US law.
Will consumers become suspicious about messages that coincidentally mirror every fear they have on a given day, or hour? If the current state of political marketing tells us anything, no. Quite the opposite, consumers will love it.
Perhaps Facebook’s greatest weakness is too much information. While Acxiom has a great deal of data about an individual, harvested from credit card statements, bank account ledgers, and grocery store savings cards, Facebook has the platform to deliver targeted messages to a consumer instantly. This is bound to change.
I imagine a future where cameras are everywhere, retailers receive live data feeds about you in exchange for telling Facebook where you are. What you like, where you eat, where you shop, what you bought, what you told your friends about, all available for sale in one centralized platform. But, unlike traditional “list brokers” Facebook is smart, and “for sale” means an opportunity to target you with a message, not to download that data. Even today Facebook relies on the business model of free data in, targeted advertising out.
Facebook is still in its infancy. The only question is if Facebook will be the one to accomplish this, or will it be Apple, Google, or Amazon instead. Yet, Facebook is already doing this and has been for years. With the death of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg now stands as the strongest individual leader in Silicon Valley. He has no interest in reigning in his goals. At 28, he has another two to three decades of going full steam ahead left in him. You better get used to Facebook.