Facebook Tests Real-Time Ad Targeting

By Jackie Cohen Comment

Facebook is testing real-time targeted advertising among one percent of the users on the site, meaning roughly six million members.

The site already offers targeted advertising only aimed at different types of content. The test feature enables target ads based on real-time commenting, a feature that became available in January.

Targeted ads based on real-time comments effectively creates keywords out of posts as soon as users hit the enter key. But it’s actually more complicated than that, as AdWeek’s Irina Slutsky points out:

Keywords are a small part of that equation, but Facebook says sometimes keywords aren’t even used. The company said delivering ads based on user conversations is a complex algorithm continuously perfected and changed. The real aim of this test is to figure out if those kinds of ads can be served at split-second speed, as soon as the user makes a statement that is a match for an ad in the system.

This category of advertising could perform very differently from targeting based on likes and interests. Some people might find the promotions more invasive, while others might feel more motivated to click through to the intended destination.

Facebook’s test of this new type of advertising will show whether people who have previously clicked the x’s on ads and indicated the content was irrelevant might find relevance in the real-time targeting. The answer to this question will doubtlessly help the site determine how to price the promotion — if it’s really successful, it could be relatively expensive, although demand for the pertinent keywords would probably influence the cost.

If this type of ad gets rolled out to all advertisers, it would add to a growing menu of promotional options offered on Facebook, which has a goal of diversifying its revenue streams this year.

Real-time ad targeting may eventually fit in with two other tests related to advertising: One is targeting ads at status updates; another appears to be trying to get advertisers to move toward more general keywords for display ads. A combination of new ad features that test successfully could become part of a larger revamp of the ad-buying parts of the site.

Readers, have you seen any real time ads yet? Would you want to purchase this type of promotion?