Facebook Advertising and Influencing Human Behavior

The readings for this week were very insightful looking at the social media networks Facebook and Pinterest. They approached the networks from an angle we aren’t used to always talking about, which is how they can raise revenue and influence human behavior.  I found that the two articles discussing Facebook really intrigued me and I got a better sense of both Mark Zuckerberg and the people working at the social network site and I’ll share with you what I found to be the highlights.

We probably all know that Facebook could be considered one of the largest countries in the world (if it were a country) due to its heavy use among people worldwide, and that Facebook has large amounts of data on all of the people that use the social network. What can be done with that information however is astounding. When I first read What Facebook Knows it seemed to touch on a topic I thought I knew all about: how to advertise to users based on their interests. What I didn’t realize however, is the amount of power that Facebook has to influence users to change behaviors in real life.

Facebook has numerous methods of collecting data from users; from the minute you set up your account you’ve given them basic information including age, sex, e-mail and more, but Facebook can also tell a lot about a person based on the music they’re listening to or news that they’re reading. Based on this, the company predicts that it can continue to find ways to monetize based on consumer interests. It has experimented and found that users are more likely to buy-in to advertising when they see their friends are doing it. Through even more brainstorming and experimenting, Facebook has tested ways it can influence behavior in real life starting with an idea Zuckerberg’s wife had. Using Facebook, people could click one button stating they were an organ donor which then pushed a notification to their friends. Because of this there was “a cascade of social pressure” and donor enrollment actually went up by a “factor of 23” in 44 states.

You may remember another social influence movement when election day occurred in 2012. I remember seeing that all my friends had voted and though I already planned on voting, I specifically remember participating in the Facebook movement to announce that I had voted and encouraged my friends to get out and vote. This gives me hope for the future of not only Facebook, but social media in general in that we can actually spark mass change by just a few clicks of a button.

The second article, Profitable Learning Curve for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I found to be interesting when it explained how in-news-feed advertising came to be. Ideas were being thrown around about the placement of advertising when someone suggested it appear right in the news feed and tailored based on what your friends and you already liked. Though it may be annoying to some of us, advertising is what makes a lot of money in the social network business and I’m excited to see what the future holds in finding new ways to advertise that are less intrusive and more targeted.

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