Cluttered Box / Social Box

Whatsapp Targeting for Facebook Ads – What Could that Mean?


Last year, I published a post on an experiment I had been conducting on Facebook. It was, and still is, the most viewed and shared post on this blog – and rightly so. The idea that Facebook could be targeting ads based on conversations happening on Whatsapp, and that too without any prior consent, is alarming. I like to think that it did cause quite a little stir because the concept that Facebook could have the potential to peek inside our personal lives and then target us with ads based on that information is preposterous!

Or is it?

I would like to look at this from a different perspective – because as a consumer, I think we often get a bit too dramatic about things like this. Yes, Facebook and other social media platforms are targeting us with ads, but is it really that bad?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

According to a 2014 Experian study, 11% of Personals – who are classed as being mobile-savvy users who mostly belong to generation Z, are more likely to avoid social networks and heavily rely on instant messaging systems – Enter Whatsapp. The instantaneous nature of messaging services make them less inclined to scroll down a Newsfeed cluttered with posts, as they would rather be messaging the exact person in real time. While Facebook has caught up in light-speed with Facebook Messenger, the study shows that 52% of Personals would rather be messaging than on social networks – maybe it’s because they think that it has too many ads or it’s just getting a bit boring.

Interestingly, the study is backed up the recent article by 19 year old Andrew who thinks that Facebook is ‘dead to us’ – speaking on behalf of teenagers. An great perspective, as it calls out social networks on being out there long enough to become too much of an algorithm – and everyone knows it. I found this post very insightful in terms of breaking the conventional beliefs about social networks, and pretty much hitting the nail on the head in terms of what everyone is thinking anyway – I do think that it is off the mark by a mile – but that is of course, just what I think.

Facebook providing opportunity for better advertising

Bearing in mind that there are all these studies and opinions out there that Facebook is getting boring, and useless – I would like to bring to the table the fact that it is the largest social network in the world, with the most volume of active users. There is absolutely no denying the fact that it is the social network that made sharing your life so much easier and accessible, and then it went on to harness brands to profit from all that data it collected.

As an advertiser on the platform, I find that brands don’t fully comprehend the power of Facebook advertising. We have come leaps and bounds from the basic keyword targeting, with the availability of 1st party and 3rd party data, there is no limit to what brands can achieve from this platform, and yes, it can be overwhelming. The interesting part is, if Facebook would tap into the advertising opportunity that Whatsapp presents, there is absolutely no stopping this giant from becoming a Godzilla.

How, you may as, can Facebook use Whatsapp for advertising?

2 words: Conversation Targeting.

The whole purpose of Facebook advertising is to target consumers with the most relevant content – and every ad product introduced has been to provide a further sieve to reach the audience that would be the most responsive. Take Partner Categories – this allows advertisers to use offline data to target people on Facebook i.e. find the people who would be most likely to actually provide a ROI/visits/clicks. Why? So that there are less spammy ads that are generic, and more relevant high-quality ads that actually make you want to engage with the brand.

Conversation Targeting would be just the first step of many that would use Whatsapp data in Facebook. The possibilities are endless, and the mechanic is quite simple – used already on Twitter with their TV Conversation Targeting – which delivers strong results because it’s a no-brainer – TV+Twitter = genius – it’s real-time, responsive and provides brands the chance to increase consideration without being in your face.

So why not?

Facebook provides refined and sophisticated targeting opportunities, and always has been one step ahead of the curve. Now if only they would release Whatsapp Conversation Targeting, brands would have the opportunity to use conversations happening in a different app (Whatsapp) in real time to target them on Facebook with relevant content. I know it’s a long shot, but instead of thinking why they should be doing this, I’m thinking why not?


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