Facebook tracks your likes and dislikes, and targets the correct ads to you  (Source:
Facebook raked in $2 billion in online display advertising revenues this year

Hearing that Facebook is a social networking superpower is old news, but Facebook has stepped out of that narrow category and dipped into several other business pursuits such as advertising, and it has succeeded in that as well. In fact, the social giant surprised quite a few traditional advertising groups at an annual industry get-together in Cannes, France recently.

Facebook, which launched in 2004, has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The site has over 750 million active monthly users at present, and the number of features offered constantly increases to keep the site relevant with consumers' changing needs/wants.

Online advertising has certainly changed the industry. Large corporations like Ford and Nestle to small companies are realizing that their advertisements have a better presence online, and especially on social networking sites because of data mining. 

Sites like Facebook use data mining to collect information about the people using their services. For instance, when a Facebook user posts a link or an article, Facebook takes note of that and uses that information to send them ads that would interest them. This has worked quite well for Facebook, considering the social networking company just raked in $2 billion in online display advertising revenues this year. 

While this form of advertising may be working well for Facebook's pocket, it's not working out so well for its users. Data mining has landed Facebook on some dangerous ground as regulators claim that increasingly sophisticated data mining systems are a breach of user privacy. In fact, the European Union just required sites that collect user information to notify the user that they are doing so. 

But that hasn't stopped the rapid growth of social networking ads that use sophisticated data mining techniques such as RadiumOne, which tracks people's social behavior by partnering with blogs and social networks. Companies are willing to pay top dollar for such targeted ads, and this may be why other tech giants like Google are hopping on the social networking bandwagon. Only two days ago, Google released a field trial of its new possible Facebook competitor, Google+.

"If I have a good experience with a brand I'll tell a person offline -- I might tell my friend -- but if I do it on Facebook, the average person is telling 130 people," said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. "We think that explains the very healthy growth of our advertising business."

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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