Not all eyes are on the basketball court; they’re on the marketing court, as well. The top marketing stories from March include Facebook making two key moves. The first was its announcement mid-month that it is working on incorporating hashtags into its service. Hashtags are hardly new; they evolved from the Twitter-sphere some 7 years ago, and they are already supported on networks such as Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and YouTube, among others. But as The Wall Street Journal notes this latest move is “a sign of the heightening battle between Facebook and Twitter, as both compete for mobile users and fight for advertising dollars. For years, Twitter and Facebook seemed to occupy different poles of the social-media spectrum…Facebook has now increasingly moved onto Twitter’s turf.”
Facebook’s second offensive play came last week, when after a month of beta testing, it launched an advertising feature called lookalike audiences. The service does what the name implies: it finds advertisers similar audience members by allowing them to refine their demographic criteria. While previously brands using Facebook to advertise could show ads to their current customers who were on the social network, lookalike audiences extends this ability to other Facebook users with similar attributes.
Facebook isn’t the only one refining demographic searches. Last week, AdAgereported Nielsen now hopes to track everything we watch and buy, by adding data from credit and debit-card purchases, bank statements and what it already gets from food and drugstore purchases. AdAge reports that Nielsen will then anonymously match data through an undisclosed third party to members of its TV ratings panel, and the company plans to expand such matching to online and other measurement services.
Moves like these invariably cause consumers to revisit the privacy debate. My Vertical Marketing Network associates and I enjoyed this infographic from AdWeek, which highlights, among other facts, that 67% of adults in the United States and Britain consider privacy dead, and 49% of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers say that while they make an effort to maintain privacy, they feel it is becoming increasingly difficult. Perhaps more interesting, though, is the study’s stats on teens and Millennials. A recent study revealed that nearly two-thirds of 13-17-year-olds say their friends make it most difficult to maintain privacy online, and 62% of the oft-targeted Millennial generation feels afraid of never living down embarrassing moments online.
Whether or not that will translate to less time actually spent online remains to be seen. Either way, the major players continue to have plenty of fodder.