Guest Post by Kevin Harris

Gone are the days when a company’s marketing plan involved accessing as many potential customers as possible through mail outs, brochures, press releases, and general websites. Sure, these things are all still used, but the latest marketing tool, behavioural targeting, is turning online marketing on its head.

What, exactly, is behavioural targeting?

Consider it specialized marketing for customers that are the most likely to buy from your company.  By gathering information about web users, like the websites they go to, things that they buy, etc., companies can better target potential clients. Some websites, like, have internal behavioural marketing. When you do a search on Amazon or buy something, the website will then recommend similar products to you. But more and more companies are taking advantage of behavioural targeting through social media sites.

While pretty much every social media site uses a form of behavioural targeting (how else did you think YouTube was suggesting other video clips you may like?) perhaps the best and most detailed use of this marketing tool is by Facebook.

Facebook keeps track of your information, things you like, status updates, etc., and then shows you ads that are appropriate to your likes. This is an excellent way for companies to do extremely focused marketing where they are only targeting the people most likely to click the ad and buy something from their website. It’s the most cost efficient marketing tool for companies because it takes a lot of the guess work out of finding where potential customers are.

If you are a local company, this type of market can be a godsend. Most social media sites have a registration that includes the person’s location. By knowing who is in your area then you’ll have a much easier time of reaching them. Another important factor that is taken into consideration when it comes to behavioural targeting is demographics. If you just do a general mail out or randomly make contact with potential customers on the internet, there’s nothing to say that you will actually be targeting the right demographic. If you sell organic make-up, odds are that you won’t want to spend marketing money trying to entice men in their 40s. On the flip side, if you’re an online pharmaceutical company specializing in blood pressure and heart meds, there isn’t a huge need for you to make contact with fourteen year old girls.

Facebook isn’t the only social media site that uses behavioural targeting to allow companies to better access their target market. Twitter takes a slightly different approach by suggesting people to follow. So, if someone follows a lot of beauty product companies and you sell beauty products, then twitter will suggest that they follow you. YouTube suggests that visitors view similar videos while stumbleupon is similar to Facebook in that it shows ads in your sidebar that have to do with what you’ve clicked on.

And social media sites aren’t islands unto themselves when it comes to behavioural targeting. You can use your Twitter or Facebook account to sign into stumbleupon or diggit. Those sites automatically get all of your information from the other social media sites, instantly allowing them to publish relevant advertisements and graphics to you without you having to enter a thing.

Behavioural targeting may sound like a lot of work—and it can be. But most of that work is done by a third-party publisher that works with you to make sure that your ad gets to all the right people on the social media sites. This is an excellent way of increasing sales and making the most of your marketing budget.

Kevin Harris is a freelance writer for Omniture, where he specializes in customer analytics and online conversion.


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