Philip Ellis
News & Views
Facebook patents VIP advertising

Facebook is taking targeted advertising to the next level with a new function that identifies key influencers.

Not satisfied with controlling our emotions and infiltrating the workplace, Facebook is now honing its marketing reach, by pioneering a way to identify and target specific online influencers. It reasons that by advertising to celebrities, those brand messages will trickle down to their millions of fans. The patent for ‘identifying experts and influencers in a social network’ was granted this month, despite having first been submitted back in 2011.

While other tech companies like Google and Yahoo have similar ideas about finding influencers online, they utilise fairly simplistic methods, such as cataloguing individuals with a high volume of followers, following the flawed logic that quantity equals quality. But if that audience consists of auto-follow bots or bought connections, the ‘influencer’ in question suddenly becomes less credible.

This is where Facebook’s technology differs. It examines the frequency with which a person’s followers re-share content, rather than simply who has the biggest fan count. This means that somebody working in a niche industry, with a relatively small audience, can still be an authority when it comes to a certain subject or key word, and will be of particular interest to advertisers in that sector.

“Experts and influencers may be identified for any subject matter… at any granularity,” says Facebook’s head of advertising Andrew Bosworth. “For example, experts and influencers may be identified for all types of digital cameras, or only for single lens reflex (SLR) digital cameras, or only for SLR digital cameras made by Canon.”

While being granted a patent doesn’t necessarily translate to Facebook immediately bringing this product to market, Josh Constine at TechCrunch believes it to be a no-brainer. “Facebook doesn’t always productise its patents but this one seems reasonably easy to integrate,” he says. ”The social network could sell these expert and influencer demographics to advertisers at a frothy mark-up with its category targeting tool… Klout may have given influencer marketing a smarmy name, but Facebook’s found a way to do it effectively at scale.”

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