HomeHow Do Facebook And Instagram Read Your Mind?Facebook MarketingHow Do Facebook And Instagram Read Your Mind?

How Do Facebook And Instagram Read Your Mind?

You may have heard the recent news about Facebook’s privacy breach and Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to testify in congress. Basically, Facebook has been accused of collecting and sharing the data of over 50 million users without their knowledge. The allegations are focused on the Facebook app called “thisisyourdigitallife”, which was used to harvest personal data in 2015 using Facebook API. The online personality quiz collected data not only from the individual using the app, but also information from their friends’ profiles (where consent was not given). This information was used by the data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica to target ads for their clients, including Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

This news is slightly related to what we’re talking about today, which is ad targeting. As a frequent online shopper and social media user, I have at times noticed eerily pointed ads that seem like it would be impossible for them to know about me. Has Instagram been reading my diary? How would they know I’m craving Pacific Cooler Capri Sun right this second? While I can’t guarantee that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a cyborg with surveillance chips installed on all of our devices, I will explain the (not-scary) everyday basics of ad targeting and social media marketing.


Advertisers can use an abundance of user data stored on sites like Facebook and Google, which offer their own advertising services (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, sponsored posts). Facebook ads allow you to target users based on:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Connections
  • Relationship Status
  • Languages
  • Education
  • Workplaces
  • Income

Because Facebook collects info from your profile, groups, and page likes, they have a pretty good idea of what your interests are and what buyer category you fit into. In 2015 they introduced the new Facebook Pixel, which records user actions (add to carts, purchases, page views, etc.) and enables retargeting, optimization, and tracking. This is great news for advertisers, and beneficial for consumers to see product ads for what is specifically related to them. I could explicitly target my ad towards “35-year-old Danish-speaking nurses that live in Baltimore who are interested in clowns and pineapple pizza”, although I’m not sure that would be of much use to anyone.

You are also probably familiar with ‘cookies’ on your web browser, which can track how you interact with different websites. This is why an ad for a pair of shoes you were looking at online can show up on an entirely different website after you have already exited the shoe page.

Instagram is the second most popular social media site. It is also owned by Facebook, but remains its own separate entity with different features and benefits in regards to social media marketing. Instagram draws a slightly different audience, being a newer and more visual based platform. Businesses (or regular users) have the ability to create a sponsored post, which will be shown in potential customers’ feeds and link to your profile and website. Many brands also work with ‘influencers’, or users with a lot of followers that can feature your product on their page to advertise to everyone in their following.

The most important thing to remember about social media marketing is that the foundation is quality content. You can sink a lot of ad dollars into circulating your post or advertisement, but if it’s not interesting or relatable consumers won’t click and continue following your business. Try to maintain a consistent brand image throughout your social media profiles and websites, both through messaging and images. Positive engagement (likes, comments, mentions, follows) is a sign that people are connecting with your product or service, which eventually turns into customer loyalty and sales.

As a brand owner, you too can harness the power of social media marketing to connect with interested consumers. Contact us at Mad Mind Studios for digital marketing, branding or web design for your business.

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