The Incredible Transient Focus Of Facebook Ads Status Update Targeting

At conferences I am often asked if Facebook advertisers can target status updates. I know, I know, there is no way to specifically target users’ status updates with Facebook Ads. However, understanding how Facebook graphs users’ status updates, in transient waves, can be very powerful.
As I write I’m about to leave LAX for a little R&R and business in the land down under. I let my friends know, by FB status update, that I am about to depart on the 10:40PM flight to Sydney, Australia.


Sure enough, within about 4 minutes a couple of friends hopped on into my red-numbered world to comment on my status update.

I clicked on Rob’s comment and was taken to the status update thread, where the comments were occurring.  3 out of the 6 ads on the right hand sidebar were all about Australia.

Targeting Might

Wow! Now that’s some really serious targeting might.  The ads appeared under a different sponsored heading moniker. Instead of reading, “Sponsored,” the heading of the ads column read, “Related Ads.” This is the first time I ever recall being targeted with ads about Australia. I would notice something like that because I pay serious attention to how I’m targeted. I also change out my interests and other attributes that I know effect things, just to feel out FB’s social graph targeting.

What’s super interesting is that the next 14 times time I revisited the thread detail page; the ads had nothing to do with Australia.


The effect of such status update motivated ads is truly transient in nature seems to only occur sometimes, when a user visits a themed thread.  The fourteenth time into the thread, the Australia ads showed up again. Cool!

Think of how powerful this transient targeting can be for marketers, who understand that users can be fingered in the heat of a thread at the first moments of interest, friend’s engagement and if they keep coming back for more.  Keep this transient targeting hack in mind, oh marketers, as you brainstorm about the demographic segments in your FB campaigns.  Think about the heat of thread engagement amongst like minded community members and leverage it to the hilt.

Marty Weintraub

Marty Weintraub is the founder & CEO of aimClear®, an online search and social marketing agency that has managed Facebook ad campaigns generating over 120 billion impressions internationally. Client credits include, Siemens, Second Life, and other global brands. Weintraub is the author of Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques, and has written for respected Internet publications including Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Roundtable. aimClear’s blog has been cited among Technorati’s Top 10 Small Business Blogs, Cison’s Top Ten Social Media Blogs, and PRWeb’s 25 Essential Public Relations Blogs You Should Be Reading.

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  • Kiko

    Hi Marty,

    I had always been under the assumption (and this might be a great BIG assumption) that this was accomplished via targeting topics via precise interest targeting (i.e. “#Yoga” as apposed to just “Yoga”).

    I’ve been trying some tests to see if i can get an ad of mine to show up using hash tagged topics we’re targeting. I’ve been able to bring up relevant “related ads” but not ours quite yet. i’ll keep at it though :)

  • Marty

    @Kiko: Interesting conjecture… You could be right. We commonly target both the “#” and the non “#” version of demographic segments so we’ve not had a look at the ramifications as pertain to status update targeting. Let us know what you discover, and thanks a lot for your comment. Cheers!

  • Kiko

    Thanks Marty!

    I’ve been looking into this a bit and I think my initial assumption was a bit off base.

    looking at this page:

    It seems like topic targeting is more along the lines of broadly grouping interests. It doesn’t seem to rule out that this might be a factor in targeting statuses, but at the same time it doesn’t look like it’s exclusively targeting them either.

    I also found this article:

    It’s interesting to note they’ve been testing this quietly for at least a year. The explanation that they’re testing it behind the scenes seems to explain the sporadic nature of it all.

    For my part, last night I spent some time making some keyword stuffed status updates and asked some friends to help me add comments to them.

    I made one post based on various health and wellness businesses, the second was specifically about yoga, and the third was about Mad Men (a topic that has generated related ads on my profile in the past).

    Some things I noticed:

    -Out of the three updates only one seemed to qualify for related ads (on my profile at least). They were ads for various dance studios triggered by the health and wellness status. (It makes me wonder if FB is testing certain topics or only qualifying specific status updates… more testing!)

    -As with your experience the related ads only showed up on the status update’s individual page, nothing changed in my newsfeed or on my timeline

    -In my case last night the related ads seemed to only trigger when i added a new comment, each time I reloaded the page the original non related ads reappeared. After adding a comment the ads on the page refreshed to “related ads”

    -For me the ads that came up were always related to the original post. Try as we might to switch the topic of conversation the original related ads were the only ones to come up.

    Thanks for the inspiration Marty, this was a lot of fun!


  • Marty

    @Kiko: Nice… Thanks for your detective work. I love the ethic. Keep up the contributions. G’day mate!

  • Emeric

    Marty, thank you for the post, this is really intriguing! I am amazed by Facebook everyday ;-)
    I know how long it takes to dig on Facebook for posts like this so Thanks for the effort :-)

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