Ah, the decade-old question. Do you want the short answer? ALL OF THE ABOVE. 

Now, before you get creeped-out that Facebook (and basically ALL other social media and online platforms) tracks your every move, let's set the record straight. 

Facebook, Zuckerburg himself, is not leveraging data to sell things to you. Marketers, the people behind the brand or agency, are leveraging the data Facebook provides to sell things to you. 

Before it sounds like I'm pro-data leveraging, know that in the next couple of paragraphs I'm going to show you the good, the bad, and what you need to do about it. 

If you really want to dig in, I've linked a few articles below about targeting. 


Did you know that when social media and online advertising appeared, they creating a shift in the marketplace that allowed small (I mean very small, think your local family owned restaurant, non-profit, or blogger) to COMPETE with huge brands. 

Finally, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and stay at home moms (mommy bloggers) were able to not only get traction on their business, but start a new FUTURE for their families and loved ones. 

Now, we have a ton of SMBs (small to medium size businesses) that rely heavily on social advertising because it is less expensive and more effective than traditional advertising.

This gives small businesses a chance to compete, and we love supporting small businesses, right? 


Targeting allows really cool, brand new companies to communicate with audiences. We LIKE acquiring cool stuff that makes our lives better. I'm not talking about fast fashion or anything with a consumerism initiative, I mean really neat tools, gear, content, and products. 

So, there is some good here. But the bad is really bad, and luckily, without you knowing people have been fighting for change against Facebook targeting for years. Here's why...


If you don't know what an apocalypse is, you're luckily. Over the past few years, Facebook has regularly updated the ad policies and targeting options — why?

There are multiple things to go over but the worst part, the part you need to know about, is the multiple ways some advertisers leverage data to discriminate or take advantage of consumers. 

I'm going to get right to the point. 

Health and Disease

Not long ago, it was possible to target advertisements based on health and disease "interests". Imagine your family and friends getting POUNDED with ads about their diabetes, migraines, or chronic pain daily until they were so sold on something that they finally gave in and bought. 

Yikes, right? Luckily, consumers continued to speak up about these advertisements and Facebook determined the user experience is more important than the millions of advertising dollars this category brought in. (Ya think??)

So now, it's generally pretty hard to start from scratch with these types of advertisements, but it's not impossible.


There once was a time when you could target (or exclude, which is more important) people based on race, "interested in" (aka sexual orientation based on what you told FB when you created your profile), etc. 

Now, the obvious discrimination selections have been removed (good thing), and there are some categories that have even more limited options of targeting. These are industries like housing and finances. 

Why is there another level of limited targeting for these groups? Because unfortunately some marketers still use data in a discriminatory way. (NOT ALL marketers.)

Some examples of the grey areas are targeting (or excluding) individuals based on type of device (Apple vs PC, Android vs iPhone), zip code, education, etc. 

It's a grey area because local businesses may want to only advertise to people in their zip code, or Apple may want to only send an ad to PC users to get them to switch.) Unfortunately, some marketers out there will try to use this information to advertise in a discriminatory way with assumptions and intentions that are honestly just pathetic. 

So, the grey area is revoked from services that could truly impact someones livelihood. Which is surely a good start! 


So now we've seen some positives and negatives of the way big data tracks you and how that turns into Facebook ads. 

There are a lot of pros for small businesses that you WANT to hear from, and there are some grey areas that FB has consistently been working on. 

What you need to know is something we all forget from time to time. You don't have to believe everything you see, read, or hear online. 

Know that in many cases, the content you see is strategically placed to communicate with you. It's up to you to decide what to invest in and what to chalk up to a really great marketing or PR team. 

The copy (words) you see on advertisements have been tested to guarantee optimum communication of value. The only time you will buy something, or buy into something, is by seeing and believing the value.

Links to more about Facebook targeting: Wired; Vox.

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