A FB ad targeted at one person (my wife)

The other day I gave a presentation with Steve Welch on the use of social media in politics. Steve was walking through (live) the process of creating a Facebook ad. 

He started targeting the ad by location and interest, and the number of potential people he was reaching began decreasing on screen (Facebook tells you dynamically). Then I got to thinking--could you target an ad at literally one person? 

In theory, it wouldn't seem that difficult, given you can target by a lot of different things: interests, school, location, workplace, etc. If you could actually see their profile it would be super easy, but I don't think you even need that much. With just basic facts about them, e.g. their LinkedIn, you could target an ad sufficiently narrowly to reach essentially just him/her.

So of course the next step was to actually try it.

My wife goes on Facebook a lot to look at pictures and stuff. She's also mentioned many times how she actually likes the ads because they're targeted pretty well at her interests. So I thought she'd be the perfect subject.

First I made the ad (above). Toast is a name we sometimes call our son Eli. Yes, I even messed up grammar in the title of my ad...

Then I started targeting. It proved just as easy as I thought it would be. First I  targeted to literally just her by using the stuff on the right plus her major and gender. Btw, I couldn't get FB to say it would target any lower a number than 20 people (although it does say fewer.)

But when I logged into her account, and it wasn't showing all the time on top.

So I increased my CPM bid. But it still wasn't showing all the time on top (it showed at least occasionally then though). Side note: you can see a bunch of ads by going to the ad board page.

Then I backed off a bit (to the targeting on the right) so I'd be included as well. I logged in and found the ad on my account and "Liked" it as well as clicked on it. My thought was maybe their ad system would then perceive it as a better ad and show it more. This seemed to work, but it is hard to tell whether that really had the effect or not. In any case, it started showing up a lot more. Not all the time, but when it did show up it would stay on top for a number of page views.

Then I waited until the night and subtly prodded her to check out Facebook. We went through old photos of Eli and it was just sitting there on the right on many of the pages, but she didn't notice!

I saw first hand why CTR is so low on FB. I steered us towards the album with the picture I used for ad and literally there was the big version of the picture and then the ad on the right (below). 

And then she noticed it. 

She immediately got what was going on, she looked at me and we broke out laughing pretty hard for a while.

This was of course all in good fun, but I also think there could be some good business cases for this technique :)


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I'm the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you. I'm also the co-author of Traction, the book that helps you get customer growth. More about me.