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Facebook is a stalker, and as a digital marketer, I kind of dig it.

As a consumer, it freaks me out a little bit, but since I don’t really have anything to hide, I guess I’ll let the data collecting superstar stalk me and make my life a little easier by spoon feeding me everything I need and some things I didn’t even know I needed! Hello with your weird, cheap inventions! Yes, I’ll take a risk on that $14.99 camp kitchen and lawn mower combination gadget, am I right? Make my own camp spots then cook up some delicious grub. Wait. Did I just invent something? Focus, Amber.

The good news is, as marketers and business owners, this is mega valuable! This means that gone are the days of stressing over what data collection company we can buy email lists from and spam 1,000 people in hopes that one might bite. Not that email marketing is gone forever, it just looks different these days. This means that for a little bit of ad money, we can target our demographic down to the smallest detail.

Let’s take a gander at some ways these giants like Facebook, Apple, Android and Google are collecting consumers’ data and holding it in a shiny gold vault so that advertisers like us can ask the king to pull it, then serve our beautiful people the information we want them to see.

Your Searches (duh)

Google searches help collect data for advertisers

I think we have all figured out that the second we Google something, or shop for it on Amazon, it’s being served to us on a silver platter in our social media feeds. This is one of the most obvious data collecting techniques and we all recognize it by now. It’s not hard to connect the dots on how they knew you were just looking at a new bikini for that summer bod you are planning on having in a couple months. If we think through this a little further though, we can conclude this data is being stored for greater purposes as well.

For instance, when you then start looking at suntan lotion and new sunglasses, they can deduct from all your recent searches that you might be planning a vacation. Since I own a travel agency, perhaps I would like to pay Facebook a little bit of my hard-earned money to put my ads in your newsfeed.

You picking up what I’m putting down, Deb? There are a lot more spokes on the wheel than we can really fathom. Full disclosure, I made that up about owning a travel agency for the sake of learning.

Your Social Media Activity (also duh)

You have also probably figured out by now that if you like, comment, and engage with certain products, keywords, groups, events, etc., that you will get ads that follow suit. It’s all part of this data mecca pot that, as advertisers, we are hungry to partake in.

Facebook targeted advertising based on your social media activity - Facebook is stalking you

Your Purchases (wait, what?)

When you go into a big box store these days, they often ask you to sign up for a rewards card, or simply give your email address for “easy returns”. We all give them the email we had when we were 16 years old and no longer check because we only have the spam sent there, right? Or is that just me? What most folks don’t understand, is that if you give the same email that is connected to your social media accounts…

The lightbulb just went on, didn’t it?…

I bought a sleeping bag at Big 5 the other day, gave my spam email, as always, and the next thing you know, my newsfeed is full of camping gear. Why? Because I gave Facebook my spam email 12 years ago when I created the account too.

A person might get a little irritated about this, but I decided that I kind of like camping gear, and it’s probably ok for me to see some good deals on sweet gear.

I can’t wait to try out my new one-piece click together tent this summer! Just kidding, I didn’t really buy the tent.

Your Microphone (Screech…. What did she just say!? I KNEW IT!)

Facebook and other popular social media apps have trigger words that allow them to start listening to your conversations.

This is where I start to question how much I really need my apps. Here’s the deal. We must give apps like Siri, Google, YouTube etc. permission to use our microphones in order to work correctly, yes? Who reading this has ever read the “fine print” before smashing the “I accept” button so you can get back to your scrolling? Sit down, Rain Man, you don’t count.

The good news is, it’s not listening all the time. My research tells me that it only listens when certain keywords are said. Much like “Hey Siri” or “Ok Google” wakes our device up and we are able to converse with it, it seems that there are unknown keywords that it also listens for, but rather than begin a conversation, it simply sends those keywords or snippets back to that data mecca pot I mentioned earlier.

A friend mentioned the other day that he was having a conversation about jonesing for some Twizzlers and, within minutes, an add for the waxy red rope showed up in his feed.

Creepy? Maybe. Convenient? Absolutely.

The moral of this story is that, as marketers and business owners, the work these Lords of Data are putting in on our behalf is invaluable, and with some training and patience, we can access it to dominate our field.

As consumers, if we can get over the creep factor, it can be convenient to see other offers for the exact thing we have been looking for. For instance, if you are like me, you get busy (distracted) and forget to order something, have no fear! Your friend Facebook comes in clutch to remind you and saves the day! Little Annie won’t be the kid whose mom forgot to order her presentation board, will she?