How geo-targeting works for Facebook ads

(Source: WNEM)

A committee investigating Russian influence on the 2016 election was shown how online advertisements were used to sway voters.

It's the latest development in the congressional Russia investigation as lawmakers acknowledge those ads may have had significant impact on voter opinion.

Michigan and Wisconsin were among the states most heavily targeted, according to CNN. CNN claims to have spoken with four sources close to the investigation.

Those ads went beyond the politics of candidate mudslinging. Many also promoted an anti-Muslim message, spreading fear prior to the election.

The ads also targeted specific demographics.

It's called geo-targeting, a practice companies, scammers and political parties use to target online audiences.

"Geo-targeting allows you to select an audience in a geographical location that you want to advertise to," said Jeff DeHaven, president and CEO of Digital Mitten.

DeHaven has worked in social media for 14 years. He said online advertising can be narrowed down to target any audience.

"You can go beyond just geo, by doing age categories, gender. You can do a lot of interest targeting as well and that falls under that fact that if you want to hit Saginaw only or zip codes only, you could do that," DeHaven said.

That is exactly what the Russians are accused of doing - targeting specific voters in Michigan.

DeHaven said there aren't any laws governing who can and cannot advertise on social media sites. The ads only have to pass Facebook policy guidelines.

"Other than that, I mean it's kind of fair game. They determine what's acceptable and what's not. So things like advertising tobacco is not allowed. Ya know, gambling is not allowed," DeHaven said.

DeHaven said he could create an ad on his phone and it could be up and running in your Facebook Newsfeed in as little as 15 minutes.

"There's been things like 'Hey win a trip here.' And it looks like it's from an official page, but really if you go to the page and see oh they only have two posts. They've only been established for a month. They only have 100 followers when it's a big company and should have millions. And also they have that blue or gray check to see if it's authorized. So there is those to look out for," DeHaven said.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Digital Content Producer


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