Several times over the past few weeks, the pictured advert for Zoosk, an online dating site, has appeared in my news feed on the Facebook mobile application. These ‘suggested posts’ are Facebook’s way of monetising its mobile platform, which doesn’t display adverts like the desktop version does.
Why am I writing about this advert in particular? Mostly because it being displayed to me is a woeful failure on Facebook’s part. As you will be aware, I’m engaged and will be getting married next year – why would I be interested in signing up for online dating?
The worst thing is, Facebook knows I’m engaged, and who I’m engaged to. It also knows that none of my friends ‘like’ Zoosk’s Facebook page, which is the usual reason for sponsored posts appearing even when I haven’t ‘liked’ a brand myself. So why would its algorithms think that this is a sensible thing to show me? Does it expect me to be unfaithful to my future wife?
At the time, 186 people had commented on this ‘suggested post’ and many of these were moaning that they had no interest in Zoosk’s service, or that they wanted to know either why this was being shown to them or how to get rid of it. And that’s the other thing – if Facebook’s algorithms decide to show you an ad such as this, there’s no way to dismiss it and tell Facebook that you don’t want to see similar adverts. (In fairness, this is available on the desktop version of Facebook)
Nobody really wins here. Zoosk has its brand tarnished because Facebook shows the advert to people with no interest in it. Facebook looks incompetent, and the users get annoyed. Contextual advertising, when done right, can benefit all parties – this is an example of how not to do it.