Birds of a feather flock together, so they say - and that's why a bunch of hot new media startups in the states have begun using data generated by sites like Facebook and MySpace to deliver ads based not on demographics, but on what your friends are interested in (says the New York Times).
Two companies in particular, 33Across and Media6Degrees, are leading the way. They're not interested in basic friend lists, but in interactions on the sites, taking note when a user visits a friend’s page, sends a video or exchanges an instant message. In turn, they can identify people who are friends with a company’s existing customers and then advertise to them.
The approach is based on research about social groups, mostly from earlier this decade. One influential paper showed that people in contact with clients of a telecommunications firm were more likely to respond to the company’s offer.
“Instead of understanding all these things about people, you could understand who was connected to who,” said Eric Wheeler, the chief executive of 33Across. “The reality is, those people are very similar not only in socioeconomic terms, but in terms of what they click and buy, so it’s very valuable.”
Margaret Clerkin of Mindshare, agrees that “the theory feels strong that in this very social environment where people are influenced more by their friends than they are by advertisers and brands.”
Yes, there are privacy grumbles and yes, the technique will suit some sectors more than others, but overall I reckon that the runaway success of social networking, combined with the news that reaching your audience through these guys could be "five to ten times less expensive than buying through premium sites" makes connection targeting a very interesting prospect for the future.
So, hey, go tell your friends!