The top social networks have each unveiled plans this week for bringing more targeted ads to their networks. On Monday, MySpace expanded its HyperTargeting platform to capitalize on the mountains of data from user profiles to better segment its audience and refine ad targeting. The system launched in July with 10 broad categories, but now slices the MySpace audience into more than 100 segments.
Yesterday, it was Facebook's turn, as it launched the Facebook Ads system. The system has three parts: Facebook Pages, Social Ads, and the Insights reporting interface. Brands will now be able to create their own profile pages, filled with their own content, applications, and of course ads.
Social ads will use keyword and profile-based targeting to serve ads into users' news feeds, which serves as the start page for most Facebook users. At the launch event, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested a scenario where friends of a hypothetical Facebook user and Saturn ASTRA owner named Ben might see in their news feed a sponsored ad with Ben's photo and the ad copy "Ben is a fan of Saturn ASTRA." Other interactions that may appear in ads include anyone who added content to a brand page.
There's currently no way for a user to opt out of endorsing Facebook's advertisers – look for that to explode in their face once the first ad appears.
In addition, Facebook has partnered with 44 Web partners in the Beacon program, which will allow users to incorporate their user data from other sites into their Facebook profile. So users can do things like share their movie plans, using data from Fandango, or show their eBay listings in their feed.
Facebook has also recently entered into an agreement with Microsoft to sell and serve ads into its network. This new program is unrelated, and will not affect that deal.