A recent North Carolina State study suggests that Facebook interest targeting is inaccurate or irrelevant 30% of the time. So, how accurate are the interests that Facebook advertisers can use to target you?
This is something that all Facebook users can check. I even wrote about it a few years ago. Of course, it’s changed quite a bit since then and is difficult to find.
But, I’ll help you find it. Let’s go…
You can find this within your Ad Preferences. While logged into Facebook from desktop as a user, click the top-right menu. Then, select Settings & Privacy…
Then Ad Settings…
Then “Categories used to Reach measures the number of Accounts Center Accounts (formerly users) that saw your ads at least once. You can have one account reached with multiple impressions. More you”…
And then, finally, “Interest Categories”…
That’s six clicks. And if we are to be technical, there’s a seventh. To view all of these interests, click “See All Interests”…
Is it obvious that Facebook doesn’t really want you to find this? If they actually do want you to find it, they could sure make it easier for us.
Manage Your Interests
You will now see a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of interests that Facebook has inferred based on your activities. These are the interests that advertisers can use to target you.
So… are they accurate? If they aren’t, set aside a few hours to go through it. Cleaning this up is not easy.
You’ll need to go interest by interest and click “Remove” individually on those that you don’t find relevant.
There is no easy way to do this. No checkboxes. No filters. Just scroll, scroll, scroll, and scroll some more.
You will either need to be ultra-determined or a glutton for punishment to clean up the entire list.
Admittedly, some of the interests advertisers can use to target me are pretty darn accurate.
- Social Media Examiner
- Small Business
- Digital Marketing
- MLB Network
- Green Bay Packers
- Social Media Marketing
- Online Advertising
- Jon Loomer Digital
- The Godfather
That’s some good work right there. But, it’s not all good.
Some interests were either things I don’t know anything about or don’t have an interest in.
- An Extremely Goofy Movie
- ICC Test Championship
- Classical Antiquity
- Turkish Football Federation
- Ancient Greece
- Broadcast Engineering
- Cricket Clothing and Equipment
Some are so general I’d have to imagine they’d apply to most people.
- Traffic Sign
- Operating System
- Social network (not the movie)
- Dish (food)
Some others may have been accurate at one time, but those days are long gone. I have interests related to diapers, preschool, and babies. My sons are all 14 and older.
And that, to me, is a question I have. Does recency of activity matter? Because it should. If I showed interest in something 10 years ago, it doesn’t mean that I still have interest in it now.
What Do We Make of This?
While some of these interests are funny, it’s also a big concern — partly for users, but mainly for advertisers. Someone is paying money to target me because they think I have an interest in Classical Antiquity. I don’t even know what that means (I’m not cultured enough). They are wasting their money.
And that’s the problem. What’s crazy is that I’ve actually cleaned up my interests multiple times before. I’m sure I’m one of the very few who even know that this exists. So imagine how messed up most people’s interests are.
Facebook has had so many years to get this right. We always hear about how much data Facebook has and how they can be so precise with targeting. That may be true sometimes, but they also do a really terrible job at other times.
And since this is the type of targeting that may continue to survive many of the privacy changes (at least anything similar to iOS 14+), advertisers should be concerned. If Facebook can be this bad at inferred interests — and I’m sure that it’s more complicated than it seems, but come on — how can we trust they’ll be successful at more complex optimizations?
Have you checked the interests used to target you? How accurate are they?
Let me know in the comments below!