One of the distinguishing features of the internet is the vast amount of personal information that it can collect about ordinary people. Facebook, for instance, collects information about users’ interests, and their online activities and social connections. Twitter collects data about their followers and interests, while Google collects data about users’ search history, and LinkedIn collects data about their work experiences and connections.
Mobile operating system makers can collect data on which apps a user has downloaded and how they use them, and online retailers can track a user’s purchasing habits and collect credit card information.
Another distinct advantage of the internet is the ability to personalize and target advertising to the individual. Unlike television, where all viewers watching a program see the same advertisements, on the internet, ad servers can direct different ads to different users.
The abundance of personal data, combined with the ability to personalize and target advertising, allows marketers to finely target their advertisements to maximize the effectiveness of their online advertising campaigns. Here are some common approaches that advertisers use to target viewers:
Effective targeting increases the relevance of advertising to viewers, thus improving the advertiser’s return on investment. There are limitations particularly when IP addresses are employed for targeting audiences, or even when a cookie or web storage is used. Social networks, however, are blessed with extensive information that their users are prepared to share, and they do not need to rely on these methods to craft the identities of their users.
Internet advertising is also highly transparent. Advertising platforms allow marketers to track and measure the performance of their ad campaigns by means of analytic tools that trace users as they click the ad and traverse the destination site. Advertisers are able to gauge the number of leads and increase in sales resulting from the ads.
It is important to note that the collection and use of personal data for targeting purposes also raises concerns about privacy, data security, and the potential for misuse of personal information. As a result, there are regulations and best practices in place to protect user data and ensure transparency in how it is collected and used.
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