It should come as no surprise that Facebook plans to use location data from its mobile apps to customize the ads it serves consumers. The combination of an advertising-driven business plan and access to data about where users have visited and most importantly where they are at a given moment requires it.
So when Facebook said yesterday that its new Nearby Friends feature isn’t being used to target location-based advertising begged the question of when it would flip the switch.
Today, we’re no closer to the answer, but Josh Constine of TechCrunch got explicit confirmation that it is on the roadmap, quoting a Facebook spokesperson saying “at this time it’s not being used for advertising or marketing, but in the future it will be.”
More from Constine’s post:
It wouldn’t confirm exactly how, but I foresee it targeting you with ads for businesses that could actually be in sight or just a few hundred feet away. An ad for a brick-and-mortar clothing shop would surely be more relevant if shown when you’re on the same block. The ability to generate foot traffic that leads to sales could let Location History-powered Facebook ads generate big returns on investment for meatspace business advertisers. That means they’d be willing to pay more for these hyper-local ads than for ones pointed to users who are far away and much less likely to visit their store.
A Gateway Drug?
Of course, to gather salable data, Facebook has to get a significant number of its users to opt-in and allow location tracking. And that’s not going to be easy. Many will have to be convinced that such tracking isn’t creepy … or dangerous. Others will have to be persuaded that opting in will improve their moving-around-town experience.
Perhaps that’s where the Nearby Friends feature comes in. You can’t use it without leaving on your Location History, so it’s plausible that Facebook is hoping to use it to show its utility.
But will the possibility of serendipitous meetings with friends be enough of a draw? What do you think?