Microtargeting for marketers

The word “microtargeting” has acquired rather sinister connotations of late, thanks to the political scandal from which Facebook is currently working to extract itself. Like many scandals, however, the issue is not actually the approach itself, but how it was used.

So, as well as targeting potential voters with political news, microtargeters can target consumers to attract them to the products and services that will suit them perfectly. And many consumers would be happy to say goodbye to over-generalised ads that offer nothing to their lives.

Microtargeting is nothing new; it’s just being done better than ever before

The basic principle of microtargeting has been around since time immemorial: get the right message in front of the people who are likely to be (most) interested in hearing it. All that’s changed is the way in which microtargeting is implemented.

Instead of working in broad strokes, such as looking for postcodes where the majority of residents meet certain criteria, marketers can now use data on an individual’s browsing history to determine whether or not a person is likely to be interested in their message.

Microtargeting not only identifies the right person, but also the right message for that person

Despite the fact that people refer to products and services needing unique selling points (and these certainly help), there is usually more than one possible reason why a person might be interested in a product.

For example, let’s say you have created a cookbook, which is a unique collection of recipes from your local area and you’ve supplemented the recipes with the history behind them and mini-biographies of local celebrities.

Some people might be interested in your product because they like to collect cookbooks in general, whereas others might be interested in the local history aspect and, within this second group, some might be more interested in learning about the local area and others about the local celebrities.

You only have a very brief window of opportunity to get someone’s attention to make the most of it with the best message you can possibly deliver, tailored, as far as possible, to the individual recipient.

Microtargeting is not just for the big players

You might think of microtargeting as being highly technical, only to be attempted by massive companies with colossal marketing budgets but, with online advertising, it is becoming easier to laser focus your marketing efforts and get to your perfect customer.

You’ve probably seen on Facebook a t-shirt design that is prevalent but widely mocked: garments that read something incredibly specific like “This MUM who was born in JULY loves HELLO KITTY and CANDLES!”. These may be odd enough to be becoming their own meme, but their prevalence suggests a high rate of success with approaching people with very specific preferences and demographics.

Microtargeting could boost your search engine rankings

It’s entirely possible that over the coming years, microtargeting (like mobile-friendly web design), will cease to be optional and start being mandatory due to its role in search engine optimisation.

In very simple terms, the early days of search engines were, understandably, characterised by a lack of sophistication. Now, search engines have very much grasped the fact that their continued survival depends on their ability to give users what they want – and that means understanding what it is the customer needs (for example, if someone types in “apple”, do they mean the fruit or the company?) and working out who has the best content for the identified need.

These days, the way search engines do this is by looking for evidence of customer engagement because high engagement statistics indicate highly relevant content. Microtargeted content should be the most relevant content there can possibly be and therefore get the best possible engagement statistics.

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