I love Digital Marketing and helping small business owners get the biggest bang for their advertising dollars, so it’s no shock that I’m obsessed with Facebook Ads and that I run them for both my company and for our clients.

Since one of 2017’s major trends was screaming FAKE NEWS at the majority of media articles and news pieces we saw, true or otherwise, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. Not one to back down from participating in a good trend (bit of sarcasm, I’ve stopped wearing my UGG boots) it’s my turn to scream FAKE NEWS at some Facebook Ad myths I’ve seen circulating around Facebook.

Myth #1 Facebook Serves You Ads Based Off Your Conversations

I know that people are super convinced that Facebook is listening to your conversations and serving ads based upon what you’re saying, but just hear me out.

That’s not happening. It’s a total myth.

How do I know? Advertisers do not have access to such information when creating Facebook Advertisements. Honestly, if we did it would be pretty easy to create ads based off products you want or services you’re interested in purchasing. However, we can’t.

facebook listening to conversations

Full disclosure: I’ve tried to explain this to people via comment threads on Facebook and, yeah, that’s one of the worst places to try and share knowledge.

The good news is that listening to what these people had to say gave me a little insight as to why they think Facebook is listening. It also helped me find out that people just don’t understand how Facebook Ads work at all.

Let me break it down as simply as I can in a little A & E (Accusation & Explanation) format.

Accusation #1: “Facebook is using my microphone to listen to me. It’s in their Terms of Service, read it. It says that they can ‘actively listen’ to you. Just go see.”

Explanation #1: Here are Facebook’s Terms of Service. In no section does it say anything about “actively listening”. The Facebook app requires access to your microphone because it’s needed to use voice text to type posts and/or comments quickly. It’s also used in the messaging app when you call or video chat with someone. Facebook doesn’t “turn your mic on and listen to conversations.”

Accusation #2: “I saw a video on YouTube and they SHOWED it happening. It’s real.”

Explanation #2: Just in case you didn’t see the viral video, I’ve posted it below. I’ll wait the whole 2 minutes and 33 seconds while you watch it.

Alright, let’s jump into it.

Constantly listening to your conversations would require way too much data usage. You’d notice.

In order to Facebook to be constantly listening to your conversations, the mic would always have to be on. Functionality-wise this is equivalent to a phone call always being on. On average, voice-over-internet calls take about 3 Kbs of data per second, which is 130 MBs per day, per user. In the United States alone, there are 150 million daily active Facebook users, so that equates to 20 petabytes per day. Just in the United States. Facebook’s data storage is about 300 petabytes.

Constant microphone surveillance would mean that your app would use 33 times MORE data daily than it is right now. You’d notice.

Accusation #3 “Well then they’re using some other software to do it that won’t take up as much data. It will run silently in the background like Amazon Echo.”

Explanation #3 The bottom line is that Facebook simply doesn’t have the technological to pull this off. Don’t believe me? Go read this article from Antonio Martinez Garcia himself he’s the guy that helped create the Facebook Advertising Machine.

Accusation #4: “The technology is out there. Maybe your company isn’t doing it but other companies are.”

Explanation #4: Nobody is denying that listening devices and technology haven’t been created. That would be silly. However, this accusation was the one that made me realize people just don’t understand how companies create or run ads on Facebook. So, I’ll break it down:

  • By creating a Facebook Ad Manager account, you’re given access to their ad platform through your company’s Facebook Business Page.
  • Facebook Ads are run through Facebook. Not through your own company.
  • Therefore, companies do not have autonomy to use any sort of listening software or otherwise to create ads. It’s all done through Facebook.

Ads are run through Audience Targeting with targeting created by using Custom Audiences or by creating Lookalike Audiences.

Basically, the moral of the story is that Facebook doesn’t listen to your conversations. Advertisers don’t have access to such information and we do not target you based on your personal conversations.

Here’s what’s actually happening

If you have had a conversation about a specific topic or service and also seen an ad for that particular product or service, there’s a simple explanation. You’ve either:

  • Liked their business page
  • Visited their website (and are being retargeted)
  • Fit the demographic of a lookalike audience

Since you had a conversation about that particular product or service recently, you’re also then more likely to notice ad ad – whereas in the past you’d probably just overlook it.

If you’ve had something weird happen to you, leave your experience in the comments and I’ll try to debunk it… just like that last UFO sighting.

Myth #2 Facebook utilizes GPS tracking to pinpoint where you are, right down to which aisle you’re in at the grocery store.

facebook pinpoints your location

This one is both true and false. Facebook location targeting does indeed utilize the information from allowing the Facebook App to know where you’re at. You can choose to turn this feature completely off, or give it access only when you’re using the app. This technology makes it possible for you to Check In to a place when you’re eating dinner or when you’re going to a movie with your girlfriends.

What we can’t do is pinpoint exactly where you are, down to which aisle you’re at in the grocery store. That would be some crazy military-grade tracking.

How Radius & Location Targeting Works

We choose radius targeting to promote businesses in certain areas and to reach people who might be looking for a particular product or service in that area. For example, if you’re in the area of a Hot Dog shop, we can promote that business to:

  • Everyone in this location (default targeting)
  • People who live in this location: this is determined by whichever city has been stated in your Facebook profile. That information is validated by device and connection information. reach only people who live in that area (using public profile information), or people who are currently in that area.
  • People recently in this location: where we target people whose most recent location is within the radius we’ve selected. Generally used for time sensitive sales.
  • People traveling in this location: determined by device and connection information, for people who are more than 125 miles away from their home location. This might be used for a rental car service, for example.

Myth #3 Facebook Rubs it in When You’re Single & Calls You ‘Fat’

This one made be both laugh and made me a little sad. See, my friend was single and had been single for quite a while. One day, she was very angry at Facebook for sending her an ad for a dating app for “Plus-Size” people. She was convinced that Facebook was rubbing in the fact that she was single and had called her fat.

Here’s what actually happened.

The dating app ran an ad and targeted individuals based off their stated relationship status. Per Facebook’s audience targeting capabilities you can target:

  • Relationship Status
  • Age Range
  • Gender
  • Location (like a state, radius, town, etc.)

You cannot target people based off their weight.

Unfortunately, my friend was already sad that she was single and then took it personally that the dating app ad was geared toward “Plus-Size” individuals. Quite the unfortunate happening.

If you’ve had any weird ads pop up lately that have freaked you out, let me know! I love a good debunking challenge.

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