How to prank your roommate using targeted Facebook ads

The biggest draw of Facebook advertising is how you can target audiences through a range of identifying factors. But did you know the targeting can get really really specific, down to just one person?

Here’s a really funny account of how online marketer Brian Swichkow used Facebook’s targeted ads to show his roommate some very creepy ads that were relevant only to him. Here’s how he described his plan:

It’s been proven time and time again that Facebook knows more about you than you know about you. While advertisers are able to use that data in their targeting, it’s often poorly executed (which is why I, a Jew-ish guy, often see ads for Christian dating sites), but as a Facebook user you’re never able to see WHY you’re being targeted. This was exactly what I planned to use to exact my revenge. I was going to target him with highly personalized messages that were focused on things Facebook truly shouldn’t know about his personal life – things that weren’t even online, let alone on Facebook. The goal, to make him unbelievably paranoid.

While the actual prank is pretty hilarious, it did provide some fascinating insight into how to create a custom audience on Facebook, i.e. targeting an ad to only a handful of very specific people:

So about two months later I was experimenting with different ways to use Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting and having quite a bit of success. I was using a list of about 10,000 people and getting some of the highest click-throughs I had seen in a long time. Being a fan of the Mythbusters where they believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing – I asked myself how I could take this to the next level. I realized that stepping things up a notch was actually stepping them down a notch in this case and I asked how targeted I could make my audience. I said to myself, “What if I only had like five people in an audience? What if I only had one person in an audience? … I should test this … I should test this on my roommate.”

Swichkow then documents exactly what he did to create a custom audience of exactly one, with the entire effort costing less than $2. It’s a bit technical, but worth reading for anyone looking to get over their fear of using automated social media advertising.

To read the full account of the prank, check out Swichkow’s post here. We highly encourage it.


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