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Facebook plans to let brands target influencers

Facebook is launching a new tool to let brands better target what it deems as influencers, after securing patented technology to target high-profile users on the social network.

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A new patented technology allows Facebook to find ‘experts’ and ‘influencers’ on the network, who are not only more likely to share the content, but normally have more knowledge to back up sharing.

These people are seen as more lucrative than the typical Facebook user who might like or follow a certain brand, but have no sharing clout to push the advertising to other people.

The patent was added in 2011 by Facebook advertising chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, but has only been granted in the past few weeks.

Typically, the US Patent and Trademark Office take around two years to grant a patent.

Having this technology available could bring in even more money for Facebook, since advertising are obviously keen to find even more targeted advertising. The cost of advertising to highly followed or experts-in-the-field will cost more than the typical advertising campaign, but the rewards could be huge.

Ron Soker, head of social, at cross-channel advertising platform dmg, commenting on Facebook advertising to influencers, said: "Facebook is the first major tech company to offer a clever way to build a database of 'influencer marketing'. Google, Yahoo and other players with huge amounts of data currently rely on the number of connections an individual has on their platforms to determine who is an 'online VIP'. However, these companies know that a high number of connections does not necessarily equate to a high influence rate.

“Facebook’s patent shines because it looks at who shared popular content (the influencer) and identifies the origin of popular content (the experts). By building a database of influencers and experts, Facebook will be able to charge advertisers more if they wish to target specific experts and influencers.

"'Influencers' and 'experts' are incredibly important designations for advertisers, especially in the online world. However, these labels and positions are very dynamic. The influence of a user can increase or decrease rapidly. For Facebook’s patent to work properly, Facebook need maintain an active sharing environment and demonstrate why advertisers should pay more to target these users.

"Facebook's patent is also likely to contribute to an online hierarchy. Advertisers will now need to consider a new set of factors when targeting different audiences. One question is how Facebook will determine the price tag for advertisers who wish to target VIPs, however, I suspect the process will not be transparent."

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