Using The Interest Graph To Target Social Ads To Gen Y

Demographic profiles have long been used by marketers to segment their audience and enable them to target offers to people who are more likely to be receptive than the general population. For example, a marketer for Forever 21 might target the single, female, middle-class, age 18 to 24, college-educated demographic. 

Critics of demographic profiling argue that broad-brush generalizations can only offer limited insight, and that their practical usefulness is debatable.  That’s why with the mountains of data being collected about us as we surf the internet and engage with social media, some new ways of looking at targeted populations have emerged that may soon replace the tried-and-true notion of a general demographic.  

But while much has been written about the “social graph” – the data from your social connections that allow you to create aggregate profiles based on who you’re friends with – we believe the real opportunity for shift lied with the “interest graph.”  



Unlike the social graph – which allows marketers to understand who you like – the interest graph leverages data that actually give us a better idea of what you like.  The interest graph is a better indication of your preferences than the social graph, because who you like isn’t necessarily an indication of what you like.

Interest graph data include publicly available information such as what people volunteer (e.g., Facebook interests); what people share (e.g., photos from a biking trip); who people follow; and what people say online, what they retweet and what they post. They also include “feedback loop” information from what people actually respond to, such as receptiveness to a particular campaign, which then feeds back into the database.

So how can you use interest graph data to target social ads?

1. Target followers of relevant Twitter handles.

To reach a targeted Gen Y audience, design your paid social campaign to target followers of relevant Twitter handles … and if you’re running TV ads during shows that are popular with your audience, consider augmenting these with social ads in real-time, as many viewers keep one eye on their Twitter feed and one eye on the TV screen. For example, a clothing retailer might launch a paid social campaign targeting @GleeOnFox, @Gleeks, and @GossipGirl to supplement their commercial buy during those programs.

2. Develop “personas.”

Think about how you can aggregate this handful of handles into “personas” - these represent a specific set of interests for your particular product, such as “sports car fans” or “Gleeks,” that are derived based on whom people follow, keywords used in their social streams and other publicly available keys from their social graph. To build a persona, start by identifying influencers and then add a few highly relevant keywords. For example, to use the interest graph to reach Millennials for an Emmys-related campaign, choose influencers from relevant media properties: the stars of Emmy-nominated shows like “30 Rock,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “The Voice,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” And use keywords like "Oscars" or "Olympics" to identify millennials who historically tweet about televised events.

The interest graph allows advertisers to target their campaigns based on these personas for higher relevance and better campaign performance.

3. Test and Iterate.

Testing interest graph-based campaigns can not only improve overall campaign performance but also help brands learn more about what interests their audiences. Plan at least one round of optimizations and prepare to learn something about your millennial customer in the process. Adjust creative to suit them as well as to keep the ad creative fresh for the real-time environment of social. 

Interest graphics and personas are infinitely more valuable than demographics, because these enable marketers to better match their offers and ads to people who are actually interested.  This means less wasted effort, less spammy ads and better matching … and, ultimately, better ROI.

5 comments about "Using The Interest Graph To Target Social Ads To Gen Y ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Darrell Ellens from Linkedin Group Mgr. "Daily Deal Industry" , August 17, 2012 at 12:39 p.m.

    Hi Jon,

    Interest graph technology seems to be a very hot topic right now. There also seems to be many different types of interest graph technologies coming to the market with many different types of uses.

    Some use Twitter, others use Brand-Sorter technology to help showcase their interest graph technology.

    I was hoping you could help me find a list of how many types of interest graph technologies are out there and how they differ from each other?

  2. Herb Lair from CUO,Inc., August 20, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.
    "The obvious alternative, with the least cost to implement is an independent Cloud CRM solution designed to cross index cable subscriber households with their corresponding social network interests. The current regulatory and privacy issues experienced by cable TV operators gathering unauthorized data from set-top boxes could be minimized, by validating subscriber and even eliminated by essentially having an opt-in plan (provided conveniently by the social media). Access along with profile and interests of households would be controlled by the subscriber’s social media platform of choice. Facebook has high consumer acceptance and could be used for household profiles, product interests, social interests, and viewing entertainment interests. There would be incentives to the subscribers to opt-in including notification and reminder of viewing favorites, Groupon type ads, and specific ads matching interests with infomercial type group discounts and urgency to buy."

  3. Doug Chavez from WPP, August 20, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.

    Jon - I totally agree with you about the differences between the "Social Graph" and better data coming from an "Interest Graph". I tend to think the best data comes from the "Share Graph" and is based on what like minded people are sharing every day in the Conversation Economy. And totally agree that the real action (value) is what people are sharing across the open web vs. social networks, since the data from closed networks isn't able to be applied to the open web, where we all spend 80% of our time.

    @Darrell - There are many options. The question to ask is your ad solution provider able to apply real time social data to an ad campaign throughout the entire life of a display campaign -thats really powerful stuff. (RadiumOne ShareGraph does exactly that)

  4. Jon Elvekrog from 140 Proof, August 22, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

    @Darrell and @Doug, thanks for your comments. If you're interested in learning more about how the interest graph can help you and your customers, we'd be happy to chat.

  5. Darrell Ellens from Linkedin Group Mgr. "Daily Deal Industry" , August 27, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.

    Hi Jon,

    I would be interested in chatting with you about interest graph technology.

    I can be reached at

Next story loading loading..