Monday, June 2, 2014

Facebook vs. Twitter Advertising Models

From Here
Do they know what goes through your mind when you wake up in the dark and the people you love are gone? Do they know what you remember when you see your birthday cake and its myriad flickering candles? Do they know where your eyes land when you catch yourself in a reflection--or where they land when you see that one person on the train in the morning?

They want to. They want to badly. They want to know things about you that would make the NSA blush.

The Omnivore is, of course, talking about Social Media.

So in his ever-expanding quest to know how They see the world, The Omnivore went straight to the source: their advertising models.

What Is A Model?

In basic terms a model (in this case, specifically a UML Information Model) is a diagram of boxes and lines that represents information and relationships between it. So a model for a family might have a box for Parent and Children. We could further 'extend' these concepts with Son and Daughter as "types of children" and "Mother" and "Father" as types of Parents.

And so on (in a more sophisticated model of a family there would be a single Type: Person which could be of any of the above types so that your mother is both a "Mother" (to you) and a "Daughter" to her mother--and the linkages would trace back to your grandmother and so on).

This is commonly used in computer science architecture--but can be used to model groups like your company--or things like your company's product line.

In this case, The Omnivore took a walk through both Twitter and Facebook's ad models to see how they were alike--how they differed, and, ultimately, how each of them sees the world.

The Break Through: Automated Ad Campaigns

Let's say you want to advertise with a big name in viral media ... Buzzfeed. You want to know how their ad campaigns work and promote your stuff on it. You go to their ad page(s) and you see something like this:
It's Cute. It's Clean.
Okay, fine--but those buttons are just links to headers in the big 'infographic' page that, when you get to the bottom resolves to this:
In order to sign up with Buzzfeed you need to contact them. This is what The Omnivore sent in. Do you think he's getting an email back (does 'TENS of dollars' excite Buzzfeed? The Omnivore doubts it seriously).

On the other hand, both Twitter and Facebook have full-service ad-wizards that allow you to spend, literally, pennies (not that you may get much for that--but still). You never talk to a person. You can advertise anything. It's all right there.

This is the breakthrough

Twitter and Facebooks' Ad Systems

The Information Model is created by going through Facebook's and Twitter's respective ad creation systems and simply documenting each data-element and your choices. In this case The Omnivore is interested in "promoting" his post about analyzing Elliot Rodger's use of handguns instead of an AR-15 and how it relates to his intended branding of himself in his manifesto.

NOTE: Both Facebook and Twitter have a variety of ad-types and campaigns that you can choose from. The Omnivore has chosen the 'promote Tweet / Post' version because these line up fairly well between the two social media platforms.


Here's what Twitter's ad-service looks like. There's a lot under the hood--but you can see the basics there 


And here's Facebook's:
A key similarity here is showing you what your target audience might look like on the right based on your constraints (note: the Twitter number is an actual Twitter campaign The Omnivore took out in the name of science. The Facebook dial over there is "native"--without any constraints.

The Information Models

The Omnivore used the Chrome app Gliffy to do the modeling. It is free and, for free, not bad. It isn't great--The Omnivore didn't have proper connectors for his version of UML modeling and had to use logical database entity connectors--but The Omnivore is pretty pleased with it never-the-less.

You'll have to click to embiggen: The Omnivore knows you can't read these natively.
So, we had some issues with screen-cut-offs and the like--but you can see the basic shape of this and that's what we'll discuss in the next section!
Facebook's Order of Battle
Westeros Envies Twitter's "Wall of Interests"

The Differences Between Facebook and Twitter's World Views

If you look at both of these models the first thing you'll notice is some similarities. For example both fixate on location, have gender targeting (notably, though, advertising targeting is men, women, or all for both: one wonders how the expanded genders that Facebook offers play into this. If you are a transgender-man do they categorize you as male or female? They don't say: presumably a man ... but The Omnivore wonders ... What if you're Otherkin?).

Where Facebook breaks away is splitting out Demographics and, even more importantly, Behaviors. What does that mean?


While both groups will give you language (a must for an international social media juggernaut) but Facebook goes further into the "who" targeting to give the advertiser options like:

  • Are they in a relationship (selling 3-way sex toys? Filter for "it's complicated")
  • What's their level of education? A good proxy for earnings and, if they have too many, lack of grip on reality
  • Life Events: Facebook knows if you're homesick, in a long distance relationship, and how long you've been engaged or married. Start seeing divorce lawyers after the 6mo mark.
  • There are a lot of political options that Facebook offers that Twitter really does not--although Twitter does note that there is political commentary as an interest--something that does not appear in Facebook's world order.
  • Twitter sees what kind of office you work in as an interest: Facebook sees it as fundamental to you (your demographic). So does your boss--which is why they don't want you on Facebook all day.
  • Interestingly the only Ethic Affinity that Facebook recognizes is Hispanic. Twitter doesn't recognize any (they do language though).
  • Facebook recognizes a single Generation: Baby-boomers. Millennials quoted as saying "Whatevs."
  • Facebook's parenting status is either: ALL or MOMS. At least Twitter has "interest: Dads." This could be people who want to meet dads, though--Twitter does not say.


Facebook actually shines in the department of behaviors. Because Facebook has a more complicated interaction engine it can track people who are, for example, Photo Uploaders. Somehow it decides if you are an Early or Late Technology adopter. It knows how much you've spent through Facebook ... where you travel ... and if you use the Travel App. It allows you to track people who create events--probably a good proxy for "group leaders."

Twitter is far less rich when it comes to the user's actual goings-on. It doesn't have a specific Travel interest (although it has 'Beauty' distinct from Health). Facebook guesses at how much you make, whatever your interest in investing. Facebook just has investors.


On the other hand, Twitter has something that Facebook doesn't: the @usernames filter. This allows you to put in usernames and advertise to people who follow or are interested in them. This is way more powerful than you might think: you don't need interest in celebrities--you can reach people who follow specific celebrities or tweet about them. That's killer. It's powerful.

The Omnivore picked two @usernames to "follow"--Balloon Juice and Little Green Footballs. Both are 'Republicans who have walked away from the party'--as The Omnivore is a RINO blog, that seemed like a pretty good place to start.


The Omnivore wants to note that Facebook does have a complex "interests" system that is not described here (wait for the next article). It uses groups the user has joined and is far richer--and likely more random--than their categorized versions.

The Test

While TENS of dollars probably won't get Buzzfeed's attention (several hours, no reply), a tiny amount of money will let you generate impressions on Twitter and Facebook. You only pay when someone interacts. The Omnivore set up two tests and they've been running for a few hours. Let's take a look:
738 Impressions: Two Clicks: $0.78 USD

11.5K Impressions. No Clicks. $0.00 USD
Conclusion: Buzzfeed is probably right to tell The Omnivore to Buzz off ...

UPDATE: Twitter killed my ad-campaign because it was overly controversial. 
UPDATE 2: Twitter just sent me an email telling me my ad is "Now Active." Get it together, guys.


  1. (Veronica here)

    On the gender stuff, Facebook right now advertising to me the Seattle based Gender Odyssey conference. Which, good call. I’d go if I could find time. On the other hand, I have my Facebook gender maker set to “female” (because, like Laverne Cox, I’m a woman), so they probably have guessed I’m trans based on who I follow and what I repost. Or something. But anyway, a data point.

    1. It's nice to know FB's model isn't entirely "skin deep." One supposes they can sort of 'genderize' people with extremely non-standard selections based on other factors. Twitter will give you response from various genders with an 'Unknown' category.

      -The Omnivore