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The New Facebook Audience Network: Will it Work for Lawyers?

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 05, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We've extolled the virtues of Google's Pay Per Click advertising, which is a great way to target ads at clients who are already looking for you, but just don't know it yet -- Google can mine its trove of users' web browsing habits (via its search engine, Chrome browser, Gmail accounts, and other free services) to target ads to people who are researching or dealing with a legal issue.

Google isn't the only game in town, but they certainly are the biggest, and they have the largest amount of personal data. Last week, however, a different tech behemoth stepped in as a possible rival: Facebook.

Facebook Audience Network (FAN)

Who knows more about its users than Google? Probably no one, but if there is any company that comes close, it's Facebook, which has up to a decade's worth of voluntarily submitted biographical data, "likes," third-party logins, and other ways of building up data profiles on users. Google builds a lot of its data on implicit assumptions based on browsing behavior, while Facebook gets its users to say, "I like N SYNC."

Facebook has always used this data on its own site and mobile apps, with impressive results. According to TechCrunch, for Q1 2014, the company made 59 percent ($1.33 billion) of its ad revenue from mobile devices, all from its own native apps. Imagine taking that personalized data and expanding that successful approach to third-party apps -- that is the goal of the company's new FAN.

Why You Actually Care

A billboard advertises your firm to a city, regardless of whether the city actually cares (an 99 percent of them don't).

A targeted ad, either through Google or Facebook, targets someone with a problem that you can solve, such as someone doing DUI research on Google (enough said), or a senior citizen who "likes" the AARP, 60 Minutes, and the Golden Girls on Facebook (estate planning and healthcare directives).

And while Google is useful for people who are actively searching to solve a problem, as well anticipating needs, Facebook has a lot more information that fits into the latter category -- they know who fits into each box for targeting clients who don't know that they need you yet.

We won't know, maybe not for years, which company will be more successful, but both seem like promising paths for lawyers seeking clients.

Dark Side of FAN: Privacy

This may not concern you, unless you file data privacy class actions, but FAN seems like a glowing red target for those types of lawsuits. Facebook's "Beacon" program, which did the reverse (shared users' third-party activity with Facebook), led to a class action lawsuit, for example. Google's "Shared Endorsements" is another example of using user data in an invasive manner.

For privacy advocates, Facebook already knows way too much about us. Now the company plans on taking that data and using it in third-party apps in order to deliver targeted ads everywhere. The creep factor is high, as is the potential for litigation.

Quick reminder: if this PPC/FAN/LMNOP (one of those is made up) is making your head spin, our Lawyer Marketing folks would be happy to explain things to you over a free phone call.

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