Facebook is planning the release of a real-time bidding feature for advertisers, a technology meant to more specifically target ads to consumers.
The service, dubbed Facebook Exchange, will allow advertisers to research various types of social network users based on their browser history, according to a spokeswoman. It is expected to roll out within weeks.
Marketers will be able to use Facebook Exchange to direct time-sensitive advertisements toward users based on pieces of code that track web activities, or cookies. Facebook will allow users to close the ads in its browser, and then follow a link to the company's website to opt out of the cookie tracking. The option exists on the company website for ads served on Facebook or other sites they may work with, the spokeswoman said. Users can find more information about the opt-out process on Facebook's ads page. Third-party vendors will also allow users to block cookies.
For example, the spokeswoman said, a travel site may be interested in reaching a person who searched for a flight but did not complete the purchase. With Facebook Exchange, the travel company can show the user a related ad, hoping to garner more business.
Based on users' listed interests and Facebook "likes," advertisers will be able to target their campaigns toward people who will likely get the most out of the display.
"We do not share any user data with advertisers and people still have the same control over the ads they see on Facebook that they do today," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
The real-time aspect of the system means that ads for real-world events, like the Olympics or an NBA game, could pop up following a specific event.
The company earned £2 billion last year via advertising and expects mobile ads and other services to help boost sales. Facebook has almost 500 million mobile users, but has not yet been able to make any money from them, something it hopes to change in the coming months.
Earlier this month, research firm comScore reported that Facebook advertisements have "a statistically significant positive lift on people's purchasing of a brand."
Google's AdWords similarly allows marketers to reach new customers and grow businesses by choosing where an ad appears on the search website. By adding interest categories, advertisers can reach people specifically interested their particular products and services. Google tracks users as they visit sites with AdWords advertisements, and collects data based on its own cookies.