Have you ever wondered how Facebook chooses the ads you see in your feed?

To put the right ads in front of you, Facebook needs to paint an accurate picture of who you are. But understanding who you are comes down to more than what’s on your public profile – Facebook also has to work out what your interests are.

But is Facebook painting the right picture of you?

Well there is a way to find out – by viewing your Facebook Ad Preferences!

So, with access to how Facebook sees me, I decided to go on a journey of self-discovery through Facebook Ad Preferences to find out exactly who Facebook thinks I am.

When I think of who I am, a particular set of interests come to mind. But as it turns out, Facebook has figured I hold a few more peculiar interests than I had expected.

To be fair, Facebook has gotten many things right, but there are also some overly odd finds that I did not expect to see. But before we get into this, let’s step back for a second and answer the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of Facebook Ad Preferences.

How Does Facebook Ad Preferences Know My Interests?

According to Facebook, this is how they come up with our list of interests to paint their perfect picture of who you are:

“We use information from a few different sources to figure out which ads might be relevant and useful to you. Things like your Facebook profile information, activity on Facebook and interactions with businesses can all influence the ads you see.”

The interests listed can be as broad as ‘restaurants’ or ‘comedy movies’ or as specific as ‘Anthropology’, ‘Barack Obama’, ‘McDonalds’ or ‘hugs’.

If you’re wondering why a particular interest has been chosen for you, just hover over a specific interest to see why Facebook has associated it with you.

What’s the Point of Facebook Ad Preferences?

Facebook Ad Preferences is in place to make sure you’re seeing ads for products you’re actually interested in. Keeping this in mind, Facebook has also given you the power to adjust your Ad Preferences as you wish so that Facebook has a better picture of the real you.

By having control over your Ad Preferences, Facebook can show you stuff you care about in your news feed.

How Accurate is Facebook Ad Preferences?

So how good is Facebook Ad Preferences at figuring out who I am? Let’s find out!

One of the main things I wanted to discover when exploring Facebook Ad Preferences was its accuracy.

Does Facebook really know me?

Hobbies and Interests

I figured the hobbies and activities section would be a good place to start. Here’s just a sample of the 47 interests Facebook has compiled for me, and although there are many hits, there are a few very big misses such as ‘chickens,’ ‘firefly’s,’ ‘biotechnology’ and ‘breathing’. As for breathing, well obviously I do breathe, but I wouldn’t really consider it a hobby of mine.

Food and Drink

Not a bad start. Now to see what Facebook thinks I eat and drink.

I’m glad Facebook recognises I like bread, cupcakes and chocolate, but I have to question my apparent interest in ‘espresso’ and ‘drip brew’ since I never drink coffee. I must admit my interest in ‘German cuisine’ and ‘sprinkles’ are also a little odd, but I can’t say I dislike them either. As for the rest, Facebook has done pretty well despite the obvious omission of my takeaway favourites McDonalds and KFC.

News and Entertainment

The news and entertainment section scored very well and I can understand why because I tend to seek out a lot of news and entertainment pages about people I am interested in on Facebook. But I am a little concerned that Facebook thinks ‘Korean Barbecue’ is a person?

Fitness and Wellness

Then there’s the fitness and wellness section, and since exercise is something I don’t partake in as often as I should, it seems Facebook may know me better than I thought!

With 13 different categories to sift through, I could be here all day, but I’ve seen enough to know that Facebook has done a fairly good job at figuring me out.

How Do I Change my Ad Preferences?

If you’ve decided to venture on your own journey of self-discovery through Facebook Ad Preferences and came out the other end horrified by how Facebook sees you, the good news is, although you can’t add any interests or hobbies in Facebook Ad Preferences, you can remove interests that Facebook has already chosen for you.

Each interest correlates with a set of ad types. Before changing your Ad Preferences, just click on one of your listed interests to see advertising examples that fall under it, such as these ones from my apparent interest in ‘Driftwood’.

Okay, so the ad examples may not always be right on the mark, but it really is a great tool to access if you’re a 25-year-old woman living in the inner city who keeps seeing advertisements for farming equipment, for example. Now you can make these nonsense ads go away for good.

Along with removing advertising categories, you can also see a list of specific advertisers who have your contact information and currently advertise to you through Facebook. You also have the freedom to hide these advertisers so you no longer see their ads on Facebook.

The Future of Facebook Advertising

From the moment you create an account, Facebook has been collecting information about you. This does tend to make users uncomfortable, but the reality is that without this information, your Facebook feed would be filled with generic advertising about products you couldn’t care less about. This information is used to put the right products and services in front of the right people.

And although Facebook hasn’t completely nailed it when it comes to working out what we are interested in, the future sure is bright for delivering relevant and highly targeted advertising that we actually care about.

If you’re thinking of advertising on Facebook, head over to our Social Media Marketing page for more information!