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Facebook advertisements can be some of the most annoying things in the world. They’re in your timeline, on your sidebar, and often they can be either creepily specific or just plain bizarre.
While not many people know about it, there is actually a way to tailor the ads that show up on your Facebook account so that you are only being shown advertisements that you are interested in seeing. Sure, it’s not as great as being shown no advertisements at all, but that’s unfortunately just the world we live in – if you’re going to see advertisements, you might as well only see ones that you find helpful!
Why Should I Care About Facebook Ad Preferences?
Like I mentioned above, in an ideal world the Internet would be advertisement free. However, that ship sailed a long time ago and we’re living in a social media world full of companies that use every bit of information they can to make their advertising as effective as possible. Taking a little bit of time (seriously, under ten minutes) to target the ads that you’re being shown can save you from seeing embarrassing or inappropriate advertisements, irrelevant information, or especially annoying ads.
By altering your preferences you may actually be shown ads that are relevant to you and your interests and that can alert you to cool new products or opportunities in your area.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who tries to limit how much social media companies actually know about you, you may choose to confuse Facebook’s demographic information by selecting only advertising topics that you are completely uninterested in.
How Does Facebook Choose My Ad Preferences?
Facebook targets your ad preferences by monitoring the information you share on Facebook and on other sites that are owned by or associated with Facebook. Think about all of the information you share with Facebook on a daily basis – Facebook knows a lot of things about you, the things you do, what you like, and your demographics. Yes, it’s a little creepy, but bear with me.
The information you share may include pages that you have liked, interests that you’ve listed on your profile, links you’ve shared, or advertisements that you have interacted with in the past. Browsing data from other sites and apps off of Facebook may include the sites/apps that you are visiting, or how you interact with the information on those sites/apps.
How Do I Know What My Facebook Ad Preferences Are?
You can see the topics that Facebook has identified as your interests in two ways.
Firstly, you can access the information by going to Settings > Ads > Edit > Visit Ad Preferences as seen above.
Your other option is to click on the drop down arrow at the top right of any advertisement you see, and click “why am I seeing this” and then “manage my ad preferences.”
Both of these options will take you to a page with an extended list of all of the things that Facebook thinks you like. Once you arrive at this page, I highly recommend taking some time to just see what on earth Facebook has collected about you over the years – some of the topics are hilariously incorrect or wildly specific.
For instance, according to Facebook, I love beetroot, Geography, and Illinois – a decidedly inaccurate picture of who I am as a person, and not the kind of products that I want to see advertised to me on a regular basis!
How Do I Delete Facebook Ad Preferences?
If there are some interests that are wildly inaccurate or too specific for your liking, you can remove them by hovering over their column and then pressing the “x” that appears.
Once an interest is deleted you will no longer see ads based on that interest – but if you are interested in two very similar things, then the same ads may still appear.
It’s also important to note that deleting a whole bunch of interests won’t decrease the overall number of advertisements you see – you’ll still see exactly the same number of ads, they just won’t be about the deleted topics.
How Do I Add New Facebook Ad Preferences?
What Facebook really wants you to do (and what you may be interested in doing) is making your ad preferences more reflective of you and your interests. You can do this by either searching for preferences using keywords (e.g. “ice cream”) and selecting from the brands and options that appear, or by clicking on the search bar and then navigating through the many subtopics Facebook supplies.
Facebook also suggests additional topics you may be interested in, and you can also choose to select those if they appeal to you.
Adding topics can be a great way to either see more targeted ads on your personal page, or to throw Facebook’s tracking algorithms as a small rebellion against their information-gathering policies.
What Else Should I Know About Facebook Advertisements?
One very important thing to know is that you can turn off interest-based advertising completely. To do this, navigate to Settings >Ads> Ads based on my use of websites and apps > Edit > Choose Setting > Off.
Once you choose this, Facebook will no longer be using your browsing data to select interests and advertisements for you. While this is an excellent option to choose to protect your privacy (and I recommend it for that purpose!) it’s important to note that you will no longer see advertisements that are relevant to you at all – they will be completely generic and random.
The other important feature to know about is the “Ads with My Social Actions” feature. I would highly recommend turning this option off as well – if it’s on, Facebook will sometimes show that you have “liked” a page or brand (whether or not you actually have) on friends’ Facebook feeds as a way of enticing your friends into liking the page as well.
It’s hard to know whether to give up on the fight against privacy and let Facebook show you the ads that you’re most interested in, or whether it’s worth taking a stand and trying to camouflage your actual interests and characteristics. While there are many ways to strengthen your privacy settings on Facebook, the only way to really avoid Facebook saving information about you is to delete your social media account entirely – and that’s not a step that many of us are willing to take.
Serious conversations about privacy and advertising aside, I’m dying to know – what was the weirdest thing Facebook included in your ad preferences? I’m still absolutely mystified about where “beetroot” came from, and I think it’s hilarious – let me know if you see anything more random than that in the comments!