Professor researches social media ads

Anne Buie

Associate professor of communication Chris Yang is doing research regarding the connection between advertising and social media.

Yang said the purpose of his current research is to educate consumers so they know how to protect their privacy in social media, how advertisers can use it and to warn advertisers that they must be careful when handling user data.

Yang said Facebook would like users to tell the truth online because they can better target you.

“You will be a better target for their marketing, their advertising activity,” Yang said.
Sites like Facebook use a cost-per-click model, in which the site charges advertisers each time someone clicks their ad. But, if users don’t click the ads, the site doesn’t make money.

“At present, a lot of young people just ignore Facebook ads,” he said. “That’s a problem for Facebook.”

But some students do notice the ads, like sophomore elementary education major Mark Blanton, who said he will occasionally click on the ads.

“I’ve clicked on them once or twice,” Banton said. “It’s not ideal [for Facebook to advertise], but I don’t want to have to pay to use Facebook and I do like the fact that it’s tailored individually. It’s not a random product that I’m never going to want, it’s something that I might actually want to buy.”
Facebook’s current default setting for user information is public.
As a public company, Facebook is under pressure to make more money and to therefore monetize users’ personal information, Yang said.
Yang said students’ information is at risk if they don’t care about their privacy settings.
“That means anything you disclose on Facebook is in the public domain,” Yang said. “Facebook can use it at their will. Facebook can sell your information to marketers. That’s kind of scary.”
In order for marketers to take user information off Facebook, they need permission from the company, and you likely must purchase it, Yang said.
When users log in to other websites via Facebook, like, they are giving Amazon permission to have access to information even if privacy settings are set so that only friends see their posts, Yang said.
“That’s actually a trap,” he said. “Amazon will be your friend. When you are ‘friending’ these commercial websites, you have to be careful. They have access to your information now.”
Sophomore healthcare management major Kimberly Mangrum said she does not click on Facebook ads, but they are relevant to her interests.
“There was a purse I looked up so much that Facebook started advertising it on my profile,” Mangrum said. “It’s creepy.”
Yang will publish a paper in December based on his findings.

Story: JOSHUA FARMER, Senior News Reporter