Earlier this year, we introduced the Database of Affinity: a catalogue of people's tastes and preferences, collected by observing their social behaviors, that could be the Holy Grail for more-accurate brand advertising. And since then two of the companies we featured in our research — Facebook and Google — have been working hard to realize this vision:
- In June, Google introduced Affinity Segments — a tool that allows marketers to target audiences based on the products and categories for which they've expressed preferences. We think Google has room to add more and broader affinity data to these segments, and to do richer analysis on that data. But Affinity Segments blends multiple signals into a single targeting tool — which makes this an important step forward from the simplistic affinity targeting most social sites now offer.
- More recently, Facebook built a team to analyze its affinity data. MIT Technology Review reports that Facebook has assigned eight people to its 'AI' team. Their goal? To address one of the key shortcomings we'd identified in Facebook's business: its inability to bring meaning to its data. It's always been clear that Facebook has one of the largest collections of affinity data online; we hope this move will help the company better leverage that data on behalf of marketers.
Both companies are heading in the right direction. But note that Google is already offering richer affinity targeting to marketers, while Facebook is just starting to explore its data set. That's why we still believe that Google is more likely to win this race. But what do you think? Who's your money on?