I noticed a new type of ad targeting behavior on Instagram I haven’t seen before - liking someone’s shot containing a product leads to a targeted ad containing that product. In my case, a friend posted a picture of an order from the Milk Bar and I gave it a friendly like. A few days later I started seeing ads for the Milk Bar Store. I know it may seem like a manifestation of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon but I tend to notice ads and am pretty certain I have not seen any Milk Bar ad until I liked that image.
It’s not a surprising move and is actually quite clever - the fact that someone likes a particular image of a product is an indication that they may be interested in buying it. Depending on the product it may also not be difficult to do - especially if they can rely on the captions and hashtags for the identification in addition to the image itself. At the same time, it is a very real example of how sophisticated modern ad targeting has gotten and how strong a position Facebook has. This interest data is not visible outside Facebook and allows Facebook to provide a much richer targeting experience than any competitor. In some ways it’s no different than a tracking company building up a profile of you based on the sites you visit but at the same time this is a much sharper and exacting profile.