/// Google vs. Facebook in the Battle of Affinity

August 21, 2013  |  All Things Digital

Every month, people click the “Like” button on Facebook more than 80 billion times. They post more than 10 billion updates on Twitter, and they write tens of millions of products reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp. And with every one of these social actions, people declare their affinities — their preference for or desire to connect with other people, products, or things. This rush to post affinities online recalls another flood of data that began a decade ago: The explosion in online search. John Battelle once described the data created by search engines as the “ database of intentions ” — a catalogue of people’s needs and desires collected by observing their search behaviors. The idea behind the database of intentions is as simple as it is powerful: If you study what people are searching for, you can sell them what they want. Google in particular knows a lot about people’s intentions, and it has used this database of intentions to drive a lot of value for marketers. In fact, last year, Google made $50 billion, most of it by turning intention data into ad targeting. Now here’s the big question: Don’t social sites like Facebook also know a lot about people? What if all the social actions people take add up to a “database of affinity” — a catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors? And what if that database of affinity is worth as much to marketers as the database of intentions? That sounds great in theory, but there’s an obvious problem: So far, social sites haven’t been able to turn affinity data into anything particularly useful.

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Google vs. Facebook in the Battle of Affinity

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