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Facebook Boosts Targeting Options for Advertisers

Facebook Boosts Customer Targeting Options for Advertisements
Facebook employees at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Aug. 20, 2012. The company is trying to find ways to show lucrative ads to mobile users without cluttering up their hand-held screens. Photographer: Peter DaSilva/The New York Times via Redux

Facebook Inc. is expanding an advertising service, letting marketers target customers on mobile devices based on their online activity outside of the social network.

The “custom audiences” tool will let companies gather information from visits to their websites and applications -- and then use that data when marketing goods and services when potential customers visit Facebook, via mobile or desktop, the company said in a blog post today. The service already helps marketers use data they have, such as e-mails or phone numbers, to send ads to consumers.

Facebook, operator of the world’s most popular social-networking service, is expanding advertising services as it looks to better leverage its more than 1 billion users. Advertising makes up most of Facebook’s revenue, which climbed 53 percent to $1.81 billion in the second quarter from a year earlier, topping analysts’ estimates.

“A bike retailer could reach people who started designing bikes on its website but didn’t make a purchase,” Facebook said. “Or, a mobile travel app can deliver ads to people who have downloaded their app but haven’t used it in a while and encourage them to book getaways within the app.”

The Menlo Park, California-based company offers advertisers the ability to target users based on their browsing history through its Facebook Exchange, a service that tailors ads to users based on their general browsing history. Still, that data is only gathered through online activity on desktop computers. Also, the data can only be used to place ads on Facebook’s desktop version.

Facebook Exchange is suited for marketers that use outside companies to help sell goods and services on the social network, such as a wide range of goods from an e-commerce provider. The new custom-audiences service may work better for some smaller businesses that don’t hire outside ad-tech companies to place ads via exchanges, Facebook said.

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