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Local Businesses: Facebook Now Offers Stalkerish Ads That Target Nearby Customers

Fact: Facebook knows all. Just when you thought Big Brother Blue couldn’t get any creepier, now it even knows when potential customers are walking near -- or living near -- your business.

Two years in the works, the social media powerhouse officially unveiled its new Local Awareness Ads today. The aim is to help advertisers create Facebook ads that target a hyper-local audience “at the lowest possible cost.” Well, for less than “traditional advertising channels like newspaper[s] while offering more precise targeting and great reach,” Facebook says.

Related: 10 Tips for Mastering Facebook

So, let’s say you sell gourmet grilled cheese and someone famished just happens to stroll by a stone’s throw away from your restaurant (or live close by) -- and they’re on their smartphone and they spy a mouthwatering ad for your grub on Facebook -- you just might score a brand new customer. At least that’s the big idea.

All business owners (or social media marketers or lucky interns) have to do to build a Local Awareness ad is 1) log in to their company’s Facebook page, 2) select a geographical radius close their business’s location (Facebook will pre-select an area for you, but you can specify an area as small as one mile.) and 3) add an eye-catching photo and a snappy headline. And, boom, Facebook will automatically work its scary-precise nearby customer-targeting algorithm magic. The result: Hopefully more neighborhood locals or local visitors meandering through your doors and, even better, a juicy bump in local sales.

Related: Why Your Brand Should Be Posting on Facebook on Fridays

You can also use the new ads to provide closeby customers with directions and to tell them about special sales and offers. Note: If your company page doesn't feature a brick-and-mortar address, you'll have to enter it.

Specifically, the new initiative shows Facebook users certain Local Awareness Ads if they live in the targeted location based on their Facebook profile’s “current city” or based on their most recent device location, per their mobile device’s GPS signal.

Related: Facebook Rolls Out Site-Wide 'Privacy Checkup,' Revamps Default User Settings

Don’t want Facebook pushing ads to you based on your whereabouts? There are a few steps you can take to control the location-based data you share with the social network:

1. Disable Location Services for Facebook on your mobile device.

2. Remove your location from your Facebook posts.

3. Don't "check-in" to locations on Facebook.  

4. Turn on Facebook's Tag Review feature. Tag Review allows you to approve or ignore tags that people want to add to your and their Facebook posts. With it on, any time someone tries to tag you in a post, like a photo or a location check-in, the tag won't appear until you okay it.

Whether Facebook users will find the new, somewhat stalkerish Local Awareness Ads freaky or convenient remains to be seen. Either way, you can bet we’ll hear all about it very soon, especially, you guessed it, on Facebook.

Related: Post Smarter: The Best Time to Use Social Media Platforms (Infographic)

Edition: October 2016

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