Recognize and Reduce Advertising in Social Media


Advertisers have always been really good at getting their products in front of faces but now they’re able to get their products in front of the right faces — the faces that are most likely to be interested in them. A person who searches sports will likely see sports-related advertising, while a person who searches for beauty products will see beauty product ads. The algorithms that advertisers use are very sophisticated and often quite accurate. However, they’re not useful if you don’t look at them.

Banner Blindness
This image (taken from Everything You Need to Know about Sponsored Content, by Chad Pollitt) shows that banner blindness is real. We just don’t look at those banner ads. We prefer to look at our content. So, how in the world can advertisers get you to look at their custom ads? Advertorials!

In social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, advertisers will sneak ads into your ‘feeds’ in a fashion similar to how a magazine might have an advertisement that looks very much like a part of an actual article. They’re called advertorials. They’re meant to look like the content that you actually like and want to read. Thankfully, though, with a good eye you can spot the intruders. Somewhere you will see the words “Sponsored” (Facebook) or “Promoted” (Twitter).  See examples below.

Facebook AdTwitter Ad


Now to the fun part. How can you reduce all of those customized advertisements, and also keep companies from collecting valuable information about your digital usage?

Limit Online Tracking

Ghostery shows you the invisible web – cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons—and gives you a roll-call of over 1,900 ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers and other companies interested in your activity.” Visit their website to download browser plug-ins that allow you to see who’s tracking you at every website you visit. You also have the ability to temporarily block any or all of those companies.

Opt out from Online Behavioral Advertising (Beta)  from the Digital Advertising Alliance. This is as easy as selecting the companies which you want to opt out of. You can select some or all of the participating companies. I recommend checking back often because companies are still being added. Opting out does not mean you will no longer receive online advertising. It does mean that those companies will no longer deliver ads tailored to your web preferences and usage patterns using cookie-based technology.

Blur offers free and premium services. In addition to blocking trackers from over 600 companies, you can use their “mask your email address” function. Your email address is another way companies can track you, which is why nowadays many websites require you to register an email address just to see content. Other services they offer are for password security, credit card protection, and auto-fill for forms.

Edit Settings on Specific Sites


  1. Go to your Settings by your profile photo in the top right corner.
  2. In the left menu, navigate to Security and Privacy.
  3. Scroll down and uncheck the Promoted Content box.
    1. Additionally, you can uncheck the Personalization box, which tailors Twitter based on your recent website visits.
  4. Don’t forget to click Save Changes.


  1. Click the lock icon Lock in the top right to access your settings.
  2. At the bottom of the drop-down menu, click See More Settings.
  3. On the left navigation pane, click Ads.
  4. You’ll have options for:
    1. Third Party Sites — Although Facebook does not currently give third party applications or ad networks permission to use your name or picture in ads, they may do so in the future. You can change your settings to No One so that in the future if they decide to, they will not use your name or picture in ads directed at your friends.
    2. Ads and Friends — If you’ve liked a page, Facebook advertisers may direct ads at your friends with language under the ad indicating you like it. You can turn this feature off.
  5. Don’t forget to click Save Changes!
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