Facebook Knows Better Than Friend 1200

Does Facebook know you better than your best friend?

Hugh Carling

Hugh Carling


Co-founder of Liveminds. I love to bring like-minded people together. Whether that's growing businesses, running online communities, staging events or captaining my village cricket team, nothing makes me happier than seeing people with a shared passion, coming together and making the most of it.

It has now been shown that your behaviour on Facebook says more about your personality than close friends and family could. The question is though, how can researchers and marketers access this wealth of behavioural data to gain deeper insights and a better understanding of consumers?

Computer-based personality judgements are more accurate than those made by humans

A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Cambridge compared how people’s answers on personality tests matched up with a computer model prediction (based on Facebook Likes) and the judgements of their close family and friends. It took only 10 Facebook Likes for the computer model to judge participants’ personalities better than work colleagues could, 70 to outperform friends, 150 to beat family members and 300 to score higher than spouses.

Likes are used by Facebook users to express positive association with online and offline objects, such as products, activities, sports, musicians, books, restaurants or websites. Given the variety of objects, subjects, brands and people that can be liked and the number of Facebook users (>1.3 billion), Likes represent one of the most generic kinds of digital footprint. Wu Youyou, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell

How does Facebook know so much?

Facebook gets to know its 1.28 billion daily global users through information contained in three sets of data:

  • The personal details individuals enter themselves – age, relationship status, parental status, etc.
  • People’s behaviour when using Facebook – clicking Like, sharing content, joining groups, clicking on content, etc.
  • Information on what individuals do on 10 million websites outside of Facebook that connect to Facebook using Like and Share buttons, where the data can be gathered using information from tracking cookies.

Facebook knows the mood users are currently in, what major life events have taken place, what food they’re eating, the places they’ve been and the companies they use among thousands of other personal details. You can find out some of the things that Facebook knows about you by checking your ad preferences.

The extent to which Facebook gets to know its users by tracking their activity can be scary for those concerned about privacy and online data-mining. However, while disconcerting for some, it can’t be denied that it’s also an extremely impressive tool for researchers and marketers keen to gain rich insights from real behaviour.

How researchers and marketers can use Facebook

A market research project is only as good as its participants. We’ve used the biggest ever data set on human behaviour to develop Behavioural Recruitment™ powered by Facebook. Our unique service allows us to find market research participants that genuinely match any criteria in over 190 countries and offers incredible advantages over existing methods:

  • Instant access to 100X more people than the biggest global panels.
  • Participants who are completely fresh to research, and who are enthusiastic and willing to fully engage in online or face-to-face projects.
  • These are real people, whose identity and authenticity can be verified by our thorough 3-step screening process.

Using Behavioural Recruitment ensures researchers and marketers have the best possible people for their projects. Download Behavioural Recruitment case studies to find out more about the award-winning method or get in touch to discuss your project with one of our online research experts.

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