Like to ride Harleys? You'll also love Jack Daniels and Little Debbie snack cakes

Or so says Likester, a data analysis firm that wants to turn your Facebook Likes into targeted ads for things you'll want, even if you don't know it yet.

flickr/OakleyOriginals

Do you like Wal-Mart on Facebook? Then you probably also like Febreze air freshener,  Brett Michaels, and manufacturers of plus-size clothing.

Are you a fan of Starbucks coffee? Then you’re probably also enamored of Dairy Queen, Batman, and Hello Kitty.

Is there nothing you enjoy more than climbing on your hog and hitting the high wide and lonely? Odds are you’re packing a bottle of Jack Daniels and some Little Debbie snack cakes in your saddle bag, along with a Smith & Wesson equalizer.

All of this is according to Likester, a data analysis firm that takes Facebook likes and correlates information between them. These aren’t merely mild preferences or inclinations, says Likester; they’re lifestyle choices. BusinessInsider has a fascinating story about who likes what, based on plugging different brands into Likester’s Affinities Recommendations Engine. 

For example, folks who give the thumbs up on Wal-Mart are 91 times more likely to also like Febreze than those who don’t. (Draw your own conclusions from that.) Starbucks aficionados like Barbie 17 times more often than their less caffeinated Facebook friends. (If you suspected that liking Starbucks was a bit ‘girly,’ here’s your proof.) Harley Davidson fans click ‘Like’ on the NRA 41 times more often. They also prefer tattoos and Lynyrd Skynrd by a wide margin – surprised?

How does Likester know this about all of us, exactly? That’s a good question. I’ve sent them emails, and I’m still awaiting a response. But here’s my best guess.

It starts with the Likester app, which has been installed by just under 9,000 people on Facebook. That app not only records everything you’ve ever clicked “Like” on, it also records what your friends have also Liked. According to the Pew Internet and American Life study, the average Facebook user has roughly 250 friends, which gives Likester a theoretical reach of 2.25 million, assuming I know how to operate a calculator. The rest, I am guessing, is statistical projection.

This app also analyzes your Likes and, based on what other people who also like what you like, like, makes recommendations for more things you might like. Are you with me so far?

likester affinities 600p.png

Based on my Likes, Likester thinks I might also be fond of Megan Fox (duh), George Lopez (definitely not), The Cheesecake Factory, Batman, and the Dalai Lama. For me, I’d say the recommendations are only about 60 percent accurate. Your mileage may vary.

It will also tell you what your friends might or should like, and allow you to push its recommendations upon them whether they want them or not.

Of course, those are just the features Likester tosses out there to get people to use its app, which it labels a “game.” Likester’s real purpose is to allow Facebook advertisers to target people who might already have an affinity for their products, even if they don’t even know it yet. You can slice and dice the Like data in all kinds of ways – affinities, location, yadda yadda – to create specifically targeted ad campaigns. There’s a video about this if you’re really interested.

The trouble with this model is that when you look at it closely, the data gets a little weird. For example, people who say they like Apple have an inexplicable fondness for music, products, and celebrities based in Brazil.

As BusinessInsider points out, some of the data correlations are downright screwy. For example: Yankee fans are 15 times more likely to like the Red Sox, and vice versa. That might be true in an alternate universe, maybe, but not on this planet. The conclusions I’d draw from that info nugget are a) both groups like baseball more than most bipeds do, and b) there is probably something wrong with Likester’s algorithms.

Farming your Likes is what Facebook is all about these days. Unlike status updates, photos, videos, and other things you voluntarily share on Facebook, you have no privacy control over your Likes. They are public information, accessible by anyone with a Facebook account – or, like Likester, the wherewithal to turn them into a product.

You are what you Like. So be careful where you click.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Now read this:

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