As time has progressed, and we have all embraced social media and the place of the world wide web in our day to day lives, we have all become, in all our online activities, a measurable demographic.
Some find this unnerving, but others appreciate the benefits of being shown targeted adverts as a result of this tracking; we are being shown ads that are linked to our interests, our lifestyles, the things we talk about and express interest in.
When you scroll through Facebook you'll see ads placed in the sidebar, and sponsored articles dropped into your timeline, with links to the brands or products being promoted, and these ads have been chosen especially for you.
This works in your favour if you run your own business. In times of old, advertising is something that we all knew we should be investing in - and placing ads in local press, paying out for a good spot on the page, is a spend many businesses factored into their expenses month after month.
But, when you've placed and paid for these ads, is there really any way to measure their impact or success? How can you be sure that your investment has brought you revenue, and what benefit that spend brought?
The wonderful thing about advertising online - through social media - is that it's a completely measurable outlet; the analytics provided can do so much more than a call from your local newspaper insisting it was a hit with their readers. You can see exactly how many people saw your ad, how many clicked through to your website or link as a result, and how many of those who clicked made a purchase. This means that you can track exactly how much profit you've made from that advert, and how worthwhile the expense of placing it was.
Even better, you can make sure that you can target a very specific, niche audience. If you place an ad in the press, or on a billboard, anyone can see it - but it's probably only relevant to a small proportion of those people, and for the most part, it will be ignored.
Advertising online, however, means you can specify who you're showing your products to. If you run a restaurant in Dorset and want to promote a new menu to locals, you can specifically target the local towns and villages. If you want to target women in their 30's in Liverpool, you can. If you want to target people interested in cycling in the Lake District, no problem. If you want to show parents across the UK your new range of children's clothing, you're able to. If you want to promote a new club night to students at a university close to your bar and get them through your doors, it's possible. And once the advert is placed, you can decide how much money you want to spend on it, how long you want it to be seen for, and you can track in detail how effective it was, in order to be even more successful next time.
Many people find these targeted ads, aimed precisely at their interests and location, a little unsettling, but this tracking of our interests and lifestyle is part and parcel of being able to access these networks for free. We 'pay' with information about our lives, and as a result we benefit from information and products that genuinely interest us - which, I believe, is worthwhile.
For businesses, I know that this is progression, and success, in action. Business, marketing and advertising has to evolve in order to continue to grow and maintain success. Embracing these methods of advertising, and tailoring your content to suit the people you're trying to reach, means building relationships with your customer base, and it means embracing that personal, human touch, thinking about the people you want to buy your products and services.