Big Changes are Coming from Facebook Advertising

We’ve heard a lot about Facebook in the media thanks to Mark Z’s 11-hour testimony before Congress. Put that together with the public uproar of the #DeleteFacebook movement and we’re going to see one of the largest social media networks take action.

Facebook Advertising has been an effective tool in our digital marketing arsenal. We work with clients in various industries with a large range of budgets to help define a digital marketing plan that is going to get them the best return on their investment – and Facebook is often an essential part of that. Facebook Advertising allows us to target users based on very specific demographics, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests (based on pages they’ve liked and followed)
  • Income
  • Net worth
  • Occupation
  • Behaviors (such as being “likely to move” or “bought a car”)

However, all of this is about to change with Facebook’s new ad policies getting whipped into shape.

Where Does Facebook Get Its Audience Data?

Facebook collects its data from its users as well as its Partners, which supplies them with data on activities taking place outside of Facebook. Some examples of this include the few parameters I mentioned earlier, such as “likely to move” or “bought a car.”

Per Facebook, Partner Categories are based on information provided by Facebook Marketing Partners with the Audience Data Provider specialty. These categories allow you to further refine your targeting based on information compiled by these partners, such as offline demographic and behavioral information like homeownership or purchase history.

Facebook also lists its current data providers, which include some big data companies like Acxiom, Epsilon, and Experian.

To summarize all of this: even if you don’t use Facebook that often and are careful about the information you post, Facebook can get its hands on information about you for advertisers to use – which is kind of scary – but not for long.

Facebook Audiences Targeting Changes

As a part of the GDPR changes you’ve heard about (most likely through the bombardment of privacy policy updates in your inbox), Facebook is adjusting audiences that advertisers can target through their platform (these changes apply to “Saved Audiences”). Because whether we like it or not, Facebook is free to us because they run ads.

Partner Categories will now be entirely phased out, which will significantly impact the way advertisers target users on Facebook. As a business or advertiser on Facebook, you’ll no longer be able to target users based on the following data:

    • Demographics > Financial > Income – in the past, we were able to target users if they reached a certain income threshold. This is often used in a strategy to target users for higher-end products, such as housing or vehicles.
    • Demographics > Home > Home Ownership – Facebook’s Partners would offer data that shows whether users rent or own their home. Additionally, it would place users in the “first time home buyer” category. Somewhat related to this, we could also see if a user was “likely to move.” This type of demographic would be beneficial for real estate companies, residential builders, real estate agents, and real estate developers.
    • Behaviors > Automotive – these criteria would allow advertisers to target users based on new vehicle ownership and/or users that might be in the market for a new vehicle. It even goes as far as to allow advertisers to drill down to the TYPE of vehicle they might be interested in (SUV, sedan, etc.).
    • Behaviors > B2B – advertisers are able to target based on company size, industry, and seniority if you’re in the B2B industry. This will greatly affect professional service companies like accounting firms, legal teams, and web design/digital marketing firms (like us).
    • Behaviors > Charitable Donations – this behavior is helpful for big nonprofits to attract more donors to help with their cause. In addition to being able to target people that provide charitable donations in general, advertisers would be able to target by the TYPE of charity someone is most likely to donate to (animal welfare, arts, health, and more).
    • Behaviors > Financial > Spending Methods – this will have the biggest impact on retailers. Using this targeting method, advertisers can target users based on the things they buy (fashion & apparel buyers for example) and even whether they use cash or credit cards the most.
    • Behaviors > Media > Television > Viewership Habits – this method allows advertisers to target people who watch television a lot or a little.
    • Behaviors > Purchase Behavior – like targeting based on spending methods, advertisers can target people based on the types of goods they purchase, such as health and beauty, fashion, food and drink, home and garden, etc.

There are hundreds of other changes coming to audience targeting and advertisers’ abilities to target users will be limited. The list above is just a sample of what we can expect to see removed from Facebook’s audience list.

Facebook’s Saved Audience Updates Coming October 1*

Luckily for us, Facebook has given us plenty of notice on when this will all take place. We can expect these audience categories to be completely removed from Facebook’s Ads Manager on October 1, 2018, *however, some of it has already begun:

  • May 11, 2018 – Partner Categories for audiences based in France, Germany, and the UK are no longer available for campaign creation, editing or duplication.
  • May 24, 2018 – No campaigns will deliver to Partner Categories for audiences in France, Germany, and the UK after this date.
  • August 15, 2018 – Partner Categories will no longer be available for campaign creation, editing or duplication.
  • August 15, 2018 – Managed Custom Audiences and Partner Categories will no longer be available in our interfaces for campaign creation, editing or duplication.
  • October 1, 2018 – No campaigns will deliver to Partner Categories after this date.

Changes to Custom Audiences

Facebook isn’t just stopping at their Saved Audiences. New rules will now apply to advertisers and businesses that want to upload their own lists (also known as “custom audiences”).

In the past, advertisers were able to export lists from databases and use that information to target users on Facebook if that email is tied to one of their Facebook accounts. However, coming soon, advertisers will need to verify that they’ve obtained their lists responsibly and organically. More details on this have yet to be released.

PS: I recently learned that you’re able to view lists that advertisers have uploaded with your information. Simply go to Settings > Ads > Advertisers You’ve Interacted With and you’ll get a full view of advertisers that are using your information on Facebook. I took a screenshot of the view from my account and to be honest, I don’t recall some of these advertisers, which makes me question how they obtained my information in the first place (I’m looking at you, California Democratic Party). You’re also able to hide ads by hovering over the image and clicking the “X.”

Facebook Ad Preferences

What Does This Mean for You?

If you use Facebook to advertise your goods or services, this will have an impact on you. Our strategies have often included targeting people based on some of the data I list above, so it will require us to go back to the drawing board and come up with some new digital marketing strategies for our clients.

I would recommend talking with your digital marketing firm to make sure they’re creating a Facebook Ads strategy that matches your business’s goals as well as complies with Facebook’s new policies. And if you’re in the market for a digital firm, contact us and we can help to create your own custom digital marketing plan to help reach your goals.

Overall, big changes are coming – but I think it’s all for the best to protect our collective privacy. What are your thoughts on all the Facebook Audience changes? Leave them in the comments below!

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Additionally, Kristen has worked in digital marketing for 5+ years and has helped create digital marketing plans for hundreds of clients.

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