Facebook is playing it safe in 2018. For example, in January, the social media platform announced a ban on cryptocurrency ads to protect their users from scams preying on the less informed. This move was soon followed by Twitter, Google, and Bing. The ban was only recently reversed, yet they are still requiring advertisers to fill out applications to be approved before ads go live.
While this is specific to one industry, Facebook is also making changes to the way it handles data that isn’t collected from the Facebook platform. Marketing Land reports, “Beginning July 2, advertisers will have to specify the origin of the audience’s information when uploading a Custom Audience.” This will allow users to find out how their data was provided to the advertisers when they see an ad. While this change is meant to merely increase transparency into how Custom Audiences are built, Facebook is taking more drastic measures when it comes to their own relationship with 3rd party data.
In response to recent publicity around the Cambridge Analytica scandal combined with the restrictions from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect in May 2018, Facebook has decided to shut down Partner Categories. Beginning to phase out on August 15 (in the US) advertisers will no longer be able to target users based on information bought from 3rd party data mining companies that give insight into offline actions and behaviors such as purchase history, income, and home or vehicle ownership. If you have an audience or client that relies on information provided by these targeting methods, your first reaction could be to start worrying. Without all this extra data, your audiences will be incomplete leaving you to grasp at any bit of information you are provided by customer profiles and basic demographic research, right?
Wrong. Facebook was not the first company to take advantage of Big Data mining companies and they certainly won’t be the last. Here are several alternatives to consider if you are convinced your audiences simply won’t be up to muster without the information provided by Facebook’s partners.
Traditionally, ad buying on the Internet was done solely by humans negotiating each minute detail. The advertiser would be in direct contact with the publisher and they would sort out pricing, placement, and everything else needed to ensure the success of a campaign. This became overwhelmingly difficult as more and more people started to use the Internet and table stakes were raised exponentially. Advertisers needed to get in front of more users on more websites, customizing their strategy to fit user behavior.
Programmatic ad buying is using software to buy ads eliminating much of the manual work and saving companies time and money to buy ads. However, while programmatic is extremely useful for handling the menial tasks of ad buying, marketers can still control the overall strategy and guide the automation through its precise targeting clusters.
Because Facebook is an ad publisher, it relies on user spending time and engaging on the site to generate revenue. This puts them front-and-center when a scandal like Cambridge Analytica breaks and makes national headlines. This public scrutiny forces them to make decisions in order to contain and shape the user’s perception of the platform. However, it’s unlikely that someone outside the digital marketing industry would be able to name a single programmatic ad broker. Acting simply as middlemen between advertisers and publishers, programmatic ad brokers can continue to use data provided by 3rd party data mining companies.
While programmatic targeting will fill gaps in data left by Facebook, user engagement is not nearly as high on display and banner ads as it is on Facebook. Several decades into the existence of the Internet, many people will glaze over the content of a website without even noticing the ads showing on the side or bottom of the page.
While some experts have raised concerns about how Twitter handles its data, it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream in terms of public outrage. In a statement, Twitter has said that it does not sell private messages and that Tweets are public content searchable by anyone. They have shown no signs of removing their Behavior Targeting which includes categories such as income & investments, home and vehicle ownership, subscription services, and insurance.
One thing to be wary of when using Twitter ads is the discrepancy between ad clicks and page loads. Between Twitter users mistaking an image link in an ad for a picture and the long load time, many users exit out of the site before even reaching the landing page. This will cause you to pay for traffic you are not actually gaining any benefits from.
Still in its early stages of development and years away from mass adoption, blockchain marketing will not be a solution to these changes when they go into effect this year. However, it’s still worth educating yourself about, as this technology has the potential to fundamentally change the way ad targeting works at scale. With user information protected by layers of encryption, advertisers will only be able to target audiences based on information the users provide themselves.
Yes, you read that correctly. Projects like Brave’s Basic Attention Token (BAT) incentivize users to spend their attention on advertisements and allows them to create ad preferences so the ads they are served are more relevant to their interests. Ideally, this will benefit both parties; by incentivizing user participation in the marketing process rather than simply forcing content in front of them against their will, it should result in better targeting and engagement for the advertiser.
Facebook is Still an Option
But the above suggestions are far from perfect. And transitioning all your campaigns to another platform will certainly be a pain. So, here’s the real question: do you really need partner categories to create a successful ad campaign?
Users provide Facebook with information about themselves when signing up and many continue to update that information throughout the years as their lives and interests change. But, more importantly, Facebook gathers data through user behavior. Every like, comment, and share gives Facebook more insight into the type of content a user enjoys consuming. Combining this information with Facebook Ad Manager’s audience building tool creates so much opportunity that the only limit is your creativity and willingness to experiment. It’s true that audiences built by Facebook’s data alone won’t be perfect, but neither are the partner categories. Those profiles are similarly built by cobbling together bits of information collected here and there from offline behavior, sold to a Big Data company and then lumped into a group loosely estimating a user’s net worth or proclivity to move.
The point here is that there is no perfect way to create an audience with or without partner categories, so losing them shouldn’t change the way you approach targeting on Facebook: create several ad sets with different strategies for targeting an audience, analyze the data to find what worked and what didn’t work, tweak, change or start from scratch, then repeat.
If you have questions about targeting on Facebook Ad Manager or need help creating new audiences without the help of Partner Categories, reach out to us here at Anvil where our Paid Media Strategists will set you on a sure path for success.