We all know the story: Facebook has been under pressure about how their third-party targeting data capabilities infringe on user privacy since even before the 2016 elections, but they could no longer make excuses once the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. Now, the company is making a permanent – and surprising – move that may usher in a new era of social media where privacy is king, and user vulnerability is no longer the norm.
For most people that use Facebook, and other social media networks, this is a welcomed shift; but as a marketer, the alarm bells might be sounding. If you’re feeling a sense of dread for all the meetings that need to be scheduled with management to explain next steps, here’s an overview of what you need to know to prepare for and navigate those meetings.
What Exactly is Facebook Changing?
Facebook’s announcement outlined their plan to place restrictions on advertising data usage, with the emphasis on eliminating all public and private third-part targeting; essentially the dissolution of their Partner Categories tool. This tool previously allowed marketers to partner with companies to use offline purchase data to enhance their ad targeting. Some of the targeting that this will effect includes behavioral, purchasing, and household income. This change has a pretty transparent goal: decrease user vulnerability by limiting the way their consumer data is used by other companies.
Why is Facebook Making This Change?
There are several reasons that Facebook is making this change, but the most prominent reasons are the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The scandal put a target on Facebook and drew criticism from users, stakeholders, and others in the social media space. GDPR took effect on May 25, 2018, and aims to give data control back to the people. One way GDPR does this is by requiring companies to gain explicit consent for all data collection they do, as well as transparency about how that data will be used. GDPR is applicable to all residents of EU, no matter where the company in question is located. Additionally, Facebook’s general outlook has shifted from one of arrogance to one of responsibility; making changes like this is the only way they are going to keep the business alive.
How Will These Changes Effect Marketers?
As of October 1, 2018, Partner Categories will cease to exist and any ads that are running using that targeting option will no longer be delivered. In a nutshell, marketers will need to bring their targeting focus inward, and stop looking to third-party targeting to reach their audiences. This is not doomsday; there are plenty of other ways for marketers to target their audiences online.
The first step is to revisit and adjust existing KPIs with Facebook’s new limitations in mind. Trying to meet those expectations without the same tools would have any marketer feeling like a failure. As you review and rebuild your strategies and KPIs, don’t forget to focus more on objectives that align with brand awareness. Operating your targeting within Facebook’s new rules will help you gain and keep the trust of the audiences that you continue to reach, which is an invaluable way to gain long-term brand advocates.
Don’t forget that you have a lot of data on your own. Start to work with your internal teams and your agency to collect that data and find creative ways to use it for targeting and for general content. Upload your existing data lists into your campaigns and start running some targeting to see what results you get. Adjust, repeat, adjust, repeat.
There are also other social media networks that you can use to reach your targets. If you haven’t created company pages on Pinterest, Twitter or Snapchat, now might be the time to start exploring how you can leverage those platforms to access new audiences.