In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a British political consulting firm was able to access, and then sell, the data of more than 87 million users, Facebook has been on the defensive, hiring a digital forensics firm to identify any other vulnerabilities to the platform as well as making modifications to the platform itself. Here are some of the changes Facebook has announced in response to the scandal, how they’ll affect advertisers moving forward and some tactics to implement to keep Facebook advertising working for you.
In the coming months, Facebook plans to end its Partner Categories program which allowed advertisers to use data collected by brokers like Datalogix, Experian and Acxiom to create audiences based on offline behaviors and public records. This data was helpful to reach users who were on Facebook but didn’t provide particular data to Facebook directly. For instance, a user who didn’t list her job title on Facebook could be reached through Experian’s occupation categories. But a lot of the data that these brokers provided, like purchase behaviors and parental status, can also be inferred by Facebook through all the data it collects on users.
Because of a vulnerability in which advertisers could infer attributes of an individual within a Custom Audience, Facebook will no longer provide reach estimates, insights and audience size estimates for all Custom Audiences. You may be asking yourself, “what does this mean for me?” This change will largely impact planners’ ability to accurately estimate reach and results within a campaign that is targeting a custom audience. Advertisers will still be able to use Custom Audiences, like CRM lists and website retargeting, but their ability to estimate the performance of a campaign will be hindered. Later this year, Facebook will be introducing a tool in which advertisers will have to verify that they have obtained consent to use the email addresses or phone numbers they provide to create a Custom Audience. This tool was announced recently and promised to debut soon, pointing to Facebook’s commitment to supporting custom audiences, while still adding data protections to the platform.
Facebook Pixel and Lookalikes
Now more than ever, the Facebook Pixel will be critical to reaching the right audience. The Facebook Pixel is a piece of code that tracks users’ behavior on site and helps measure the effectiveness of advertising on the platform. It also allows advertisers to retarget users who have visited their website or even have performed a particular event on site, such as made a purchase or submitted a lead form.
Not only can advertisers retarget these users, they can also use them to create lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences take known audiences like video watchers or website traffic, find similarities between users in those audiences and then creates a new audience based on similarities. Retargeting and Lookalikes will be instrumental in making sure we reach our clients’ core audience while Facebook continues to hash out changes to the platform.
Despite all of these changes to protect users’ privacy, the core of Facebook’s targeting model hasn’t changed. Every like, comment and share that happens on Facebook is contributing to the ecosystem of diverse interest groups. This is how advertisers can reach users with niche interests like dried cranberries, orthopedic sports medicine or train rides. And while these changes feel very sudden and reactionary, it’s likely that Facebook will make more changes to its platform in the coming months. It will be paramount to keep an eye out for more changes so that advertisers can adapt their targeting strategies swiftly but properly.
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