Facebook Has Changed and Your Digital Strategy Has to Adjust

Facebook Ads is evolving. You need to understand what it means for how your company gathers and uses information.

Back in July, Facebook announced the removal of Partners categories from its advertisement interface. It later extended the date to Aug. 15, giving digital marketers a few precious extra weeks to create, duplicate and edit previous campaigns from Non-Partners categories.

Facebook has other changes in the works, too, and several will take effect between now and the end of September. There are good reasons for the shuffling of features: The Cambridge Analytica fiasco exposed the social-media platform’s detailed targeting options and its sharing of personal information. The public revelations landed Facebook in hot water with users and brought scrutiny from Congress.

For example, Facebook soon will cease to show audience-reach estimates for any campaign that uses “Custom Audience Targeting.” It’s a major shift, as custom audiences long have been a platform-defining feature for Facebook Ads. They allow advertisers to explore any targeted-audience segment and better understand trends — from in-market or purchase behaviors to age, gender, household income and other demographic points.

The move sounds like the social-media giant is taking a defining step toward a more privacy-oriented advertising model. Here’s a guide to help decipher the real impact digital marketers will see from this and other transitions.

New terms and conditions.

You must accept the new Terms and Conditions of use for Custom Audiences every time you upload a custom audience. This is to ensure you and your company have permission to use the data included in the audiences.

Goodbye, Partners.

Facebook will phase out the Partners categories that allowed advertisers to target based on third-party data from well-known data brands. This collaboration enabled greater integration across channels such as display, video and native, to name a few. If you rely on ownership, investments, credit cards and other information, you’ll need to restructure your targeting strategy. If you stand to lose substantial traffic sources, you might consider using lookalike audiences to help offset that loss. Another strategy: Test multiple, small target audiences until you find the most profitable ones for your brand.

Audience sharing.

Before sharing an account with a Facebook Ads account owned by another Business Manager, you and the other account holder both must set up an audience-sharing relationship. You’ll need this in place by Aug. 15 if you want to avoid losing all audiences. It’s urgent and potentially time-consuming, but it won’t impact your business’ overall performance if you get it right.

Information sourcing.

To align with Facebook’s new transparency standards, advertisers now will be obligated to share the source of their audience information via the Custom Audience Certification Tool. Advertisers must specify if their company collected the audience list or obtained it through a shared partner/broker — such as Cambridge Analytica or GDPR — to upload as its own.

Users, in turn, will be able to check the reasons they’re seeing an ad. This means marketers won’t be able to use lists unless people have specifically agreed to be part of such a list.

The good news for marketing professionals is twofold. First, Facebook can’t afford to lose its advertisers. Mobile advertising drives 90 percent of Facebook’s revenue. Second, marketers still can gather information by combining the right interest-targeting strategies and defining their most promising audiences.

Nevertheless, the question remains: Is this the beginning of the end for the era of abundant info-gathering and -sharing that boosted digital marketing’s effectiveness for brands? Advertisers will have to wait to see how these changes ultimately impact Facebook’s revenue and its future policies.