[SMK] Social Media Knowledge


Facebook Puts Users In “Control” Of Ad Targeting

Will Facebook's New Custom Audience Update Hurt Targeting?

Facebook’s Custom Audiences are the lifeblood of effective Facebook marketing, alongside (and in conjunction with) the Facebook Pixel.

Therefore, any material change to either materially impacts Facebook marketing.

At the end of this month, there is to be a new update released which restricts the targeting abilities of Custom Audiences.

Enabling users to opt-out of Custom Audience targeting.

Rob Leathern, Facebook Director of Product Management

“Later this month we will begin rolling out a control to let people choose how an advertiser can reach them with a Custom Audience from a list. These Custom Audiences are built when an advertiser uploads a hashed list of people’s information, such as emails or phone numbers, to help target ads. This control will be available to all people on Facebook and will apply to all advertisers, not just those running political or social issue ads.”

Facebook users have had the ability to hide all ads from a specific advertiser in their Ad Preferences or directly in an ad for some time. But now they will be able to stop seeing ads based on an advertiser’s Custom Audience from an uploaded list.

Global Issues Impacting Local Campaigns

Facebook’s latest ad targeting update forms part of Facebook’s strategy to supposedly better manage political advertising on platform. Something which it has been HEAVILY criticised for, given its stance on fact-checking and its green light for political manipulation and propaganda.

Facebook’s macro issues tend to trickle down and impact everyday comms and marketing activities for non-political brands, agencies and small businesses.

For example, in October 2019 Facebook removed 93 Facebook accounts, 17 Pages and four Instagram accounts for violating its policy against coordinated inauthentic behaviour. This activity supposedly originated in Iran and focused primarily on the US, and some on French-speaking audiences in North Africa.

Likewise, it removed 50 Instagram accounts and one account on Facebook that originated in Russia, bearing the hallmarks of the dastardly Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The checks, systems and processes required to keep this activity at bay and “under control” impact all organisations on the platform.

Hence the big spike in community standards, ad rejections, suspensions, penalties and more, which marcomms professionals have experience over the past 18 months.

Facebook Ad Library Updates & Expansion

Improved transparency has been a major driving force behind Facebook product updates in recent times.

For marketers, this has come to life in a variety of ways, most notably the launch of Facebook’s Ad Library in 2018.

The Ad Library provides advertising transparency by offering a comprehensive, searchable collection of all ads currently running from across Facebook Products, including Instagram. Anyone can explore the Library, with or without a Facebook or Instagram account.

To improve searchability and benchmarking, Facebook is making a series of enhancements:

  1. Adding the ability to search for ads with exact phrases
  2. Better grouping of similar ads
  3. Several new filters to better analyse results
    1. e.g. audience size, dates and regions reached

Facebook is also introducing ranges for Potential Reach, which is the estimated target audience size for each political, electoral or social issue ad.

Potential Reach will allow researchers and analysts to see how many people an advertiser wanted to reach with every ad.

Targeting In The Spotlight

In theory, any serious roll back on Custom Audience targeting would be highly damaging for marketers, not to mention, Facebook’s revenue generating abilities.

However, since Facebook enjoys limited government regulation on matters of this nature, in practice, the move will probably be more token.

Facebook’s two billion plus users have no-idea how the platform works and how they are targeted.

Therefore, why would they opt-out of something they do not understand? Which is buried away in eighteen sub-menus, they do not know to exist?

That said, Micro-ad targeting is a very hot topic.

2020 will be a big year for online ad targeting, user tracking and privacy, with changes afoot from a range of sources, such as:

Marketers would be wise to follow the topic carefully through 2020 and make the most of opportunities while they last… 

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