In case you haven’t heard, Facebook settled a lawsuit with the ACLU, which argued that the social media giant’s ad platform allowed advertisers to target users in ways that violated equal opportunity laws for employment, housing and credit. The fallout from the settlement was announced in March of 2019.
The new Facebook update removes the most obvious targeting methods of Zip Code, Gender, Age, multicultural affinity and any other option that may exclude protected classes of people. What’s come as a big surprise to marketers is Facebook has also put Lookalike Audiences and previously-created Saved Audiences off limits, while also significantly dialing back many of the Interest categories as well.
Broadcasting vs Narrowcasting
By removing these important targeting features, the new Facebook update broadens the audience that employment, housing and credit companies can use to advertise. The era of narrowcasting on Facebook is over for these industries.
Where marketers once had the luxury of delivering ads to specific groups of people who would most likely convert for their products and services, the new policies ensure that a larger slice of the market will be exposed to offers for job listings, housing options and lending offers.
In essence, Facebook is now as effective as traditional advertising when it comes to targeting demographics who are most likely to be qualified for your service. It’s “digital marketing lite”. A marketer can still enjoy all the benefits of tracking and direct acquisition of a digital marketing platform, without the precision and focus that was once invaluable.
A Ham-Handed Approach to Equality
Is this fair?
For the consumers, there are certainly vast benefits. For one, employment, housing and credit opportunities are now more likely to appear in the feeds of people who may have been excluded from targeting.
If you are a job seeker or someone who needs financial assistance, it would be unfair – and perhaps even malicious – to exclude you solely based on your race or gender. The old targeting methodology allowed advertisers to exclude you based on assumptions that may or may not be accurate or even appropriate.
Does it make sense?
There are good arguments for why the previous policies were better. The broadening of the Age category now makes it difficult for an advertiser – say an elderly living facility, to dedicate more of their budget to reach buyers over the age of 40, who are more likely in need to house an elderly relative.
The lack of affinity categories also means a marketer loses the ability to target based on behaviors. If you are advertising an employment opportunity that is most likely to appeal to people with specific interests, you could now be flooded with resumes from people who don’t match the characteristics for an ideal candidate. Furthermore, you’re spending more money to reach less qualified people.
It’s Not the End of the World, Folks
Facebook is still incredibly powerful. Despite naysayers who suggest that Facebook’s reach is waning, the engagement and usage of Facebook is still through the roof. Employment, housing and credit companies would be fools to cut the social media giant from their strategy.
At the end of the day, campaigns are set up as Cost-Per-Engagement or Cost-Per-Click. Although you may be reaching more people, and likely feeding your ad to much less qualified prospects, there is no guarantee they’re going to click on your ad or engage with it in a way that materially blows your budget.
Facebook has set up new methods to structure your campaigns.
To start, under the Campaign Name you’ll see a new checkbox for Special Ad Category.
Upon selecting, you’re given a warning about the new policy and how it might affect any targeting criteria you select for your campaign. Select your industry from the dropdown. Employment, Housing, or Credit.
You’re given the opportunity to create a Custom Audience (using customer email lists) or a Special Ad Audience. For the moment, Custom Audiences are unchanged, but if you’re trying to reach new customers you’ll select Special Ad Audience.
You’ll immediately notice the brunt of the new changes.
Zip code selections are unavailable. You can still use a pin point on a map for Radius Targeting, but the minimum range is +15 miles.
Age and gender targeting are fixed to 18-65+ and All, respectively.
For Detailed Targeting, you are now limited only to Interests. Detailed Targeting used to be one of the most powerful features of the Facebook ad platform. Furthermore, the list of Interest categories has been pared way down. What remains is vague and excludes the sorts of lifestyle activities or interests that advertisers relied on to narrow their focus.
Once you’ve selected the appropriate Interests for your audience, you’re ready to go!
Copy Is King
If the new Facebook update seems demoralizing to you as a marketer, you’re not alone. Responses to the changes have ranged from annoyed indifference to outright anger. It even stands to reason that many companies in these segments are exploring other ad platforms to continue targeting like they used to (hello Google!).
Here is the rub.
Marketers have to think long and hard about how to structure their campaigns in the new Facebook era. Our advice is to go back to the tried and true methods employed by traditional advertisers for decades: good copy and amazing creative.
Just because you’re pushing your ads to a broader market doesn’t mean that they’ll respond to them. While your impressions may be much higher, you can reduce unqualified clicks by structuring your ad design and messaging in a way that helps people self-select.
To go back to our hypothetical about an elderly living facility, a photo with a group of older adults (60+) enjoying lemonade on a patio is most likely not going to be clicked by anyone under the age of 40. A new home development that leads with price (Homes Starting in the $500s!) is almost guaranteed to reduce clicks from people with lower household income or bad credit.
While this may seem new to some people, it’s the foundation of advertising. You will only stand out if you have good creative and good copy.
Our advice is to ditch the tired old stock photos and invest in professional photography. Whatever costs you spend on good photos will ultimately be recouped with more qualified leads and less expensive clicks. Similarly, you won’t be able to get away with uninspired ad copy. Get creative. Think about your audience.
Just because the new Facebook update rewrites the rules for employment, housing and credit companies, that doesn’t mean you won’t get amazing results with the platform. You just have to try a little harder. With a little effort, you may actually see your results improve.
Need a team to take your social media to the next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.