Facebook Audience Targeting Changes: The Survival Guide

If you’ve advertised on Facebook in recent years, you’ve seen major changes, through rapid increase—then abrupt declination—of targeting options. As advertisers, we’ve known all along that reaching people based on otherwise intimate details was standard practice on our side of the screen, but Facebook users felt differently.

No matter if your monthly spend spans several thousands of dollars towards dozens of campaigns or you’re pushing out a few hundred dollars periodically throughout the month, no Facebook advertiser is exempt from the effects of these targeting changes.

So, what are these changes exactly?

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, Facebook started the process of eliminating all third-party targeting options provided by private marketing data companies. You’ve likely seen this warning message if you’ve tried to build new audiences lately:

Here’s a quick overview of these companies and the data they provided that’s now being removed:

  1. Acxiom: demographics, financials, job role, purchase history
  2. Datalogix (Oracle): auto, purchase category history, demographics, retail purchase history, subscription services
  3. Epsilon: business type, occupation, financials, lifestyle and interests, purchase history

When is this scheduled to happen?

The transition began back in May, with additional phases rolling out every few months.

As of October 1, all third-party data will be unavailable.

There are still a few months before the final phase, but it’s best to start preparing for this shift as soon as possible. Existing audiences with third-party targeting will be deemed unusable, so now is the time to start rebuilding your audiences!

Not sure where to start?

Luckily, Facebook offers a selection of targeting tools outside of these third-party options to make advertising on their platform effective. You can still reach your ideal customer, it just requires creativity.

  1. Interest Targeting: Interest targeting has been a part of Facebook advertising since the beginning, and it’s not going anywhere. It may not be as specific as the third-party data you’re used to using, but it’s still a way to reach your desired customers. Choose common interests that may relate to your product or service, whether directly or indirectly.
    • Pro Tip: If you’re unsure what your customers are interested in, utilize other digital tools (think: Google Analytics) to gather some ideas.
  2. Demographic Targeting: If you know your customers consist of a specific gender, age range or location, use that information to your advantage and eliminate reaching those less likely to convert.
  3. Facebook Engagement: Those audience members who are always the first to like your posts are also likely going to recommend your business to their network, so use them to your advantage. Build an audience around the people who already engage with your business page.
    • Friends of Friends: It’s not surprising that people tend to associate with like-minded people—set your audience targeting to include friends of followers, and continue to build your brand’s network.
  4. Email Lists: If you’ve managed to collect email addresses from existing or potential customers, you can still upload them into Facebook for ad targeting. This method tends to work best for B2C clients, as the email addresses need to be associated with a Facebook profile. It’s as easy as downloading the email addresses and uploading them into your Asset Library. For many companies, this may still be the best bet for doing direct marketing using the Facebook platform.
  5. App Users: Does your business have an app for customer use? If so, you’ve got yourself an additional method of targeting. Choose options as broad as reaching anyone who has opened your app, to as specific as custom segmentation ranging from device type, action, demographic and more.
  6. Pixel Audiences (aka Remarketing): Reach anyone who has visited your website. If you don’t already have a Facebook Pixel coded into your website, there’s no better time than now to get one implemented. Target site visitors based on specific pages they’ve viewed, how much time they’ve spent on your site, and any combination of the two. Your pixel audiences are your most accurate targeting breakdown — you’re reaching the people who have already expressed an interest in your business; so you’re just keeping your brand top-of-mind.
  7. Lookalike Audiences: Once you’ve captured your website’s audience via the Facebook pixel, you can create a Lookalike audience based on commonalities between those audience members.

Other opportunities to get the most from your Facebook ads

Targeting is a key factor in your ads’ success, but it’s just the beginning. Here are a few other opportunities you can take to ensure your ads perform their best:

  1. A/B (and sometimes /C) Testing: The best way to know if your ad is performing optimally is to run it alongside one or two variants. Facebook offers A/B testing options when setting up your campaign, so experimenting is an easy way to find the best combination of content and creative for your ads.
  2. Automatic Bidding: As an advertiser or business owner, we don’t often find ourselves with the necessary downtime to make frequent, manual bidding adjustments on our ads. Automatic bidding eliminates the burden and makes the adjustments on our behalf to ensure the best performing ads are prioritized in ad rotation.
  3. Dynamic Ads: Facebook takes remarketing (remember that pixel?) to the next level with dynamic ads by showing your audiences the specific products they’ve recently viewed. With the use of a simple ad template and a catalog of your products saved to your Asset Library, you can keep your products top-of-mind.

The loss of third-party targeting options makes advertising on Facebook more challenging, but we’re not without hope. By combining old and new targeting tactics, we’re able to find new and creative ways to reach our ideal customer.

Still not sure how to survive the new wave of Facebook changes? We understand completely. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us.