By Andrew Broadbent
If you listen to headlines about Facebook recently you may be wondering if it’s still a good place to run ads for your business. The Facebook privacy scandal that brought a ton negative press over the last month (and justly so), has already forced Facebook to change the way they handle and collect consumer information and data. This is now changing their advertising platform. And there are more changes to come.
But before you have panic attack and pull your company’s or clients’ ad budget, please stop and think. Just carefully adjust and adapt. Do not chop off a limb for god’s sake.
What is changing?
We, unfortunately, don’t have a crystal ball into what Facebook will do after Mr. Zuckerberg spends the next few months following up from the grilling he received from Congress in an election year. But here are the changes we have seen so far:
1. Shrinking audience size data
Depending on the targeting options you want to select, you now cannot see leading indicators. In this screenshot example, Facebook won’t show me audience size and potential reach:
This is a trend I’ve been seeing more and more of recently, and it looks like it’s been implemented quickly by the social media giant.
If you want to see just how rushed Facebook’s implementations are these days, check out their spelling of “available.”
What you should do — Think like a savvy marketer and know your audience. Use real, data-driven personas. Look at search data. Especially if you are an established brand or startup you should look at your own first-party CRM database contact lists, lookalikes, and dynamic audiences which are still available.
2. No more custom audience size
Facebook has removed custom audience metrics. So as advertisers, we can no longer see audience size, for example. That’s a nuisance!
We will probably be unable to see trailing indicators such as audience overlap and demographics, as well. There goes that metric. Hasta la vista!
What you should do — Shake your hands at the sky and scream “Why do you mock me!” That’s my only advice at the moment.
3. No more partner data
Currently, the data from partners like Experian is still there, but Facebook is going to remove it in the coming months. So options like this will become a thing of the past:
What you should do — Stop building campaigns based on partner data. It was nice while it lasted. Learn to use personas (yep, that again)
4. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are gone
Going forward, any app that’s using any API will require Facebook’s approval. So the Groups and Pages APIs must do things such as “benefit the group” as well as provide “useful services to our community.”
You can translate the meaning of that as “forget it.”
There may be one exception which is the Event API, which will no longer be able to access guest lists or post to event walls.
In January 2018, Facebook’s newsroom announced that the Instagram API Platform was on the way out. Now you most likely expect is to disappear even sooner.
What you should do — Don’t build apps as opt-in data harvesting tools. In the past, app developers like Zynga who built the Farmville game used opt-in’s to get access to a big audience and valuable data about their users. The APIs are going to be in flux for a while, and you may find yourself recoding, or losing data altogether. Again, use data-driven personas and search data to drive targeting across networks.
5. Call and text history is out
Messenger has convenience feature that also conveniently shares all of your Android call and SMS data (not content though). And as of right now, Facebook is purging all data that’s more than a year old.
Now they have not done it yet, but I suspect they will remove this feature sooner than later.
What you should do — If you are using SMS and call data to target and drive messenger bots and behavior, find another way before Facebook forces you to. Write smarter bots that learn and adjust intentions based on questions and language.
What’s not changing
Here are some things that won’t change.
1. Large Audience
According to Statista, as of January 2018, Facebook had 2.1 billion monthly active users (MAUs) — and it doesn’t seem they’re going away. To put this number in a different context, if all these users stood on each other heads, they would be approximately 367,400,000,000 centimeters tall, or to put it yet another way, Facebook’s audience is larger than 26 Jupiters stacked on top of each other!
Their closest competitor is YouTube, which has 1.5 billion users. After that comes WhatsApp (Facebook owned property) and Facebook messenger. And then there’s Instagram (Facebook owned as well) that comes in seventh with 800 million users. So give me a call when Facebook user stats drop below 1.5 billion. Until then, keep buying their ads across their network.
Facebook targeting is still damn near miraculous. I can target geography, demographics, industries, job titles, and interests.
I’m still sold on its benefits.
Finally, what we still don’t know
It’s the things we don’t know that hurt Facebook’s ad viability. Facebook will probably further reduce measurement and segmentation. Which could result in:
- Lost KPIs — Take away advertisers ability to track KPIs such as reach or frequency, then we can’t measure performance as well. That would make life harder for showing ROI.
- Anonymization — Removing most targeting methods would reduce Facebook to a second-rate programmatic network, at which point we would not be able to do much.
- Serious audience collapse — However, loss of users seems unlikely at the moment, but hey, anything is possible. Maybe 1 billion people who happily turn over a lifetime of data for a cheaper credit card might suddenly say enough is enough and abandon Facebook en masse.
So of course there is risk and uncertainty. This should not let this stop you, though. A uncertainty can be good for the soul.
Right now: Keep advertising on Facebook, but stay agile
Until advertisers know more, keep this in mind:
- Set your budgets for months, not years. Build in adjustments and re-assessment on a weekly basis so that you can roll with whatever Facebook throws at us.
- Do not segment based on Partner Categories anymore.
- Do not build bots that rely on integrated Android and messenger info. Find another way to integrate or simplify. At the moment Facebook has banned the creation of new messenger bots.
- Large brands can still target via client-provided CRM custom audiences and client + partner direct audiences.
- Create real personas and use those, instead of relying on a ton of exposed user data.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one ad basket. Check out Linkedin. Learn advanced targeting and remarketing options in Google Adwords. The hard lesson never depends on one single ad channel or worse a single feature on a single ad network.
But whatever you do though, do not panic. Continue advertising on one of the world’s largest networks. Your clients will thank you for it.