What to Do When Facebook Takes Away Your Targeting

October 5, 2018, by , in Blog, no comments

Fall brings change – leaves start to tumble, pumpkin-flavored everything comes out, and Facebook updates something on the back end of its services. This Fall, aside from dodging hurricanes and tornados, we’ve watched as Facebook removed a surprising swath of targeting options from their online ad tools. The functionality of the tools themselves are still there, with all of the insights and campaign management features, but the actual targeting options have been gutted.


The TL:DR version of “why” comes down to the 2016 election and the large-scale ads used to target very, very specific groups and beliefs and behaviors, including the behavioral data misuse and theft by Cambridge Analytica. While those are the main reason for the pressure to make changes, it should be noted that behavioral targeting has always been a little under fire from consumer groups for as long as its been around (not that it ever stopped credit card companies, for example, from selling your every swipe to third parties).


But the hard truth is that these options are gone – so what is a marketer to do? Are Facebook ads worthless now?


What was removed?

Here are the Partner Categories that have been removed from Audience Insights and targeting:

  • Demographics
  • Household Income
  • Home Ownership
  • Household Size
  • Home Market Value
  • Spending Methods
  • Purchase Behavior
  • In Market for a Vehicle
  • Retail Spending
  • Financial
  • Income
  • Net Worth
  • Home
  • Home Type
  • Home Ownership
  • Home Value
  • Under Behaviors
  • Purchase Behavior


What’s left?

  • Facebook Demographics: Location, Age, Gender, Language, Education, Financial, Life Events, Parents, Relationship, Politics, Work
  • Facebook Behaviors: Mobile Users, Anniversary, Consumer Classification, Digital Activities, Expats, Multicultural Affinity, Purchase Behavior, Travel, etc.
  • Interest-based Targeting
  • Retargeting Capabilities
  • Engaged Users
  • …and carefully chosen correlating targeting that research can find for you

Oh No – What Now?

What Facebook essentially took away – from our more research-driven perspective – were shortcuts. There are still very clever ways to target the same people as you used to, only this time you’ll actually have to know them better so you can have that fine a point in targeting. We recommend really understanding your audiences with deep-dive listening that looks not just at the major channels, but the discreet forums and message boards as well, so you can see how your audiences really talk to one another, what real influence looks like, and learn key truths that inform all kinds of activities – including how to target.


Digital Ethnography: How We Listen

Social media is not simply for people or brands to interact, but also a place where listening can provide strategic and tactical benefits in understanding market behavior – and to the benefit of more than just future social media plans. We use actual human beings who understand behavior, to study audiences online on both major and discreet social channels to find useful, timely, and actionable insights that don’t come out in focus groups or surveys.


Message Testing: What We Do With Facebook Ads

By employing our HumanFilter Social Message Testing technique, Feedback quantifies and validates our digital ethnography research findings with hyper-targeted social ads, to reveal the most engaging messaging, themes and imagery, best locations, and responses of a client’s target audiences. This activity assists clients in making strategic, results-based marketing a true reality for their market growth and facilitate far higher returns on both digital and traditional ad spends – and conversion. It works with B2B and B2C industries and has had a dramatic effect in audience understanding and marketing effectiveness.


So How Did We Adapt?

The purge of targeting options didn’t make us miss a beat. Our message testing is as hands-on as our ethnographic research, so it just meant applying more of what we know to cross-reference and triangulate audiences. We’ve still been able to effectively test calls-to-action and pinpoint high quality audiences using Facebook’s advertising. We still prefer Facebook for our message testing playground, even without the shortcuts.


Listening Mattered Before, It Matters More Now

While those shortcuts were helpful, they were no replacement for reallyknowing your audience. Weathering changes like these is far easier when you have a sturdy foundation of audience knowledge before you go into placing that Facebook ad. In fact, before you place any ad anywhere – online or off. Our research goes far beyond Facebook, but the insights learned elsewhere can be easily applied into Facebook’s environment. What this change has truly changed is the effectiveness of hastily planned or executed campaigns to reach audiences with easy targeting. And while that’s a bummer for those folks, we wonder how well they knew their targets to begin with.

by: Dean Browell, Anna Faux, and Brittany Heare