Over the past few weeks, the news in the digital media world has been dominated by one primary focal point, Facebook. While having the spotlight can have its perks, Facebook has seen the negative aspects of overstepping their boundaries as a trusted company in its users’ eyes. The fallout from the findings over the past weeks will have an impact on Facebook, its users, and advertisers in the coming months.
An abridged version of what has been going on; the public has discovered that there was a misuse of the data that they were sharing on Facebook dating back to 2010. In the beginning, Facebook was aware of the data being shared and had their first fallout with its users in 2014. This was when it was discovered information about users and their friends was being passed to 3rd parties unbeknownst to users. By 2015, Facebook had made changes to the data 3rd party companies were able to access through personal accounts.
Unfortunately, despite the changes, the damage was already done. The data that was received by Cambridge Analytica was used for targeting in the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook has struck a nerve with many people who feel their privacy has been violated and are concerned about how their personal information could be used to find them in the future. The #DeleteFacebook Movement is now encouraging users to leave the platform permanently and has some big-name companies and celebrities at the forefront of the charge.
But, there are mixed feelings from the media whether there will be a large enough impact of the departing Facebookers to cause even a ripple in the daily flow of Mark Zuckerberg. What I find most interesting about the movement is people are taking to other social networks, and Facebook itself, to spread the word about #DeleteFacebook.
So, the outstanding question we are left with today is, “How will this impact advertisers?”.
Facebook has taken some immediate action since the Mark Zuckerberg interviews of last week. The biggest step the company is taking is to make users more aware of the data they are sharing. They have released a new privacy shortcut giving people the control of what information they are sharing and what the information means. They are also allowing people to get insights into what data they have already shared with the platform. People can opt into receiving ads based upon their interests as they browse the web, through the Audience Network, and based on pages they like and posts they share. Ads involving sensitive subjects (alcohol, parenting, and pets) will be available to opt-out of.
Additionally, Facebook will be removing audience reach insights when trafficking ads within the Ads Manager. Essentially, advertisers will no longer be able to boil down specific audience groupings to get an idea of how many people fall within these niche targeting options.
To be fair, this tool has always had issues and has been used more as a direction versus final word on the number of users within a defined audience. The other impact we will see as an agency is we will no longer be able to pull audience insights from a custom audience.
Previously, we had the ability to look at an audience built off pixel data or a hashed CRM file and use a Facebook provided tool that would give us insights to users that fell into that audience grouping. There was a minimum number of users that needed to be within an audience before pulling this data (i.e. we could not pull this for a list of ten people). The insights we could see would be things such as other interests, page likes, demographics, etc. At BMDi, we would use this mostly in a pre-sales process to glean any takeaways for a key target audience. This tool will still be available to see information about people who like your page and to get insights about Facebook users who fall into certain demographics.
Facebook made the first direct swing at advertisers and their targeting capabilities on 3/29. Over the next six months, Facebook is going to be removing the ability for advertisers to leverage third-party targeting solutions direct within Ads Manager. This means that the situation with Cambridge Analytica is going to be prohibited in the near future. Facebook, being a people based platform, will have standalone audience targeting still available.
What we will be losing is insights from partners like Experian and Acxiom who were able to layer on online and offline behaviors to find relevant users.This is the largest change we have seen so far and will impact the way that a majority of advertisers are currently finding new audiences within Facebook and Instagram for prospecting and branding/awareness campaigns.
It’s my opinion that there will likely be other actions Facebook will take in the near and distant future to help prevent a situation like this PR nightmare from happening again. Their immediate changes are putting more control into the users’ hands on what information they want to be sharing and to whom.
I think that Facebook and Instagram have proven to be a successful advertising mechanism for many clients. Because of this, what we have seen to date is most advertisers are going to hold onto their campaigns until there is a change in reach or performance.
In the past, Facebook advertising has allowed for the utmost flexibility in terms of testing new creative formats and targeting, as well as creating pathways to reach new and returning customers. However, for us at Blue Moon Digital as well as for our clients, the protection of the masses and their data is our number one priority.
The long-term effect of recent and future changes is still to come for advertisers as well as Facebook. As an agency, we plan to stay on top of all updates to the platform as we are made aware of them. We will continue to closely monitor all our active advertisers and industry news to ensure that there are no performance implications. In cases where action is needed, we are prepared to have discussions with Facebook and our clients on how to adjust campaigns moving forward.
While this is a shake-up for the advertising world, we are glad that there are additional steps being put in place to protect the people who are leveraging social media as an area to share their lives with their friends and family.
Afterall, Facebook is a platform where people connect and build a community to bring the world closer together.