Performance Marketing Expert

Facebook Targeting After the Data Breach

Have you ever wondered if Facebook is listening to your conversations? The simple answer is that they are not. However, strategic digital marketers have leveraged widely available targeting techniques to ensure that you’re being delivered highly relevant advertisements. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, targeting in digital marketing (specifically social media) has become a hot-button issue with looming hurdles ahead. This post will discuss the basics of targeting, give a brief overview of the Cambridge Analytica data exchange, and share the changes coming to Facebook that will affect the current targeting strategies used by advertisers.

The Basics of Facebook Targeting
Delivering pertinent advertisements to the right consumer can save an advertiser money; ads are directed to those most likely to be interested in their products or services and excludes irrelevant audiences. On the flip side, it saves the consumer from seeing advertisements for products and services that they have no interest in. Targeting within Facebook includes three key audience types: Core Audiences, Custom Audiences, and Lookalike Audiences.

1. Core Audiences are constructed using three methods; demographic, interest, and behavioral targeting.

  • Demographics are used to find individuals based on age, location, gender, and other specific attributes.
  • Interest-based audiences target individuals based on pages they like or posts they’ve interacted with.
  • Behavioral targeting leverages third-party sources to gather offline data and purchasing behaviors to form segments that are more specific to the individual’s offline behavior.


These targeting methods can be layered together to create specific personas of individuals that make up an advertiser’s target audience.

2. Custom Audiences are audiences based on past and current customers. There are a few methods used to generate custom audiences: implementing a pixel, CRM custom audience, and behavior based.

  • The first, and most important for a company to utilize, is a Facebook implemented pixel which can track user activity on different pages of a company’s website. These pixels can be placed to utilize important steps throughout the marketing funnel, from product to purchase pages. Having pixels implemented throughout the entire consumer journey allows a company to leverage data and remarket to individuals more efficiently.
  • Another custom audience type is a CRM based custom audience, which is used to generate previous customers or lists of people who have submitted their email and information to a company.
  • The last custom audience is one based on individuals who like, comment, or engage with the advertiser’s Facebook or Instagram Page.


Similar to the core audience strategy, you can layer in different targeting methods and utilize both custom and core audience targeting options.

3. Lookalike Audiences are created from custom audience data pools that match key characteristics of current consumers to people who have similar interests. This presents an opportunity to reach a new audience segment. Lookalike Audiences are a fantastic way to reach people who would most likely be interested in your advertisement because they're similar to your existing customers. For example, a business can create a lookalike audience of individuals who follow or have engaged with their Facebook Business Page. That business would then be able to target similar individuals in a wider array based on matched characteristics and interests of the person who interacts or follows that Facebook Business Page.

The image below details how an advertiser can layer in targeting.

Layer audience targeting in Facebook Advertising

Cambridge Analytica Scandal
If you’ve been active on social media within the last few months, you have most likely heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that was focused on data mining and analytics. The firm gathered personal information from users for research purposes, which was legal at the time. However, they did not just use the information of the individuals who accepted the terms themselves, but also of their Facebook friends. This breach, along with the use of the data for profit by selling it to other entities, is where their actions became illegal and highly unethical. This turn of events has put the conversation about online data privacy at the forefront of our political sphere and the impact is becoming more apparent with every passing day. To see the status of your personal data on Facebook and whether or not it was breached, click here.

Facebook’s Response and Forthcoming Changes
This large breach not only affected data, but also created a widespread mistrust of social media platforms and their ability to properly secure personal data. In response, Facebook delivered a swift and proactive response to the concerns of many users. One of these changes was to crack down on the audiences created by third-party data providers. This third-party targeting is not used by every advertiser; however, many advertisers incorporate partner categories from third-party data providers in their targeting mix. For context, partner categories are audiences that third-party data providers create using data they’ve collected or purchased legally, and then put into Facebook for advertisers to incorporate into their targeting mix. These data providers supply partner categories in areas such as automotive shoppers, company size, business travelers, corporate executives, and many others. None of these data providers have done anything wrong and the data they’ve collected and shared with advertisers is housed in a secure manner. However, Facebook is attempting to thwart any potential issue that may arise from gathering third-party data from sources such as offline data and public records.

Although these changes are happening, there’s still time for advertisers to take proactive measures to ensure this doesn’t affect their strategy. On August 15th, advertisers will no longer be able to create, edit, or duplicate any partner categories. Advertisers will still be able to use these partner categories until October 1st, without the ability to make any changes to the audiences.

Another key feature that has been eliminated by Facebook in the wake of this scandal is the ability for advertisers to see estimated audience sizes for custom audiences. The removal of this feature makes budget planning more difficult and changes strategies from being proactive to reactive.

Opportunity for Creative Digital Marketers to Thrive
Although many of these changes from Facebook present new barriers for digital advertisers, it also paves the way for creative opportunities to target individuals. With the recent changes, it will become more important than ever to test new audiences in order to find alternatives to the elimination of partner categories and certain targeting details. One method could be creating more unique persona-based audiences based off data generated from your consumer demographics.

Diving into these data sets and analyzing which audience segments perform the best can give advertisers an advantage in leveraging data to generate strong results.

Another alternative to the elimination of partner categories is making sure your company is utilizing all social media platforms that are within scope of your business strategy. For example, a financial firm using Facebook Corporate Executives Partner Category will no longer be able to target this audience, but they may be able to capture this lost audience on LinkedIn. Utilizing a diverse mix of media platforms could be very beneficial to many companies.

Facebook will be rolling out an alternative to partner categories for third-party data providers, agencies, and companies. These marketers will have access to a Custom Audience Permission Tool, which will allow data providers to create custom audiences for targeting. This tool now places the responsibility and liability of utilizing and securing data on the data providers and advertisers. This link will take you to the agreement document that Facebook rolled out on May 25th, 2018. All will not be lost with these implemented changes, but those advertisers who get creative and take the time to test and learn will be the most successful.

To discuss your social media strategy and how these changes may impact your current plans, contact Rise today.

06/19/2018 at 06:41