Is Facebook’s latest user tool the end of targeted advertising?
Seth Godin has talked recently about the fallacy of “reach.” His point is that we shouldn’t run ads on the platforms that have the biggest or the most reach (Google, the Super Bowl). Why would you want to reach more people while spending more money? Remember: If you are speaking to everyone, you are speaking to no one.
It makes much more sense to spend money to reach the right people.
We should be willing to pay more to reach a super-targeted audience to meaningfully connect and create relationships that benefit both the customer and the purveyor.
If you and I have been e-friends for long, you know how much I love the ability to strategically target ideal client personas on Facebook.
We’re able to do this, in part, because of the offline data they collect via the Facebook pixel. The little snippet of code you install on your website to track visitors and re-target them with ads on Facebook and Instagram. That’s why if you shop online for a mattress (Caspar, DreamCloud, etc.) you immediately begin to see their ads scroll through your newsfeed.
You may be using this snippet of code on your website. I have certainly encouraged you to do so.
Here’s a great, current example of how this code and social media advertising are working for the greater good:
I am currently running ads for a community event (pet rescue) at a yoga studio in Texas.
Each time we have run ads for this event, the registrations have steadily increased. This is because I am able to target people in the local area, in a specific age range, that like yoga AND the Humane Society, or yoga AND the ASPCA, or yoga AND rescue pets. This helps narrow my audience to those most likely to attend.
I can do this because Facebook has user info based on sites visited, apps used, and pages liked.
The people who are most likely to be interested in this event get to hear about it and possibly register if they are so inclined. The yoga studio gets to give back to the community in a different way, rescued pets have the possibility of being adopted at the event, and the animal shelter gets 100% of the proceeds.
With social media ads and the targeting strategies available, I can reach people I would not be able to get to otherwise, for a very affordable price. It’s much less costly than radio, print, billboards, or trying to hang flyers everywhere.
This is an example of how we use marketing/social media for good.
Enter: The new Clear History tool.
Facebook announced this tool last year and has pushed back the release date a time or two. It seems it is now about to come to fruition, and they are preparing advertisers, their primary source of income, for the impact.
“The Clear History feature is designed to deliver more transparency for users, showing them a list of the apps and websites they have visited that employ Facebook business tools like the Facebook Pixel, SDK and API.” -Amy Gesenhues, MarketingLand
You and I, as general users, will be able to clear our history just like you do in your internet browsers. While this may seem like a great thing, this does not mean we will no longer see ads. It simply means we won’t see ads specifically from websites we have visited or apps we have used. This means it’s highly likely the ads we do see will not be relevant to us, making our user experience less valuable. That’s part 1.
Part 2 is that, according to Facebook:
“This feature may impact targeting. When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won’t use the data they clear for targeting. This means that targeting options powered by Facebook’s business tools, like the Facebook pixel, can’t be used to reach someone with ads. This includes Custom Audiences built from visitors to websites or apps. Businesses should keep this in mind when developing strategies for these kinds of campaigns in the second half of the year and beyond.”
I think this is a PR move and not a win-win for either party involved, the user or the advertiser. But alas, they didn’t ask me so here it is.
If you use the Facebook pixel to re-target warm audiences on Facebook, here’s what I suggest you focus on for the 2nd half of the year (and beyond because this tool is not likely to be revoked):
1. Building your email list. You should be doing this anyway, but it will be more crucial now than ever. Why? Because you can upload this list to Facebook and re-target them. It’s actually even better than re-targeting website visitors or app users.
2. Utilize the embed feature for Facebook videos. Once you upload a video to Facebook or go live on your page, you can embed the video on your website. Facebook tracks video views, and you can re-target viewers, via a custom audience, on Facebook. The video will be placed just like those embedded YouTube videos.
But remember the only way the pixel info can’t re-target website visitors, or app users is if people actually use the Clear History feature. And honestly, most people won’t.
Maybe this isn’t true for you, but I have bought things I really like by clicking on a Facebook ad. Many, many times. Instagram too. I’ve seen things I would never have seen if it hadn’t been for targeted advertisements. And yes, they can get annoying. But ads aren’t going anywhere, even with data privacy challenges and user tools like “clear history.”
Clearing your history won’t necessarily enhance your Facebook experience, nor will it protect your privacy. Your data and info are scattered all over the web (in much more detail than anything Facebook knows about you) in a way that is now inextricable to daily life.
Our job as marketers is not to interrupt people with info they don’t care about. Our job is to meaningfully connect with people who share our worldview. How do you find them? Using data. Data acquired in a fair manner, mind you.