Facebook’s changing things up in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy. The social network is under more pressure than ever to take a stand on user data and privacy, and that means its making waves—waves that are going to affect how advertisers approach the Facebook platform.
There have been a lot of changes to Facebook over the past couple of weeks, but arguably the biggest change so far for advertisers at least is the removal of “Partner Categories.” The tool allows advertisers to tap into third-party data from partners like Acxiom and Experian to target users based on factors including buying behaviors, household demographics and so on. Needless to say, it's a pretty powerful and incredibly useful tool that advertisers can use to augment their own data short comings.
Facebook is not in a great place right now. Financially, the platform’s doing fine… better than fine. But outside of the dollars and cents, Facebook’s having trouble. What started as a series of measurement miscalculations evolved into the discovery that Facebook served a tool used by foreign entities to influence the voting populace in the most recent Presidential election. Now, the most recent revelation revealed that Cambridge Analytica misused user data in an effort to elect Donald Trump.
Needless to say, it’s been an onslaught of bad news for Facebook, and it already wasn’t doing well. Many of its users don’t like the platform, and it’s not viewed as trustworthy. In fact, trust has been cited as a primary factor for not using the platform. The recent news only justifies that feeling.
Facebook being for the olds has been an all too familiar narrative, and this week that narrative had no reason of going anywhere.
When Facebook Watch was announced the vision for it seemed to be a Facebook version of Netflix. High-quality, highly-produced content would make its way onto Facebook, and Facebook would emphasize destination content—content people would seek out and view.
Watch is an experiment, and as with any experiment, things change, and the first major changes to Watch appear to be underway.
The open web got a bit more open. Following Russian interference, Facebook’s doing what it can to make advertising on its platform more transparent in an effort to appease critics that the platform is too big, too powerful and in serious need of regulation.
Its latest step is making any ad running on Facebook viewable by anyone else. This is meant to bring dark posts out of the dark with a new “view ads” icon that will display on every advertiser’s Facebook Page. Anyone who clicks that icon will see any of the ads an advertiser is currently running. Facebook’s not alone. Twitter is taking a similar approach with its platform.
This is a marked shift by Facebook. Dark posts have traditionally played a pretty critical role for advertisers to test creative with a small group of users without it being seen by anyone else, as well as target specifically-tailored creative to different audience segments. Dark posts allowed advertisers to take a segmented approach to their advertising. Now, that ability isn’t going away. What is going away is the ability to do all of that in secret. That’s what’s happening to your brand, but it’s also what’s happening to the competition.
Ah, the Facebook Page. Brands loved them when they rolled out years ago, and why not? They offered a way for brands to recruit advocates and even customers with loose connections and communicate them for free on the Facebook platform. It was a dream come true, but as the marketing world is well aware, that panacea was short-lived. The algorithm kicked into gear, reach plummeted and pay-to-play became the law of the land.
That’s the danger of marketing on rented land. There’s eventually going to be trouble if it’s a platform worth being on because that platform will scale, monetization goals will demand being achieved and the rules for brands change.
The lesson has been learned by brands (for the most part). Organic reach is a fallacy. Now, publishers are starting to come to terms with that fact as well.