What’s Changed for Facebook Ads’ Interests Categories

Kongo - Inbound Team
Kongo - Inbound Team

Chances are, you’re already aware of Facebook’s recent controversy surrounding the use of third party data and how this has been used to unethically influence people across the platform. These revelations raised a whole host of questions and concerns around how users’ personal data is being used by advertisers.

The result of this is that Facebook has now taken steps towards improving their users’ privacy, and have decided to shut down the ‘Partner Categories’ product within their ad platform. Until these changes began taking effect in May, third party companies were able to supplement advertisers with data useful for creating very targeted audiences for a campaign hosted on Facebook.

This type of data was not collected on the Facebook platform or through an advertisers own customer data, and was more along the lines of income, home ownership, shopping behaviour, if you’re in the market for a new car and non social media activity. These companies were able to pull data from a variety of sources and sell it on to Facebook, allowing them to offer niche categories within the audience builder.

So what’s changing?

Within Facebook’s ad manager, advertisers have, for some time, been able to create targeted audiences using several data sources to build a segment. These include information pulled from a Facebook profile such as interests, likes and profile details, geographical locations and data related to the advertiser such as their own website visitors, collected email contacts and people who’ve engaged with their social media content. Partner Categories, made up using the data from third party companies, were then also used to fill in the blanks, and supply information which wasn’t necessarily provided online. Although stripping away these Partner Categories was initially a shock to the ad world and small businesses who have relied on access to this type of data to effectively market their products, there is still plenty to gain from the remaining tools in Facebook’s ad manager. The ‘interests’ categories will still draw upon data available to Facebook, based on a user’s likes and interactions on the platform.

The changes offer a chance to get creative with your ad targeting and take a slightly different approach to reaching the right audience for your campaign. By digging deeper into the tools already on offer, you can turn casual visitors and existing leads into loyal customers for your company or product.

The Facebook Pixel, for example, is a great way to retarget your own website visitors after they have left your site, ensuring you stay in their mind and lead them back to your content. From this, you can then create a lookalike audience to find similar Facebook users which will allow you to expand your reach.

So, if you’re able to attract potential customers to your website or to engage with your content using inbound marketing methods, you can start nurturing these leads before they make a purchase, sign up to your newsletter or ‘like’ your page, reinforcing your brand by adding them into your custom audience and retargeting them through advertising.

If you’re still running campaigns based on audiences created before these changes, it’s worth starting to experiment with new segments so that you’re not relying on phased out partner categories. As always, digital marketers will no doubt quickly adapt to these changes and achieve the best possible results by being resourceful in the pursuit of incremental gain.