Many social media marketers are panicking due to the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. To save face in the light of the accusations, Facebook has majorly scaled back on some of their targeting abilities. Facebook will no longer allow third-party Partner Categories to aggregate data by user actions made off the platform.  

Though there weren’t any cases of abuse with Partner Categories, Facebook felt this was a needed preventative measure. The purpose behind this move is to protect the privacy and data of Facebook users. If Facebook can’t keep and maintain trust from their users, people will start leaving the platform and marketers won’t have anyone to serve ads to.

This is a potential hindrance for many industries, and not so much for others. Remember when Facebook took away job title targeting due to abuse? We had to realign our targeting efforts and we made it through.

What are Partner Categories?

As defined by Facebook, “Partner Categories are based on information provided by Facebook Marketing Partners with the Audience Data Provider specialty. These categories allow you to further refine your targeting based on information compiled by these partners, such as offline demographic and behavioral information like homeownership or purchase history.”

So, how does this affect targeting capabilities? Behavioral targeting data gathered outside of Facebook by these partners (likely to move, purchased an SUV within the past 6 months, etc.) will no longer be available as a targeting option.

Will this affect my Facebook Ads?

Short answer: It all depends.

Many marketers that heavily relied on access to this data are hesitant to continue to invest money in Facebook with the potential to see a significant decrease in performance. While marketers should never be completely reliant on any one tactic, Partner Categories took a lot of the legwork out of manually gathering census data and then trying to tie it into targeting.

What does this mean for marketers?

In a continuous effort to allow users to choose how they provide data to Facebook, taking out the middle man (in this instance, Partner Categories) will eliminate a possibility of data being gathered or used illegally.

Marketers will have to be more creative with how they do research and gather information about possible markets. Instead of relying on third-party data, marketers will have to experiment with the remaining detailed targeting options Facebook still provides.

How can we still see success with Facebook Ads?

To those in countries where Partner Categories weren’t available and to those that didn’t use this data to create audiences, you won’t be phased by these changes. To those that heavily relied on this data, you do have alternatives. If this data was the majority of your audience, you will need to focus more on user interests and actions on your website.

Before you completely jump ship, remember that there are still over 1 billion active daily users on Facebook.

Consider focusing on Interest Targeting. Interest Targeting is generated by actual user behavior on the platform, so it is a viable option for audience building.

If you already aren’t running retargeting ads, install the Facebook Pixel on your site so you can reconnect with these warm leads.

You can create Lookalike audiences to prospect further. You can create Lookalikes from email lists, Facebook page fans, website visitors, Facebook page engagements, anyone who clicked a call-to-action on your Facebook page, anyone who has interacted with previous ads, and more.

There are many other custom audience options available. While they don’t provide the same behavioral data, many brands still see measurable success with the custom audience options Facebook provides. Facebook still has and will continue to have plenty of (legal) data to effectively target your audiences. This change just means you’ll have to do what we do every day as marketers – adjust, conquer, and continue!