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June 4, 2019   |   5 min read

Facebook Updates Don't Have to Miss the Target

Alison Trickett   |   Chief Growth Officer
Julie Sablar   |   Director of Social Media

For more than a year now, Facebook has been rolling out updates to Facebook Ads Manager to ensure advertising is safe and civil. Targeting options have been removed in effort to protect people from discrimination. Later this year, Facebook will again make drastic changes to targeting options for ads serving the housing, employment, and credit industries (HEC ads) in the US. These ads help people buy new homes, find their next exciting career, and gain access to credit.

Here’s what we know directly from our account manager and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook:

  • Anyone who wants to run housing, employment, or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender, or ZIP code.
  • There will be a much smaller set of Interests targeting options to use in campaigns overall (the exact list is still to be determined). Facebook will also remove the ability to exclude Interests.
  • Multicultural affinity targeting will continue to be unavailable for these ads, which has yet to be clearly defined by Facebook.
  • Location targeting will cover a minimum 15-mile geographic radius.
  • Facebook will limit the creation of similar audiences (currently referred to as “Lookalike Audiences”) to only consider a more restricted list of factors.
  • Facebook is building a way for people to search for and view all housing ads in the U.S. targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether they are in the target audience.

While we have not been exclusively told this change will impact other industries, we speculate similar changes could be coming to highly regulated industries like healthcare, education, and insurance.

Changes call for a change of approach

Starting June 27, 2019 Facebook will be introducing these requirements in Ads Manager as an option to a small subset of advertisers. All advertisers targeting the US must comply with these restrictions when creating or editing housing, employment and credit ads by September 2019 in Ads Manager; and within all interfaces by the end of 2019 by the end of 2019, they will require all new ads related to housing, employment, and credit. As a marketer, you’re probably wondering how you can get ahead of these changes.

Here are three things we recommend doing immediately:

1. Get to know your customers beyond demographics.
Organizations who have surface-level information about their customers (i.e. age, gender, and location) will require a more well-rounded picture of who they are in detail, what motivates them, and how to most effectively connect with them.

For example, knowing your future home buyer is an avid gardener will help with messaging and photography options when showing off different homes. And since we know many customers trust the opinions of people like themselves, it could also open up opportunities to partner with gardening influencers for your next campaign.

Building customer personas is the best place to start. Personas clarify lifestyle drivers, buying habits, influences (ex. brands and services they are interacting with on a daily basis), spending habits, plus a lot more. Refresh your knowledge with our top five non-negotiables when creating personas. A deeper level of customer insights can unlock boundless new targeting ideas for you on Facebook.

How can you get these insights quickly? The tried-and-true way: grassroots research. Build polling features and question-specific content into your monthly social strategy right away to get a sense of your customers’ lifestyles, opinions, and general needs. Be specific when asking questions directly related to a targeting option. Don’t get discouraged, either. Creating and executing this content organically will note only a small percentage (typically under 5%) of your audience is being reached.

2. Embrace new ad formats and creative leaps.
Yes, some targeting options are going away. No, this is not the end of your social marketing success. If anything, it’s just the beginning. Have you been wanting to try new ad formats but had a hard time convincing those around you to take a risk? Now is a perfect time to start testing new ad formats before the changes officially roll out. Try exploring these top-to-bottom-of-the-funnel approaches that have worked for us:

Brand Awareness Ads: The driver of future revenue relies on your company’s brand reach and recall. Brand Awareness Ads help you reach more of the people who are not just likely to be interested in your ads, but those who will remember them. Ad formats are eye-catching and come in all kinds of formats (i.e video, carousels, Instant Experiences). While it may be tempting to dial back brand awareness ads in favor of more bottom-of-the-funnel approaches, the additional reach now will pay dividends down the road.

Lead Ads: Lead Ads make the lead generation process easy by allowing people to simply tap your ad and fill out a form without ever leaving Facebook. The form is already pre-populated with their Facebook contact information and can be sent directly to you (even better when it integrates with your CRM). If you rely heavily on obtaining leads from phone calls, you can also add a click-to-call option. Once someone completes a form, it allows them to call to start a conversation with just the tap of a button.

All this aside, we suggest you A/B test Lead Ads if you’re currently running lead conversion ads by driving people to a landing page with a form on your site. This way you’ll know which is performing better.

3. Retargeting strategies need a fresh perspective.
Facebook Pixel changed the game for targeting ads on the social platform. We suspect it will be untouched by new targeting changes. What is Facebook Pixel? It’s a code you place on your website that collects data and helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. By implementing this code into your website now, you have the ability to gather valuable user data from those visiting your website. Use it to analyze and retarget them based on their actions on a particular section or page of your site.

For example, if you offer multiple services but someone only visited one service on your site, you can retarget them for additional services and offerings. You could also follow up with differentiating content about the service they didn’t convert on.

Pixel audiences and strategy can be built by segmenting the content on your website to optimize users that land on the page. Doing so helps you gain more audiences to target, understand where you are losing them in the process, and even build content more effectively to drive them down the purchase funnel.

Take it even further by working with a partner agency that helps you access supplementary targeting information (i.e. credit card purchase data or TV consumption behavior). That data can then be uploaded to build audiences that more than likely will remain eligible for targeting via Facebook ads.

4. Email with tact, customer acquisition will follow. 
Many marketers have written email off as antiquated, but we hardly think this is the case. Email is still considered to be one of the biggest source of ROI for marketers and it heavily influences purchase decisions (source: HubSpot, 2019).

Since “Lookalike Audiences” (the ability to reach people similar to customers who’ve already interacted with your business) is going away on Facebook for HEC Ads, you will no longer be able to upload your email list in Facebook and target similar people. You can still target your current email list as it grows, but you won’t be able to build an audience similar to those currently on the list. An alternative option to gain the targeting insights is a strong email content strategy with current email subscribers that doesn’t annoy or oversaturate their inboxes.

Finding creative ways to attract customers to sign up for email should be a priority. Googling “email acquisition tactics” can be overwhelming. We recommend working with an expert to help develop a custom strategy for your business needs.

Still feeling the pressure of Facebook updates?

Our agency has helped countless organizations navigate Facebook’s near-constant stream of changes. Contact us for actionable ways to drive quick decision-making within your organization. Social is always evolving. We’re here to help you evolve with it.

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