Facebook Data & The Digital World

Unless you have been living under a rock, chances are you have been reading, hearing, and seeing Facebook all over the news in regards to privacy and its recent issues with Cambridge Analytica.

I am going to let you in on something. The truth about Facebook is: 

Yes! They absolutely are collecting data from you. 

It’s clear though, that many people — including lawmakers — questioning Facebook’s own Zuckerberg do not understand exactly what Facebook collects and how Facebook uses this data. The simplest answer to that is advertising. Zuckerberg confirmed it himself, time and time again. It's how they make money! Recode released a great recap article examining exactly how Facebook uses data, and debriefs Facebook’s updated Privacy Policy.

As a marketer/advertiser, the data Facebook holds proves to be invaluable in targeting relevant messages and ads to consumers. However, with privacy concerns at an all time high, Facebook has begun pulling back on marketers' ability to leverage some of this data.

What does this mean for advertisers?

At the end of March, it was announced that Facebook would discontinue offering a pretty standard ad feature called Partner Categories. They also announced that over the course of the next 6 months, they would be removing targeting capabilities that rely on consumer data from third party offline data providers such as Axciom, Oracle, Experian, Epsilon, etc.

Facebook currently enables access to third party data to use in conjunction with their first party data they collect from users, as well advertiser information from custom audiences (email, address lists, etc.) to allow advertisers the ability to hyper target ads.

Fortunately, access to other targeting methods such as demographics, interests, and Custom Audiences will not be affected.

Now what?

Leverage what you have access to.

One of Facebook’s most valuable targeting capabilities is their Custom Audience tool. This allows you to harness the power of your current customers in a few different ways:

  • Pixel-Based Retargeting. If you have a website (and in this century, as a business, you better!) you can create a Facebook pixel, and place that within the code of your site. This pixel will then track event activity and users, which you can utilize with Ad Sets. It also provides great analytics on conversions and sales, if that is something your company is monitoring and tracking (which again, as a business, you better!).
  • CRM Remarketing. If you have access to a formatted customer list, you can import this into your brand’s Facebook Audience tool and serve ads to these customers who have already agreed to be contacted by your business! This is a great way to support additional ad measures— especially direct mail and email — and get even more personal with the messaging with the added ability to layer on additional targeting.

Custom audience targeting, in all its forms, is a great way to serve relevant marketing messages to people who are already interested in and engaging with your brand. Layering on demographic information, as well as additional details about how your customers interacts with your brand and site, allows you to relay relevant messages based on what that audience truly needs and wants to see in an advertisement. Doing so results in a higher success rate of conversions when compared to a blanket message served to a general audience with little-to-no targeting. (How many times have you thought, "WHY AM I SEEING THIS AD!?" Not cool, right? Let's avoid that...)

Be aware though, that these targeting methods have their own hurdles right now while Facebook cracks down on privacy measures. 

For instance, within the last few weeks, Facebook has limited the amount of information you can glean from a Custom Audience (again, out of concern for privacy) and sometimes withhold a list's match rate. They also do not currently showcase reach estimates when building out ad groups utilizing Custom Audiences. This include anti-targeting tactics. Anti-targeting is when you suppress an audience group. (Side bar: Anti-targeting can be a great way to target a group of people who have not had previous engagement with your Facebook page, website, made a purchase etc. This allows you to seek out only potential new customers, and so much more!)

The Digital World beyond Facebook

Many of the Custom Audience tactics discussed above can be translated outside of Facebook, and executed throughout the web on other social platforms such as LinkedIn, as well as display and video efforts as well. Targeting in this way provides a well-rounded, multi touchpoint marketing approach that is effective and efficient when leveraging the power of the information you have at your finger tips.

For more information:


Laurie Busby runs the media and ad ops department at James & Matthew, overseeing the media process from inception to implementation, to optimization and reporting. In her spare time, she enjoys spending QT with her husband and two little girls, traveling, working out (currently obsessed with Pound, Zumba, and TRX!), and training for her first half marathon in Disney.