Over the past year, Facebook has come under a continued scrutiny for how it handles member data. Increased attention to how that data is gathered, as well as who has access to the data continues to be an ongoing issue for Facebook.
While the changes will increase user data privacy, it creates new challenges for marketers and advertisers who use Facebook for programmatic ad buys or other kinds of targeted marketing to get word out about their product of business.
For those who haven’t followed the story, the concerns over Facebok’s third-party data policies rose to a boil when news broke about a company called Cambridge Analytica. This multinational company was targeting Facebook users with political propaganda, with many accusing Facebook of turning a blind eye for profit.
Tightening digital privacy restrictions presents another factor for Facebook to deal with, as new user protection regulations will require social media to be much more transparent with how data is gathered and used by websites.
Whether or not those accusations are merited, Facebook’s public testimony in front of government panels in both the United States and Europe has placed an increased focus on how Facebook uses user data and the ways in which they work with third-party data providers that connect companies with customers for online marketing.
The most immediate change is that Facebook has made it a policy to no longer work with third-party data providers to offer their targeting segments directly on Facebook. While businesses may continue, on their own, to work with data providers, Facebook now requires any business using the platform for marketing to have necessary rights and permissions before they can use user data, based on terms laid out by Facebook.
This change was coupled with Facebook’s cancellation of their Partner Category program earlier in 2018. Due to some of the privacy issues brought to light, Facebook reevaluated giving access to certain ways that marketers could target an ad to a customer. A variety of interests, behavior and demographics were identified to no longer be made available to third-party marketers and data services.
Marketers have been left in the dark dealing with these changes. The goal of the digital marketer is reaching audiences with digital ads in the most cost-effective way. Being unable to filter by demographics, such as annual income, in order to more directly target the customers who will be most willing to engage with the ad makes that goal that much harder to achieve.
But it isn’t impossible. Savvy digital marketers know that they can take advantage of changes in social media by staying flexible. In the case of Facebook’s changed policy with third-party providers, that starts with revisiting where your company is getting their data.
Instead of relying on Facebook to provide customer sets based on third-party data, marketers can still work with third parties to find the same data that Facebook provided. While this extra step might be seen as a burden both in time and cost, companies benefit from being able to vet third-party data providers on their own and can more reliably expect that the third-party company is working for legitimate reasons.
Moving forward, establishing a direct relationship with the third-party data providers your company uses will be an ongoing necessity to make sure that your company is working within not only Facebook guidelines, but best practices for defending customer privacy.
Why rely on a third-party data company, though? Gathering first-party data can be done by creating specific landing pages in order to capture leads. Building a Facebook pixel into a landing page will help give you access to immediate information about your customers and can be the basis of a great lead generation initiative for your company.
Of course not every company has the ability to dedicate the time to gathering first-person data. Using a media buyer to develop your digital ad and marketing strategy can be the best of both worlds, maintaining a close connection to both first-party gathered data and the responsibility of how that data is being used. Plus, a media buyer brings a greater scope of knowledge to both marketplace trends and the experience to better analyze data.
While the cynic would suggest that issues of customer privacy will blow over as the headlines die down, addressing data use issues will certainly be the next evolutionary phase of the digital marketplace. Taking steps now to be in more control of how your company uses consumer data will not only make you a more effective marketer on Facebook, but prepare you for whatever changes come next for digital marketing.