2018 is proving to be a year of change for Facebook with potentially more to come in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearings. These changes will be closely watched by businesses who have spent almost $12-billion on Facebook Advertising in the first quarter of 2018 (Facebook, Inc. 2018). Understanding how to reach potential customers as this landscape is updated or regulated will be crucial to running successful campaigns with Facebook Advertising. Let’s look at how Facebook has changed already this year and what should stay the same.
Less Organic Reach For Businesses
Mark Zuckerberg announced on Facebook on January 12 that ‘The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. […] you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.’ (Zuckerberg 2018a). While this change will have less of an impact on sponsored posts, it does mean that the likelihood of getting organic views in the News Feed would drop, as identified by Griffen (2018).
Limiting Targeted Advertising
Partner Categories was a feature that allowed advertisers to target quite specific audiences based on information gathered by third-parties apps and Facebook Marketing Partners. This included information ‘such as offline demographic and behavioral information like homeownership or purchase history’ (Facebook Business n.d.a). As of March 2018, this feature is being discontinued by Facebook, ‘while this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook’ (Facebook Newsroom 2018). The future of targeted advertising appears to be dependent on the customer information that business already have (or are willing to purchase outside of Facebook), particularly if users take advantage of the announcement in May 2018 that they can clear their browser history from Facebook’s database (Zuckerberg 2018b)
The potential regulation of Facebook advertising could also impact the ability for advertisers to target specific markets. In the US it is likely that is could vary across the country with legislation happening at a state, not national level (Purdy 2018). There is even a call from Dayen (2018) to ban targeted advertising completely. In Australia, there may not be any regulation changes until after the ACCC releases its final report on Facebook and Google advertising operations that is expected mid-2019 (AFP 2018).
Finding Customers on Facebook
What will still remain is the ability to reach customers who are already connected to your business and ‘Lookalike Audiences’ (Facebook Business n.d.b) through sponsored advertising. The ability for businesses to enhance the Facebook experience could prove the difference in the getting space on the News Feed. When examining user engagement across a range of social media platforms, Voorveld et al. (2018, p. 45) found that, specifically, Facebook ‘consumers used it to fill empty moments’ looking for ‘enjoyment, satisfaction, or relaxation’. An important feature for users is ‘social interaction’ and ‘advertisers aim for or have content suitable for sharing with others or about which users would like to communicate with others’ (Voorveld et al. 2018, p. 46).
AFP 2018, Facebook rejects Australia media calls for regulation, The Economic Times, 27 April, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/facebook-rejects-australia-media-calls-for-regulation/articleshow/63879442.cms>.
Dayen, D 2018, Ban Targeted Advertising, The New Republic, 10 April, viewed 27 April 2018, <https://newrepublic.com/article/147887/ban-targeted-advertising-facebook-google>.
Facebook, Inc 2018, Facebook Reports First Quarter 2018 Results, CISION PR Newswire, 25 April, viewed 27 April 2018, <https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/facebook-reports-first-quarter-2018-results-300636652.html>.
Facebook Business n.d.a, About Partner Categories, Facebook, Inc., viewed 27 April 2018, <https://www.facebook.com/business/help/298717656925097>.
Facebook Business n.d.b, Lookalike Audiences, Facebook, Inc., viewed 27 April 2018, <https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/facebook-ads-lookalike-audiences>.
Griffen, A 2018, Facebook News Feed: Why It Is Changing and What It Actually Means for Users, Independent, 12 January, viewed 27 April 2018, <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/facebook-news-feed-latest-why-change-users-fake-news-media-mark-zuckerberg-a8156491.html>.
Purdy, C 2018, If Facebook gets regulated, thank vegans, Quartz, 5 April, viewed 27 April 2018 <https://qz.com/1240903/regulating-technology-companies-like-facebook-will-depend-on-the-states/>.
Voorveld, H, Noort, G, Muntinga, D, & Bronner, F 2018, ‘Engagement with Social Media and Social Media Advertising: The Differentiating Role of Platform Type’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 47(1), pp.38-54.
Zuckerberg, M 2018a, One of our big focus areas for 2018 …, Facebook, 2 May, viewed 27 April 2018, <https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571>.
Zuckerberg, M 2018b, Today at our F8 conference I’m going to …, Facebook, 2 May, viewed 3 May 2018, <https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104899855107881>.