How to Cope with Facebook’s New Targeting Restrictions
If you follow business news at all, you know that Facebook has been having a tough couple of months. Several of my clients have had questions about this, so I thought I’d write something more substantial for those who are curious.

If you follow business news at all, you know that Facebook has been having a tough couple of months. Several of my clients have had questions about this, so I thought I’d write something more substantial for those who are curious.

Shortly after Mark Zuckerberg’s lengthy interrogation by the US Senate, most Facebook advertisers began to see this notification in their “Detailed Targeting” section.

Facebook Targeting Notice

Might be a coincidence, might be something else – who knows. Either way, all partner categories are being removed. Here are some of the things that we’re losing access to.

You Will No Longer Be Able to Target By:

  • Company Size
  • Industry
  • Level of Seniority in Company
  • Charitable Donation Classifications
  • Business Purchases
  • Clothing Purchase Habits
  • Purchase Types
  • Residential Profiles

And, the silver bullet.

  • Financial targeting (Income, Home Value, Net Worth, Liquid Assets, Etc.)

These are just a few of my least favorite upcoming changes, there are a lot more.

So, What Now?

We all knew it was a little bit creepy that Facebook had the ability to target us based off of our credit card purchases and other offline behavior, so I don’t think too many of us were that surprised at this change. With that said, if your strategy really depends on targeting these behaviors/demographics (as many of my clients do), this might be freaking you out.

All hope is not lost. Here are a few strategies that I’m going to be deploying for my clients, that may help you (or your clients) as well.

Solution 1: Reorganize Your Digital Funnel

So, Facebook took away your ability to target Company Size, Level of Seniority, and Industry. Guess what? LinkedIn didn’t.

You can no longer target past buyers of Men’s Accessories on Instagram, but you can certainly still appear in Google Search results for relevant keywords using SEO and Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords).

For some businesses, Facebook will now have to assume a lower position on your digital funnel, being used as a second or third exposure, once they’ve already been pushed to your website through another advertising channel. Just because you can’t directly target these behaviors, doesn’t mean that you can’t promote to them on Facebook. You just have to install a retargeting pixel and create a custom audience of your past website visitors.

Solution 2: Lookalike Audiences

Facebook allows advertisers to upload a list of “customers” to generate a lookalike audience that has similar traits to people who have “already made a purchase from your business.”

This won’t work for all businesses, but it REALLY works for some. This solution is great for you if any of the following apply:

  • You have a database of past customers/clients
  • You have a newsletter/MailChimp list of qualified readers
  • You have some other list of email addresses that belong to your target demographic.

Sounds great, right? Here’s the catch: Lookalike Audiences are a black box.

We have no idea what criteria Facebook is using to match these users to “similar” users. Does it work based off of age? Gender? Education? What about the targeting options that were taken away from us?

We don’t know, and we’ll likely never know. I asked my Facebook rep as much, she pretty much told me that it’s proprietary information, and we don’t know if the coming changes are going to affect the lookalike audience algorithm.

The only way to reliably test this solution will be on a case-by-case basis. You have to run a split test with a higher-level goal (conversions, leads, sales) and measure the difference in results between a few audiences. Don’t go too cheap on the split test, or you’ll end up making a wrong decision that will cost you far more in the long/medium-term. Make sure you’re getting a few goal completions and a hefty amount of impressions. I would test 3-4 audiences: your page followers, your website visitors, the lookalike, and some other audience as a control.

Solution 3: Buying Data from a 3rd Party Provider

If you don’t have the necessary customer list to implement Solution 2, just buy one! There are many companies that sell these lists, and they can be VERY targeted. Customer lists can get very pricey, so it’s important that you’re strategic with the ones that you purchase in both the number of records that you license, the licensing terms (some work on a CPM impressions basis, some on a per record basis, and other terms), and the way that you use these lists.

Solution 4: Target Indirectly

Targeting individuals directly by income isn’t an option anymore – but between zip codes, job titles, and education levels, you might be able to get pretty close.

You won’t be able to target people who have donated to animal welfare charities, but you CAN target vegans and vegetarians.

You can’t target leisure travelers anymore, but those who have recently visited Las Vegas or Orlando are still on the table.

You can’t target people who have spent money on home improvement, but you can target people who watch HGTV and live in upper-middle-class zip codes.

These are just a few simple examples, which will really need to be refined and experimented with, but you get the point.

Looking Forward

No matter how many solutions I give you, this change sucks – for now. My prediction is that within the next year Facebook restores our behavior targeting or offers something equally as powerful in exchange (maybe using data from the other apps it owns?) But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Hope you found this helpful!

– Max 

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Max Sher Marketing is a web design & development agency in Tucson, Arizona. Max founded this agency four years ago from his college dorm room, and the team has since grown to specialize in building high-converting websites for businesses and individuals.