More Facebook Changes and Opportunities for Publishers

Facebook has been under serious scrutiny lately as more is revealed about Cambridge Analytica’s use of the social networks’ user information.  Cambridge Analytica, a third party data brokerage firm, is being held responsible for targeting political advertising on Facebook based on user data. Since the revelation, Facebook has lost stock value, many users are deleting their accounts, Mark Zuckerberg has been in closed door meetings to help determine the networks’ next moves and he will be testifying before Congress. Not to mention he’s taking shade from Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, claiming that Facebook cannot possibly be putting the needs of the consumer first when the consumer is the product they are selling.

Last week, Facebook pulled back on its relationships with data brokers. I think this change could be a huge opportunity for publishers.

What Exactly Did Facebook Do?

Facebook is shutting down its Partner Categories program where brands use third-party data to deliver ads to highly specific groups of people. Partner Categories, which pulled from data aggregator partnerships with companies like Epsilon and Acxiom, allowed advertisers to target customers based on behavior that happened outside Facebook. It’s the reason you can target cat owners in the Bay Area who make more than $100,000 a year.

Where is all that data coming from? Grocery store loyalty cards, warranty purchases, you name it. Your data is auctioned off to the highest bidder and it is then used to sell products to you. And marketers are now trained to think about targeting their desired audiences in this exact fashion.

Will Facebook’s Changes Affect Ad Buyers?

This move may have accelerated publishing companies’ ability to sell hard against Facebook, especially in the categories who were relying on this data. Some news outlets have reported that some categories will be more affected than others—such as entertainment companies, retail or consumer packaged goods, and automotive. Small and local businesses are also most likely relying on Facebook advertising to reach their exact target customer.

What’s the Opportunity for Publishers?

What can publishers do? Know their audience in a way that allows them to serve up targeted segments to their clients. Ad buyers have become spoiled with a certain level of highly specific data. Are you ready to swoop in and tell your clients exactly what kind targeting YOU can provide?

Here’s how you can help clients with ad targeting:

  1. Clients will look to work with companies who are 1st party data collectors so learn how to gather first party data like crazy. Use forms, run contests, send surveys, and capture social interactions. It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it. You can even monetize your efforts to gather first party data by allowing sponsors to participate in your contests.

  2. What causes your users to click? Monitor and gather user behavior to make assumptions. Is someone always looking at and clicking on your family content? Your bars content? Your content about a certain industry? This information can inform your assumptions about future user behavior. It will also help you know your audience better. Win-win.

  3. Look at appending some of this data to your files yourself. Facebook is trying to save face (pun intended) by eliminating its partnership with some of these data firms. That doesn’t mean you can’t tap into the data warehouses to learn a little more about your audience. Consider an append effort with the data companies or work with an agency who is doing that too.

Gathering data on your audience doesn’t have to be evil, just use it wisely. Use it respectfully.  Use it to improve your product and better understand your audience. Never share your audiences’ data with clients directly and certainly never share it without your audiences’ permission.