Facebook Marketing: What's Changing, What's Not, & What To Do

Ian Lurie


Hold on a second.

The Facebook privacy quake has already forced the social network to change the way they handle and collect consumer data. That’s changing their advertising platform. And there’s more to come.

But before you freak out and pull your clients’ dollars, stop and think. Carefully. Adjust and adapt. Don’t lop off a limb.

Here’s what’s changing, what’s not, and what you should do:

What’s Changing

We don’t know what Facebook will do after Zuckerberg spends a week getting grilled by Congress in an election year. Here are the changes we’ve seen so far:

Shrinking Audience Size Data

Depending on targeting options you select, you can’t see leading indicators. In this example, Facebook won’t show me audience size and potential reach:

No More Audience Size. Damn You, Facebook

I see this more and more.

If you want to see just how rushed Facebook is right now, check out their spelling of “avaliable:”

Facebook Audience Size: Typo. Ouch

What to do. Think like a damned marketer and know your audience. Use real, data-driven personas. Look at search data. Look at your house list.

No More Custom Audience Size

Facebook removed custom audience metrics.

We can’t see custom audience size, for example. That’s annoying.

We probably won’t be able to see trailing indicators like audience overlap and demographics, either.

What to do. Shake your hands at the sky and scream “WHY DO YOU MOCK ME.”

No More Partner Data

Data from partners like Experian is still there, but Facebook is going to remove it in the coming months. So options like this will become a thing of the past:

Kiss this kind of data goodbye. Facebook's phasing it out

What To Do. Stop building campaigns based on partner data. It was nice while it lasted. Learn to use personas (yep, again).

Gone: APIs

Any app using any API will require Facebook approval. The Groups and Pages APIs must do things like “benefit the group” and provide “useful services to our community.”

That’s Facebook-speak for “forget it.”

The only exception is the Events API, which, which will no longer be able to access guest lists or post to event walls.

The Instagram API Platform was on the way out, anyway. Now, expect it to disappear that much sooner.

What to do: Don’t build apps as opt-in data harvesting tools. The APIs are going to be in flux for a while, and you may find yourself recoding, or losing data altogether. Again, use data-driven personas and search data to drive targeting across networks.

Gone: Call And Text History

Messenger has a convenience feature that conveniently shares all of your Android call and SMS data (not content). Right now, Facebook is purging data older than a year.

They haven’t done it yet, but I suspect they’ll remove this “feature.”

What to do. If you’re using SMS and call data to drive and target messenger bots and behavior, find another way before Facebook forces you to. Write smarter bots that learn and adjust intentions based on questions and language.

What’s Staying The Same

Here are some things that won’t change.

Big Audience

In January 2018, according to Statista Facebook had 2.1 billion active users.

If they all stood on each other’s heads, they’d be 367,400,000,000 cm high. Facebook’s audience is taller than 26 Jupiters stacked on each other!!!!

The closest competitor was YouTube, at 1.5 billion.

After that comes WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Of course, Facebook owns WhatsApp. And Instagram, which comes in 7th with 800 million users.

Call me when Facebook falls below 1.5 billion users. Until then, keep buying their ads.


Facebook targeting is still damn near miraculous. I can target geography, demographics, industries, job titles, and interests.

I’m sold.

What We Don’t Know

It’s the things we don’t know that hurt Facebook’s viability. Facebook will probably further reduce segmentation and measurement. That could result in:

  • Lost KPIs. Take away our ability to track KPIs like reach or frequency, and we can’t measure performance. That would make life difficult
  • Anonymization. Removing most targeting options would reduce Facebook to a second-rate programmatic network, at which point we wouldn’t be able to do much
  • Serious audience collapse. Unlikely, but you never know. Maybe 1 billion people who happily turn over a lifetime of data for cheaper credit might suddenly decide enough’s enough and abandon Facebook en masse

So yes, there’s uncertainty. Don’t let that stop you, though. A little uncertainty is good for the soul.

Right Now: Keep Advertising On Facebook, But, Stay Nimble

Until we know more:

  • Set budgets for months, not years. Build in adjustments and re-assessment on a weekly basis so that you can roll with whatever Facebook throws at us
  • Don’t segment based on Partner Categories
  • Don’t build bots that depend on integrated Android and Messenger data. Find another way to integrate, or simplify. Or use the integrations and hope for the best
  • Create real personas and use those, instead of relying on reams of exposed user data
  • Diversify. Look at LinkedIn. Learn advanced targeting and remarketing options in Adwords. The hard lesson here is never, ever depend on a single ad network or, even worse, a single feature on a single ad network
  • Start learning about the GDPR and preparing to comply. Don’t count on Facebook to do it for you.

Whatever you do, though, do not panic. Continue advertising on one of the world’s biggest networks. Your clients will thank you.

We’ll update this list as events warrant. If you see something new, leave it in the comments, and we’ll post that as an update, too. Or tweet changes to me at @portentint

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  1. The whole advertising landscape is going to change now. Instagram just recently blocked a lot of their API access to third parties. I can see other platforms following suit as more reactionary.. so they don’t have a scandal of their own.
    With Facebook still being relatively cheap (compared to others) to advertise its gonna take something drastic for most marketers to be deterred.

  2. Totally agree with this Ian. The media pubs out there are causing a lot of confusion and concern for brands/advertisers in regards to Facebook ads. This is still a great medium to advertise on and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. We are still able to target users by the information that FB collects by themselves without 3rd party data. Hopefully others will leave the market and lower CPC’s for us. đŸ™‚

  3. WE should never put all our marketing money in one basket as changes ALWAYS occur.
    This might be the time to focus a bit more on SEO and CRO so that when we do use FB ads they provide a much better ROI.

  4. It’s still a viable platform for lead generation and will be for a while still.
    The best piece of advice you’ve given here is “Think like a damned marketer and know your audience.”
    So many people forget to do that, which causes so many issues that could easily be prevented.

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