What Facebook’s Changes to Audience Data Means for Advertisers

As Facebook works to regain public trust, they’ve begun rolling out changes to how advertisers can leverage data within the Facebook advertising ecosystem.

The first change to take place is their phased removal of Partner Categories, which will occur over the next six months. The previous program let advertisers use pre-built audience segments inside Facebook that were created by data platforms such as Experian and Acxiom. The new change is that Facebook will no longer allow these companies to populate these audience segments inside the Facebook ad platform targeting. Instead, the advertiser must use Facebook’s targeting segments or import in their own data through “Custom Audiences”.

Facebook acknowledges that using third party data sets from companies like Acxiom and Experian is a common practice in their March 28th announcement, but they’ll be shutting them down as a step towards greater privacy compliance. For interesting take on this move, read John Battelle’s post “Facebook: Tear Down This Wall”.

The second change, which has not taken effect yet and is still undefined by Facebook, concerns the Custom Audiences mentioned above. The best indication we have of Facebook’s upcoming direction is their new Custom Audience terms, which go into effect on May 25th. These new terms still allow the uploading of data as custom audiences, as long as:

  • The data is opted-in for use, and the advertiser/agency confirms that prior to upload. This has always been the case, with Facebook expected to make this more prominent in the future.
  • An advertiser or agency uploads the data directly to the advertiser’s own account.
  • The advertiser can no longer transfer custom audiences to other accounts.

While the exact mechanics of how Facebook will roll out changes to “Custom Audiences” remain unclear, it looks like they do plan to continue offering advertisers the ability to upload opted-in data for use in custom audiences.