Facebook interest targeting has proven to be a powerful tool for influencing audiences that are predisposed to a given message. That fact has made it a powerful tactic for advertisers across all categories, but bad actors in the political space are forcing Facebook to take major steps to address abuse.
Following news that Russian-linked ads on Facebook may have impacted the election, Facebook is flagging sensitive interests that could be used nefariously and manually reviewing ads. To alleviate the bottleneck that could result from de-automating the process, the company is adding over 1,000 employees and making them responsible for review and approval of sensitive material.
The manual review may lead to increased lead times for ad approvals resulting in some hand-wringing for non-political advertisers. However, those that adhere to best practices and steer clear of sensitive topics can drastically reduce the risk of disruption.
How to avoid disruption
Many advertisers don’t realize it, but Facebook interest targeting is a fluid and always-evolving landscape. The platform constantly identifies new interests and deletes underutilized ones to improve performance for advertisers and keep pace with consumer behavior.
Appnique has been proactively monitoring, ranking, and mapping affinity across the 600,000+ interests since 2013 and have learned a few lessons about what to expect when Facebook implements a change:
Updates tend to result in increased performance
Following a major refresh earlier this year, many in the space were wondering if interests were being de-prioritized in some way. Nearly 1/3 of Facebook’s Interests were deleted and despite evidence that pairing interest audiences with lookalikes was possibly the most effective tactic for app and brand advertisers, it was unclear what the company’s next steps would be.
When all was said and done, we looked at historical spend across all interests and found that the removed interest represented a small fraction which suggested an underutilization of those interests. By cleaning up interests that few advertisers were actually using, it improved the experience for all advertisers. A process was also put in place where advertisers could request interests be re-introduced.
This example is the most obvious among lots of changes over the years and illustrates a bigger point: while no change is completely without friction, Facebook acts swiftly to ensure a positive advertiser experience. We don’t expect anything different with their approach to clamping down on abuse.
Transparency goes a long way
Ultimately, Facebook will aim to precisely identify the interests and audiences that are most vulnerable to abuse for manual review. As they get closer to that goal, advertisers will be at less risk of having their campaigns affected. As that process is worked out, steering clear of interests that could be construed as sensitive should be avoided if possible.
If you don’t have a system in place to evaluate and analyze the interests that you are targeting against, or if your strategy is too rudimentary and not delivering the results you hope fore, consider adopting tools like the Appnique Interest Diagnostics tool to judge the performance and availability of interests.
Measuring and refreshing interests leads to success
To capture benefits of Facebook’s continuous optimization, advertisers must measure and refresh their targeting frequently. We recommend evaluating performance once a month at a minimum (weekly is better). To maximize success, focus on the following:
- Build and refresh targeting around key scenarios - we suggest building audiences based on behavior among your existing user base, lookalikes based on competitor, and targeting personas for best results. Analyze and refresh each ad set regularly to account for changes.
- Measure performance by interest, not collection – assessing performance by an entire group of interests in an ad set can lead to throwing out good interests with low performers. Instead, assess each interest and optimize accordingly.
- Expand on what works – Once you find an interest that works, it’s important to discover similar interests to broaden your audience without sacrificing relevance.
If you follow best practices above and have faith that any hiccups will be resolved as Facebook refines it’s approach, we fully expect your campaigns to remain healthy.