Facebook Changes and the Impact on Higher Education Advertising

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 13, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

By now you’ve probably seen the breaking news, read the panicked blog posts, and felt the overall feeling of anxiety as new changes are happening on Facebook almost daily. But what is changing, and how will these updates affect higher education advertising? There’s a lot of misinformation being spread about these changes, so we’re here to set the record straight!

Spoiler alert: there is going to be minimal impact to the advertising platform and offerings, and any changes that are being made are ultimately going to do more to protect Facebook users, which in turn will restore trust in the platform and keep users from abandoning Facebook for other social networks.

What’s changing?

Facebook’s Custom Audience size data has been removed

In order to better protect users’ email data, Facebook no longer reports back to the advertiser on how many emails match to users in the platform when they upload a custom list. As an agency specializing in higher education digital marketing, we already have best practices around the size of email lists our clients need to run a successful campaign. While it was nice to get confirmation that our email lists were matching at the rate we were expecting, we continue to be actively monitoring, optimizing, and adjusting these list-based campaigns, just like we were before this change was rolled out. We have not seen any negative impact to active campaigns by the removal of this data!

Third-party Partner Categories data will become restricted starting at the end of May

Facebook has begun the process of phasing out their third-party data that feeds into the platform from their official marketing partners. This enhanced data allowed advertisers to layer on additional targeting parameters that home in on users’ offline demographic and behavioral information, like new home purchases or the types of charitable donations they make. Luckily, most of this third-party data did not include the type of targeting we use to find prospective students and their families. Since Facebook has other ways of targeting beyond these Partner Categories, there’s no need to worry that we won’t be able to refine the audience to make sure we’re showing the right ad to the right person.

Advertisers will be required to reaffirm they’re using personal data appropriately

This is still in the very early stages of development with no rollout date, but Facebook is working on a new “certification” tool that will ensure advertisers are only using user data when there is explicit consent from a user. This adds an additional safeguard to ensure that data is being used properly for advertising purposes—a major concern that has prompted many of the recent Facebook changes. Having user permission has always been a standard for our higher education clients, but it never hurts to take another look at your institution’s privacy policy statements to ensure that social media advertising is explicitly covered.

Users have more control over their Facebook data

Facebook is actively revamping their platform to make it easier for users to find out which data on their Facebook profile is public and/or is being used for ad targeting. But this doesn’t mean people are going to stop sharing content, liking pages, or engaging with our ads anymore. All it means is that users will feel more aware and in control of their own information, making them feel more confident they’re receiving the right types of ads when they appear in their feeds.

So, what isn’t changing?

Custom Audiences

For whatever reason, there are a lot of rumors in the media world that Facebook is removing Custom Audiences completely. This is 100% untrue! As stated above, there was a minor change that happened to Custom Audiences a couple of weeks ago, but even that hasn’t had any significant impact on active campaigns. Rest assured, you’ll continue to be able to use Custom Audiences as a targeting option on Facebook.

Look-Alike Audiences

I’m not sure how this rumor started either, but we have confirmation from our Facebook representative that Look-Alike Audiences will continue to serve as a major resource for advertisers.

Overall number of Facebook users

Despite the influx in people claiming they’re going to #DeleteFacebook, it’s still the biggest social media platform around the globe. According to January 2018 data from Statista, Facebook has over two billion active users. Even if 10% of users stop using Facebook, that leaves 1.8 billion users to send your ads to.

The moral of the story here is, yes, Facebook is making a lot of good changes to their platform to better protect the end user, but nothing is happening that warrants a drastic shift in your college or university’s Facebook strategy. After all, this is social media, and something new will always be happening in this digital space.


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