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How Facebook Partnerships Boost Custom Audience Targeting Options

Posted on 6.30.2013

:: By Lisa Cucinotta, Resolution Media ::


Facebook’s recently announced partnerships with data-gathering firms Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon, as well as the BlueKai data-management platform, makes its already-effective Custom Audience ad offering even better at pinpointing the right audience segments. Facebook advertisers can now leverage available data on users’ offline shopping habits, online consumption and other purchasing behaviors.

The net impact of these data partnerships will likely be more relevant and efficient social media advertising. Brands will also be better equipped to measure their Facebook activities and use them to improve sales.

These new targeting capabilities essentially level the playing field, providing companies of all sizes access to the same kinds of data big brands have been using for years to optimize email, direct mail and other digital media initiatives. Social media advertisers can now use more powerful targeting capabilities to reach and engage the audience segments that matter most to them.

Custom Audiences 101

Before making an effort to master the new capabilities, advertisers should first ensure they understand the basic Custom Audiences offering. With Custom Audiences, Facebook receives a list of consumer data from an advertiser and anonymously matches the individuals on the list to corresponding Facebook profiles via email addresses and/or phone numbers. A privacy and data-protection process called “hashing” is applied to help ensure Facebook users’ anonymity, but this essentially enables advertisers to reach their own designated audiences through Facebook ads. Advertisers can target Facebook ads to existing customers, loyalty club members, or any other pre-defined group or list of people within their house files.

New Functions

Facebook’s recently unveiled partnerships also provide new targeting capabilities within Custom Audiences. Brands can now access data relating to both offline purchases and previous shopping habits. Consider the following scenario:

• BlueKai’s cookie-based integration with Facebook enables brands to deliver ads to Custom Audiences, further targeted through cookie matching by using data that may have been stored over long periods. A car dealer could target those who visited its site a year ago and still demonstrate purchase intent.

Testing Required

Advertisers should test and experiment with Custom Audience capabilities to discover effective ways to win consumer attention and action. The following provides some practical ways to get started:

1) Use third-party data to discover Facebook users’ current interests. Many users do not consistently update their “interests” on Facebook. Now, third-party data enables marketers to target consumers who would not have been identified by Facebook’s native interest categories (for instance, an “auto intender” who isn’t a fan of any auto-related Facebook pages).

2) Reach larger pools of consumers. Before this update, Custom Audiences prevented brands from targeting consumers beyond their own lists and databases. Now, advertisers can engage with potential customers actively looking to make a purchase in a particular category.

3) Test new targeted ads in the news feed. Marketers should test their Custom Audience ads as Sponsored Stories and/or Page Posts, not just as Facebook Exchange (FBX) ads in the right rail. Newsfeed placement should garner better performance and higher engagement.

4) Keep talking to previous customers. Brands can remain engaged with customers who have made previous purchases and may value ongoing communication with the brand.

5) Test and monitor the promotion of content tied to keywords in search. With Google heavily weighting social signals as a ranking factor, advertisers may benefit from using these new capabilities to drive Likes and sharing of strategically identified, SEO-relevant pages/ content (e.g. a video). This can potentially boost natural search rankings.

Since shopping, consumption and purchasing behaviors are now available targeting options, brands of all sizes and verticals are empowered to offer the most relevant and efficient social media advertising seen to date.


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Lisa Cucinotta is the social media lead for Resolution Media. Lisa has more than eight years digital marketing experience and has spent the past six-plus years in agencies working with brands on their digital strategies. Before becoming the agency’s social lead, Lisa helped drive strategy on Pepsi’s search and social media business in the United States. Lisa has worked with more than 40 brands in her career, including clients in entertainment, finance, retail, non-profit, education, and more across search, social, affiliate, email prospecting and shopping portals.

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