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It’s safe to say that Facebook has had a very busy year.

If you’ve been following the headlines, you already know the social media giant was questioned by Congress over its data collection and sharing habits, and this interrogation led to some major policy overhauls. You might be wondering, “Do these changes affect my brand’s marketing strategy?” And the answer is: Definitely. Facebook is now making the user its top priority, and that means putting their data and privacy behind very closely guarded doors. As you might imagine, this means marketing must-haves, like targeted advertising, are getting rehashed to ensure the user has an uninterrupted, highly protected online experience. Now, this isn’t to say Facebook marketing is dead in the water by any means – quite the opposite, actually – it’s just that social media marketers need to know the paths Facebook favors in reaching target audiences. Ready to get to know The New Facebook? Keep on reading.

First, let’s talk privacy. On April 19th, 2018, Facebook unrolled an updated, 4,208-word privacy policy that more clearly outlines how Facebooks collects and uses data. The site notes that data can be collected any time a person uses one of Facebook’s “Products,” which essentially translates to any Facebook feature, like signing up for an account, creating and sharing content, and writing posts. Agreeing to Facebook’s privacy policy gives the social media site access to a lot of user information – the location of a device based on the nearest Wi-Fi access point or cell tower, what pages users are liking and following, hashtags, purchase history, communication logs – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Facebook’s privacy policy also highlights third-party partners, like advertisers, social analytics services, vendors, researchers and law enforcement, expressly stating how they use and disclose information. Advertisers, for example, are limited to performance reports that identify users based on general differentiators, like gender, age, location and interests, unless the user grants permission to share further information. In the past, Facebook made offline consumer data, like income level, credit scores and even loyalty card subscriptions, available to advertisers through their Partner Categories feature. Not anymore. Facebook confirmed that by October 1, 2018, Partner Categories will no longer exist and advertisers who rely on purchase-based targeting will have to find new ways to expand reach.

To shake things up even more, Facebook has evolved how advertisers can target audiences. Last year, the social media site removed the Education and Employer categories from its targeting options. This means that brands can no longer serve ads to audiences based on factors like what college they attended or their current job title. That said, Facebook still has several audience targeting demographics and interests available, such as location, age, gender, language and connections to Pages, apps or events.

Now that we’ve established the privacy policy guidelines, it’s time to talk about how these changes impact user experience. One of the most noticeable new features is the data and privacy tool shortcuts, located at the top of the Account Settings page. The redesigned menu gives users the ability to manage their information, including the advertisements they see. That’s right, users can now customize their Facebook advertisement experience to match their personal preferences and interests. By heading over to the Ads section under Settings, users can see the type of ads they’re likely to be served, the advertisers who have access to your contact info and general information about how data is collected. Once on this page, users can choose to alter, or even cancel, ads that appear during their Facebook experience. This heightened level of transparency is also present on Business Pages with the addition of the Info and Ads section. Whenever a user visits a brand’s Facebook page, they can see what ads are currently running in countries around the world.

As a response marketer, you may have already noticed that Facebook ads just aren’t getting the same amount of reach as they used to – and that’s intentional. In January 2018, Facebook updated its algorithm to ensure News Feeds were “more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation.” Translation: When it comes to selecting posts to put in the spotlight, Facebook will choose posts by friends and family over those created by brands. Facebook calls posts that receive lots of likes, comments and shares “Meaningful Interactions,” and these highly active posts take precedence over both public content and private content that gets less social traction.

If you’re starting to panic, don’t. There are ways to maximize social media ROI while staying within the new guidelines Facebook has outlined. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Focus on quality over quantity. As we previously mentioned, Facebook favors “meaningful” content that serves a purpose and spurs discussion. When you’re developing branded social media content, don’t just post to post – make sure the content educates, entertains or provides some sort of value to the core demographic you’re trying to reach.
  2. Sponsor posts. Losing favor with Facebook’s algorithm means that marketers need to put extra dollars toward visibility. Boosting posts is a great way to ensure your content gets seen by the widest audience possible.
  3. Experiment with new post types and ad placements. Facebook recently announced that they are testing ads in their Stories feature, which reaches 150 million people daily. These 15-second-or-less ads are designed to engage audiences with powerful, bite-sized content.
  4. Get creative. With Facebook safeguarding user data, advertisers need to carve out a new path to reaching consumers. Think creatively about your target demographic – their location, hobbies, age and gender – and use the resources you have at hand to get your ad in front of them.

In our highly digital world, the only constant is change. As social media platforms, like Facebook, continue to evolve, response marketers also need to adapt and greet these innovations head-on. For more information on developing response-driven social media marketing strategies, visit www.orangelabeladvertising.com/capabilities.

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