From brand managers to analysts, everyone hears, sees, and reads about how targeting a digital ad to a specific audience is essential for marketing success. In the process of hearing that message, marketers are contemplating how to better manage where ad messages are being seen. Doing so helps protect a brand from poor communication with intended customers.
As Facebook addresses its privacy challenges, managers with a considerable ad budget devoted to the platform are looking for the best ways to provide relevant ads, while minimizing the impact of the influence of changes Facebook is making.
Facebook’s recent settlement of a discrimination suit with ACLU is an example of something which can provoke such changes. The company settled the claim that its ad system would allegedly allow employment ads to exclude job seekers by race and age, creating a potential breach of US employment discrimination laws. At the heart of the issue is the ad filter which permits the user to set parameters regarding the age, location, and personal interests of the intended ad audience. In settling the suit, Facebook has made a number of changes including creating a portal at its ad manager to educate users on how an ad can inadvertently discriminate against a consumer.
Segmentation settings are a standard in digital advertising, but as marketing becomes more ubiquitous, real world challenges such as housing discrimination might emerge.
For marketers invested in Facebook, other ad delivery features are available to deliver ads to new audiences while minimizing the risk of real world challenges. One option is to apply Lookalike Audiences, a filter setting in the Facebook Ad manager that displays ads to potential customers who demonstrated similar interests to a selected audience. These audiences are a safer bet to draw new customers because their interests complement an audience that the advertiser already knows.
The math behind Lookalike Audiences comes from how Facebook analyzes consumer activity, detected from properties that contain the Facebook pixel a — script that captures data related to those interactions on websites, apps, and at offline events. The pixel then assigns a relative value to each customer based on the customer’s previous activity and profile. When the Lookalike Audience filter is applied — selected in a drop down menu after the user sets gender, age range, interest, and location — the pixel’s scoring is added to the ad campaign as a factor to show to Facebook users who have the share value in the same order as the scoring.
So how should marketers leverage the lookalike audience feature? Great choices are possible through creating an audience list where customers have bought into a product or service. Building a lookalike audience strategy based on newsletter subscribers, for example, is a low-effort way of getting better customer engagement from an audience that would have likely signed up for that newsletter. Moreover, presenting a message will not likely be perceived as an intrusion – a key sentiment Facebook is looking to help marketers avoid. Marketers can then change the copy message theme of products and services to meet the email segment being used in the Lookalike Audience campaign.
Marketers should keep in mind that segments planned for a Lookalike Audience filter work best for customers that gave permission to receive marketing — usually that permission comes from a specific medium, such as the newsletter email example. An opt out process must exist — if someone wants to opts out of the sources of your campaign, that means you will need to ensure that the person is removed from consideration of that audience filter, too.
Facebook has the most compelling advantage among social media platforms in offering this feature — its user size. But other social media platforms are developing their own variation of lookalike audiences. LinkedIn, in fact, announced a version of the lookalike audience to compliment its recent digital advertising features. The increased capability means LinkedIn could target an audience by industry with better refinement than Facebook, an advantage for B2B firms with non consumer-facing services and commercial products.
With Facebook making critical changes to its advertising and content feed features, it can be hard to know what errors to avoid when advertising on the platform. But Lookalike Audiences can be a potential strategy in creating more empathic — and less problematic — campaigns when advertising on Facebook.