What are/were Facebook partner categories anyways?
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If you’re already doing Facebook ads in your business or in your job, chances are you might have already been using partner categories without knowing. Facebook launch the partners categories back in 2013 and with big succes for many businesses.
Facebook ended up with having more than 500 partner categories which offered the possibility to be very creative as a marketer, as well as be able to create very lucrative audiences to target.
Back in March we received this message, just as everybody else who advertise on Facebook:
However Facebook will still allow advertisers to target first-party audiences based on external data you have available, such as e-mail, CRM’s, CMS’s or other kind of data you have from your audience. However lets face it, the third party categories were more exciting and did bring a lot of interesting combinations in terms of targeting, by flex-targeting interests with different personas and income.
Depending on your social media presence and especially Facebook presence in terms of ROAS and revenue coming from Facebook, you might want to rethink your strategy to make it work with the new targeting changes.
But remember, this is even for every advertiser on Facebook, so everybody knows that everybody has to adapt, it’s not the end of the world (even though this might feel like it for some businesses).
In general, Facebook have divided their audience targeting into 2 categories.
First party ad targeting
Ads targeting based on informations Facebook have gathered from your behaviour, interactions, likes, interests etc. on the Facebook platform itself. Basically, informations such as demographical and geographical informations, as well as interests and your overall appearance and behaviour on Facebook (as well as messenger and Instagram).
Examples of first party ad targeting:
- Fitness & health
- Food & drinks
- Sports & outdoors
- Behaviours (on Facebook only)
- Device of use (mobile, desktop, tablet)
- Digital acitivies
- Purchases through Facebook
- More categories
- Personal care and home services
However as you can see in the orange box at the right, the targeting details and options still changes from region to region. Basically you’ll get the most detailed targeting options in the US, then the other big western countries and regions such as Canada, UK and Europe as well as Australia, and at last you will have the rest of the world such as South America, Asia etc.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t able to target people or businesses located in Mexico or India or any other country where people like to use Facebook, you just have less targeting possibilities to choose from.
Third party ad targeting (coming from other companies as mentioned below)
Third party ad targeting are coming from other companies Facebook work with, called partner categories. These informations have been very valuable to advertisers and marketers on Facebook, because they offer a lot of different targeting options, and a most of these have been very valuable as well.
The companies Facebook corporate with are the so called “data-mining” companies which gather a lot of different informations about consumers in general which they sell to Facebook (anonymously of course).
Basically third party ad targeting is targeting based of informations Facebook can buy elsewhere about the consumers, which you can then target on Facebook.
Example of third party ad targeting:
- Home owner
- Type of car brand you own
- Annual income
- Your general online purchase behaviour
- Likely investors
- Likely to move
- How many kids you have
The partner categories would look like the screenshot above, where the source says “partner categories” and you can see where the data actually comes from. As you can see, also up to 15% of you add spend could be going to the partners to cover data costs.
Data mining companies Facebook work with
- Australia: Acxiom, Experian, Greater Data, and Quantium
- Germany: Acxiom
- Japan: Acxiom and CCC
- France: Acxiom
- Brazil: Experian
- United Kingdom: Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle Data Cloud (formerly DLX)
- United States: Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud (formerly DLX), TransUnion, and WPP
Why did Facebook remove the partner categories?
Well, the most rational answer to that is because of the pretty major Cambridge analytical data scandal, as you probably know. As reported in The New York Times, The Verge and all other places around the globe, Facebook did misuse Facebook data of up to 50 million people.
Facebook want to increase their privacy of their users and give the users the ability to track and see their own data recorded / tracked by Facebook, as well as being able to delete it anytime they want.
If you want to look more into what the Facebook Cambridge data scandal is all about, check out the video below
Well, what to do now what targeting on Facebook?
When you run ads on Facebook you hopefully have the Facebook pixel installed, if not check out this guide on how to install it. It’s very useable and valuable data your missing out on if you don’t use use. Both for retargeting, LLA, custom audience, Facebook analytics etc.
Today people and businesses interact across multiple platforms and channels, online as well as offline. You’ll need to keep this in mind when you’re running ads to your audience, and how to optimize this correctly. Facebook have for a long time offered data called standard events from the Facebook pixel.
Standard events as well as app events and uploaded offline data, can be structured such as your ads deliver and behaviour in a specific way, depending on these different actions and interactions with different events.
Standard & Custom events from Facebook:
|Standard events||Custom conversions|
|Created by adding to the Facebook pixel base code.||No extra code required. Created in Ads Manager using URL rules.|
|Customized with parameters.||Customized with granular URL rules.|
|Aggregated reporting.||Separate reporting.|
|Compatible with dynamic product ads.||Not compatible with dynamic product ads.|
NOTE: Remember whenever you build a custom conversion off a URL containing “thank you”/ “order complete”, thinking this will only match yourwebsite.com/orders/thank-you which means you’ll get inaccurate numbers and data compared to standard events. If you used the purchase standard event that fires only when a purchase is definitely made, you’ll avoid errors.
Facebooks development team are starting to roll out new features for the events that the Facebook pixel are able to track and, which cover 8 new event types:
- Customize Product
- Find Location
- Start Trial
- Submit Application
The reason why Facebook are rolling out these new events is because they want to create more diversity for the event tracking and measurement of events, since there are a lot of different types of businesses running ads on Facebook. You’ll be able to access all of these events through your Facebook business manager when the Facebook pixel is installed correctly.
So you’ll get new event types to coordinate and try out for your campaigns, as well as optimization, since you can also optimize your campaigns for the new standard events.
Even though the partner categories are gone, you’ll still have the options of creating look-a-like audiences (LLA) as well as custom audiences, also based on the new standard events, which offer some more customization.
Partner categories are now a thing in the past, but will this destroy your business because of lack of targeting options?
Hopefully not. From a marketing and business related perspective it’s unfortunate that the partner categories are gone, but we keep advertise on Facebook, both for our own business but also our clients and partners, and it’s still a very profitable platform when optimized right.
Just think of the changing of audience targeting as one of the Facebook algorithm updates, and everyone has to adapt to it.
Please let me know what you think, how are you doing your Facebook ads targeting, what have changed and what works for you?