Facebook started in February of 2004 and began selling simple sidebar banner ads for small companies, such as PartyPoker.com and Cutco knives. Today, Facebook is estimated to be a $40 billion advertising market, with more than 2 billion monthly active users. By any measure, the rise of Facebook is a great success story. Yet, success may have caught up with the social media giant as it now finds itself under a global microscope, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal.
To recap what happened, Cambridge Analytica is a privately held company that combines data mining and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was created in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics. And apparently, participate they did. It is now widely known a company working for Cambridge Analytica pulled the personal data of 50 million people from Facebook, in an attempt to interfere with or influence the 2016 presidential election, clearly making it more than your average data privacy scandal.
The scandal evolved into a national security issue and has earned headlines—online and off. It’s a huge story, to be sure. Now, perhaps for the first time, people are beginning to understand how much of their personal data Facebook collects and makes available to others.
Ergo, Facebook’s proactive decision to shut down its Partner Categories advertising program. This program, unknown by most Facebook users, is the platform’s ad option for targeting users based on data points provided by third-party vendors, such as Acxiom and Experian. Facebook sought a responsible way to get in front of the scandal and to show it is making policy changes designed to help protect user data.
So, what does the loss of Partner Categories mean to your dealership’s digital marketing efforts?
Speaking on behalf of Client Command, we don’t use third-party data when targeting on Facebook. It’s something that we’ve tested, but do not rely on for day to day targeting. If you’re one of our clients, you should not notice any changes to your digital marketing campaigns or results. Our primary source is our own data as well as data provided by both Facebook and our clients; we’ve found these sources to be more reliable and accurate.
However, we can’t speak to how other data vendors utilize data. That said, here are three questions to ask your data partners: do they rely on third-party data; do they use this third-party data in targeting; and what is their transition plan now that Partner Categories is going away?
Change happens. It’s the only constant. The fallout from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal is certainly serious and perhaps overdue. And it will probably not be the last of such controversies. In my opinion, the best way to protect your business is to know how to measure the effectiveness of your overall social media investment, through Facebook’s matchback program or Google Analytics. Watch your metrics and make decisions based on that— regardless of changes in technology or players or programs.
My takeaway? Think big picture. You’re still going to want to advertise on Facebook. It’s a great platform with a lot of rich data at a fair cost that drives results for dealers. Plus, it continues to grow. This past quarter, for instance, Facebook added 49 million new daily active users, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous quarter. And the company is financially sound, with posted revenue of $12 billion, a 50 percent jump year-over-year compared to last year’s $8 billion.
The loss of Partner Categories, with its reliance on third-party data, is actually an opportunity, one that increases the importance of leveraging your first-party data to get the maximum value from the platform. Truth be told, no matter where you advertise, the trick is to figure out your bottom line metrics and commit to them. At the end of the day, if you’re watching your metrics, the data will speak for itself.