Increased transparency announced in the wake of election controversy will affect how your ads are seen
The misinformation campaign apparently perpetrated by Russian operatives attempting to influence last year’s presidential election has prompted Facebook - a year later - to add a new level of transparency to the Facebook ad platform.
While the changes are a result of the way political advertisers with questionable motives used the platform for a few months in 2016, they will permanently affect all businesses advertising on Facebook.
At issue here - and the element that foreign electioneers used - is Facebook’s so-called dark post capability. And while “dark post” sounds ominous, they represent a common and effective digital marketing practice. The company calls them unpublished posts.
A dark post allows advertisers to determine who on Facebook sees their message. Facebook’s detailed targeting capabilities are super effective at allowing advertisers to reach certain audiences.
Facebook uses information it collects about the activities of its users - for example, posts that you comment on, businesses and organizations you “like,” even the webpages you visit outside of Facebook - to help businesses target their ads.
When a business sets up its ad as “dark” or unpublished, it allows the businesses to keep the post’s content hidden from its followers as a whole, and the general Facebook user population.
The ad won’t appear in your followers’ news feeds, on your business’ timeline, or otherwise be seen by anyone not explicitly targeted.
Similar to segmenting
Using dark posts is similar to the way you segment your email contact list so you can send highly tailored messages to particular segments of the list. For example, sending a “thank you” email to customers who recently made a purchase is a good practice, but you don’t want to send that to your entire list, which likely includes prospects who haven’t made a purchase.
Without the ability to segment, you risk clogging your contacts’ inboxes with irrelevant messages, which erodes a business’ credibility.
Facebook’s dark post option affords advertisers the same segmenting guarantees - that you will only deliver relevant messages to targeted audiences and won’t clog your followers’ news feeds with irrelevant posts.
In Facebook’s Oct. 27 announcement, which was released the same week company executives testified in Congress about advertiser transparency, the company said dark posts are going away, starting this year in Canada and continuing with the United States and the rest of the network in 2018.
What does this mean for advertisers?
It means that when you are targeting a message to a certain subset of your Facebook following or an audience you identify in the greater Facebook network, be aware that users to whom the message is not targeted will be able to see the ad.
Each ad you create will appear on your business profile page. Under a new “view ads” tab, all the ads your business is running on both Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) at any given time will be on display.
Your ads can still be targeted to appear in the news feeds of only your intended audience, but marketers should keep in mind that ads will be available to anyone who visits your page.
The change is an effort to “keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different groups,” Facebook VP of Ads Rob Goldman said in the Oct. 27 announcement.
Businesses using Facebook advertising with good intentions will continue to find a valuable advertising partner in Facebook. It’s important to be mindful of Facebook's ad changes, as you continue your Facebook advertising program.
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