The Facebook Targeting Snafu

Facebook targeting has come under fire recently by ProPublica for allowing advertisers to target based on hate speech. In response, Facebook temporarily suspended the ability to target by employer.

Yes, people were actually entering racist things like “Jew hater” as their employer or job title in Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me what people will say on social media that has their full name attached.

Facebook is working to reinstate full targeting for advertisers, but the question remains: Whose job is it to police hate speech? And, can AI and technology really understand speech well enough to carry the responsibility for editorial review?

Clearly, in this case the answer was no. Facebook is now moving to human review of the previously suspended categories.

The targeting problem created issues for countless advertisers, especially in the B2B sector. We had to shuffle priorities quickly on Monday to respond to the change. One client had just asked us to add some employer targeting to their campaigns, and we aren’t able to comply with the request. We had other clients to whom we were pitching employer-targeted campaigns, and we were scrambling to figure out what to pitch them in its place. Sure, LinkedIn is the king of employer and B2B targeting, but their high CPCs make them less attractive than Facebook. It’s a less efficient buy. And forget about employer targeting on Twitter or any other social platform.

As much a problem as the Facebook targeting snafu is for advertisers, though, it’s a greater problem for society. Targeting ads based on hate speech is a slippery slope for a mainstream platform like Facebook. They’ve already been accused of allowing foreign advertisers who allegedly hacked our election in 2016, and are working with the investigation to get to the bottom of things. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, hacking an election is a scary proposition. Facebook had to act.

Notice that no one has gone after Google in all this (at least not yet). Nor have they gone after Twitter – despite the fact that Twitter is a haven for political and racist trolls. It just goes to show how far Facebook has come in the ad world. They’re near the top of the heap – maybe not financially, but in terms of attention.

I remember when Google was the center of attention. Seems the model has shifted. Will Facebook unseat Google any time soon? Maybe. The writing is on the wall.

What do you think about the whole Facebook targeting snafu? Did it impact you? Has Facebook become the darling of the online ad world? Share in the comments!

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Where Facebook Ads Are Beating Google

Now and then, we see talk in the blogosphere about Facebook Ads being the next best thing in online advertising. For years, I viewed that sentiment with skepticism. How could a social network, with no search or intent, ever perform better than Google?

Well, Facebook recently launched a Shop function. And while it hasn’t taken off in a big way yet, it could. Just think about all the data Facebook has that Google doesn’t.

Here’s the kicker, though. As I was setting up a new Facebook Ads campaign this week, it hit me. Facebook makes advertising easy by focusing on advertiser goals: what do you want to accomplish?

facebook ads objectives
Just look at this. Not only are the goals stated in plain English (reach people near your business, collect leads for your business, increase conversions on your website, etc.), but Facebook has grouped the objectives along the buyer journey.

Think about that for a second.

Nearly every advertiser we work with understands at least a little about how users go about deciding to buy from them. Whether their product is an impulse buy or a long-term consideration deal, the advertiser knows where they fall.

And most of the time, the advertiser knows what they want to do, even if it’s in basic terms: “We need to increase sales.” “No one knows about us, so we need to create awareness.” “We want people to attend our event later this month.” Simple.

Not only does Facebook make it easy to choose your objective, they tailor the campaign setup experience to your objective. Different objectives have different ad options. While this may seem confusing or complex to those of us used to setting up Adwords campaigns, for a novice advertiser it’s much more intuitive. There are fewer levers to pull, but also fewer choices to try to understand.

Facebook also optimizes campaigns for your objectives. More often than not these days, I just set my Facebook Ads campaigns to optimize for my objective. Why bother dealing with bid management when you don’t need to? We get great CPCs and reach on Facebook even when we use auto-optimize.

Why is that? Well for one thing, Facebook has frequency – something Google Search doesn’t have. People don’t always search for the same thing over and over, but on Facebook, you can see the same ad multiple times, making it harder to forget. And Facebook knows who we are – which can be a huge hurdle for search, where you have the intent portion, but no idea whether the person searching falls into your target audience.

Let’s contrast the Facebook experience with Adwords. Here’s the first page in Adwords signup:

adwords-signup-1
Yikes, an email opt-in. Not the best start. Before I even know whether I want to do this or not, Google is asking for my email address. Facebook already has it, since you need an email address to sign up. It’s the same thing, but feels different to the user.

And then there’s Adwords Step 2:

adwords-signup-2

Hoo boy. Complicated language about a campaign (what’s that??), a budget (whoa), “choose a target audience,” which doesn’t look like a target audience from the mindset of a novice advertiser, and “set your bid.”

Think about this for a second. Two of the three steps have to do with money – before I even see what I’m getting or who I’m reaching, I have to tell Google how much I’m willing to spend each day and for every click – and “Adwords automatically sets your bids to help you get as many clicks as possible within your budget.” And I pay for every one of those clicks!

Can you see the difference here? Facebook focuses on the experience – they don’t ask for a budget until everything is set up, and if you choose to let them optimize, you never see a bid at all. Instead, Facebook thinks about campaigns the way advertisers do – by objective and audience.

Looking at it another way, let’s say I’m talking to a new prospect who is thinking about doing online advertising. Do I go in and immediately ask them to opt in to our agency emails, and then immediately ask them what their budget is? Or do I ask them what their goals and objectives are, and talk about their target audience? Which of these approaches is going to win me the sale?

Exactly.

Now of course I love Adwords. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them. And Adwords campaigns are some of the most effective around. We have countless options: text, image, video ads; remarketing, Google Display… the list goes on. In the hands of an experienced professional, Adwords is a beautiful thing indeed.

But to the advertiser, it’s confusing. How many hours do we all spend each week just trying to explain Adwords to clients? Yet everyone understands Facebook, because they use it every day; and because it makes marketing sense to them.

And who knows? We may see Facebook overtake Google at some point.

What do you think? Is Facebook’s approach more logical than Google’s? Will Facebook Ads continue to grow in importance, or will Google remain king? Share in the comments!

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