What Facebook Targeting Categories are Going Away in 2018

by Paula

July 25, 2018

Wedding photography facebook ad targeting

With all the privacy concerns enveloping Facebook recently, they have announced that starting in July many targeting categories will no longer be available to use for advertisers after October of 2018. We are referring to the categories that show up when you browse the Detailed Targeting section when defining your targeting audience (Demographics, Interests and Behaviors).

 

Although the final “will no longer be available” list is and will probably continue to change until October, we have a pretty good idea of most of the terms that will go away.

In general, you can see that if the category had come from a third party, then it was very likely removed. On the other hand, if the category came from Facebook’s primary data (things that people share, or put on their profiles, like interests) then the category stayed.

So now, if you were using a category that will be removed, there is still hope for you to get pretty close to the same target by using Interests. For example, the category of Small Business under Demographics used to pull 3rd party data (like Acxiom) to categorize people as Small Business – probably with things like purchase behavior. Now, this list will no longer be available for you to use, but you will have to use Interests instead (through their online behavior, Facebook’s algorithm has determined that this person is in the Small Business bucket).

This is somewhat disappointing because when Facebook used to purchase data from these large consumer data aggregators, they would upload that data that in turn, advertisers on Facebook could use for free. Take a look at this for example. This is the tip of the iceberg of what companies like Acxiom have in terms of people’s online and offline behavior, this is groups of people interested in summer activities … yes… they know….

 

Or, here’s top level categories like people who like to take advantage of “Tax-Season Offers” or “Generous Gentlemen” who tend to purchase Mother’s Day Gifts.

 

They know who is a big spender on Summer activities,  Mother’s day, Halloween, Cars, etc etc etc. So Facebook, by layering this 3rd party data with their own data, would have a pretty darn good idea of who would convert given a goal from an advertiser.

Well, that’s going to change a bit. Facebook will no longer use data from providers like Acxiom to define and narrow audiences for ads.

Here’s a summary per category of the changes.

Facebook Categories that Will Go Away Under Demographics:

  • The entire Financial category will go away. This category used to include Income, Net Worth, and Liquid Assets.
    • Who was benefiting from this category? Advertisers who wanted to include or exclude people with a certain income. We saw use of this category in the Real Estate, Financial Services, Car, Retail Goods industries. Net worth and liquid assets would have benefited investment-type companies.
  • The entire Home category will go away. This category included Home Ownership, Home Type and Household Composition. This category also included Home Value.
    • Who was benefiting from this category? We saw use of this category in the Real Estate, Financial Services, Car, Home Improvement industries. Net worth and liquid assets would have benefited investment-type companies.
  • Life events will remain as a category.
  • The Parents category will lose about half of it’s subcategories. You will still be able to select parents based on the age of the children, but the highly looked-after Moms category will go away.
    • Who was benefiting from this category? Retailers were very fond of this category because it segregated mom’s into very specific niches like Soccer Moms, Trendy Moms, etc.
  • The Politics category will remain.
  • Relationship Status will remain.
  • The Work category took a hit in 2 important subcategories: Employers and Job Titles. Although you can still enter a keyword in both of these subcategories, Facebook did a manual review and removed largely used Employers and Job Titles claiming people were abusing or misusing these categories. I believe they took out actual “Employers” from their database (many in the financial and real estate industries) so even if you type for example “Bank of America” or “Wells Fargo” (some of the largest employers in the US, you will see that Facebook returns a Blank, for anyone on Facebook with Bank of America or Wells Fargo as their employer… which is obviously not correct. However, if you type Walmart, you will see the category return a value. You can still target people by the Industry they work in.  Another very coveted category that will no longer be available under work is Small Business.
    • Who was benefiting from this category? Employers and Job title were extremely beneficial to people in the B2B space. It was also used to exclude potential competitors. The small business category was heavily used by advertising agencies, online schools and such who wanted to reach small business owners.

Facebook Categories that Will Go Away Under Interests:

  • Business and Industry in general stays as it is now. This will become the area where advertisers will narrow their audiences. This data is gathered by Facebook from the actual interests expressed by their users. People express interests by clicking like on things, by including information in their profiles, by checking in online, even by logging onto Facebook on a wifi network. All that data is primary data that is collected by Facebook and then used to define your interests. In addition, your online behavior off Facebook will also be used. For example, as a Realtor, you can target people who have an interest in Zillow.com or Realtor.com – which implies that they have an interest in either buying or selling. As an advertiser you’ll have to think what category of websites do my target audience visits?
  • Entertainment also remains.
  • Family and relationships remains.
  • Fitness and wellness remains.
  • Food and drink remains.
  • Hobbies and Activities remain.
  • Shopping and Fashion remains.
  • Sports and outdoors remains.
  • Technology remains.

 

Facebook Categories that Will Go Away Under Behaviors:

Behaviors is getting a huge makeover as well. Many of this categories were promoted as OFFLINE behaviors, thus the data also came from 3rd party providers.

  • Anniversary and anniversary subcategories remains.
  • Automotive all goes away. This category included people in market to purchase a car or motorcycle as well as automobile owners (based on purchases) by brand, type etc.
    • Who benefited from this category? Clearly car dealers, as well as car loan providers. The type of car people owned was sometimes also used to define a “type” of person – a Mercedes-Benz owner could be interested in Luxury brands for example, or mini-van owners, were likely families with kids.
  • The B2B category will also go away. This included things like company size and industry.
    • This category benefited B2B advertisers.
  • Charitable donations goes away. Big time “hot potato” for Facebook, sadly an easy one to abuse by unethical advertisers.
  • Consumer classification remains. These are mostly for advertisers targeting foreign countries.
  • Digital Activities remains as a category, with some interesting subcategories that have emerged as more ecommerce transactions happen on Facebook, including Facebook Payment Users by time.
  • Expats remains as a category.
  • The entire financial category is gone. This category included the highly desired Spending Methods who would group people that were active credit card users, had premium cards, bank cards etc.
  • The Job Role category also goes away.
  • Media goes away. This category grouped people by their media consumption (radio, TV, including specific shows).
    • Who benefited from this category? Advertisers who could tightly align their target audiences to a TV network, for example would benefit from this category. Also larger advertisers who would purchase TV ads and complemented brand presence with Facebook ads.
  • Mobile Device User remains. Clearly Facebook knows how you logon…
  • More Categories remains and includes subcategories like Interested in Upcoming Events and API developers.
  • Multicultural Affinity remains which includes Hispanics, African American and Asian American as categories.
  • Purchase behavior takes a haircut, with only one subcategory remaining “engaged shoppers”.
  • Residential Profiles is gone. This was a coveted category by Realtors which included Likely to Move.
  • Soccer category remains. Although this category was likely mostly used due to the World Cup.
  • Travel category also got a haircut losing more than half of it’s subcategories. Again, data that was coming from 3rd parties is gone, primary sourced data remained including Frequent Travelers.

Keep in mind that categories have always been coming and going. As seasoned advertisers, I can say that at a minimum quarterly we would see categories go away that we were using in our ads. After our tantrum, we would go in and select something different and to our surprise discover that many showed improvements on ad performance.  Regardless of this major category removal from the 3rd party providers, changes to categories will continue – we should expect that. People change, algorithms change, and as they learn they shed what does not perform.  Finally, before you completely panic, remember that it’s also likely that these changes will not affect the majority of advertisers because the use of layering of these categories was only beneficial to large advertisers with large budgets – who could take advantage of putting together several categories together to narrow or tighten groups. People with smaller budgets would find that choosing too many categories would narrow their target too much to the point where their ad would not show at all. So most advertisers still receive the most benefit by narrowing their audience based on Geography, Gender, Age, and perhaps one more segmentation – but the most successful advertisers let Facebook find the audience by focusing on Conversion Goals in a give Geography.

 

 

Are you currently running Facebook Ads? Are you using any of the categories and subcategories marked for removal? We welcome your questions and comments.

About the author 

Paula

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