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Facebook’s New Data-Deleting Tool and What It Means For Marketers

From a company you accidentally clicked on months ago to sites you visit every day, these companies have your data to use and leverageAnd when I say ‘these companies, I also mean… us. If you are a marketer or even had a hand in marketing strategy, chances are you have benefitted from Facebook collecting customer data.  

Late January 2020, Facebook launched the Off-Facebook Activity tool, a long-awaited option to opt-out companies tracking your online habits and activities. While the tool has limitations, at the least you can see who has your data, and at the most you can delete that connection and stop much of that data from tracking in the future.

That puts us in an interesting position. As consumers with personal data, we say “Great! Maybe I’ll opt-out of giving certain data.” As marketers, we say “Yikes… Will this negatively affect my current strategy?”  

This is a valid question. In 2019, global businesses put a collective 84 billion into social media advertising. That’s a large chunk of our budgets going to this effort – it would be a blow if the productivity of social ads decreased.  

Surface level, people opting out of our ads seems like a bad thing. But if you dive into exactly what data visibility options are now available, this new functionality could prove to be a good thing for consumers and marketers alike. 

The tool

Facebook’s new ‘View Off-Facebook Activity’ tool, launched late January 2020, can be found hereFollowing the 2020 release of the California Consumer Privacy Act in early January, everyone now can see which companies are tracking their data and online activity as well as sharing this info with Facebook. 

The information available through the Facebook Offline Activity feature is a list of companies that you have directly or indirectly engaged with through app usage or website visits. Companies using a Facebook Pixel can refer to this website and app traffic for future targeted campaigns – or what marketers call “retargeting.” 

Chances are if you run an ad strategy, you commonly leverage a retargeting ad strategy. It is a great way to re-engage old customers, remind users of products they are interested in, and further customize ads to a specific users online patterns.  

The information now visible (and editable) on this tool directly affects this retargeting strategy. 

The information

Above, you can see what my Off-Facebook activity looks like. I have 532 companies that are sharing my data with Facebook. I knew the list would be extensive because of the nature of my job, and many of the companies that track me weren’t a surprise. I am tracked by many business and news media agencies, recognizable companies I’ve researched for blog posts, and yoga studios I tend to frequent.  

I did, however, find some surprises. I’m tracked by some religious organizations I’m not connected to, and many grad school programs I haven’t researched. Knowing this information, I better understand the context of the ads I’ve received over the past few months and see the connection for why I was targeted. 

The options

Understanding how I’m being tracked and who is tracking me, I did in the end opt-out of a few companies connected to me.  It felt liberating to have even a little bit of power over who handles my data. I kept a majority of the data, even though there is the option to delete all data tracking and stop future tracking. 

However, the power is limited and may not get ad-haters the results they hope for. Consumers can opt-out of parts of data sharing, but they can never truly go ad-free or ‘off the grid.’ Facebook includes messages and warnings throughout the deleting process that are thinly veiled pleas to not delete the information. 

These messages say you will still see the same amount of ads, they just won’t be targeted. If you want to keep a ‘customized experience’, don’t delete the tracking data. The messages also say that deleting this data will most likely result in logging out of many platforms that you are auto-logged into, and you may still see ads from these companies regardless of the deletion.  

So in the end, does it change the user’s online and social media experience? Not much. Users will still see just as many ads – they just won’t be about the shoes you were looking at last week. 

How this data visibility update affects marketing strategy

As discussed, this data that is now visible and editable is the data we use to create retargeting ad campaigns.  

We’ve seen the articles about retargeting ad strategy from the side of the consumer with messages like “no more creepy ads” and “how to stop companies from stalking you.” If this is how our customers feel about our retargeting ad strategy, it’s our strategies that need to change, not the consumer perspective.  However, there will always be people out there who believe that all targeted ads are bad ads, regardless of ad quality. And to those people, I say I’m happy you now have the option to opt-out.  

There is no point spending money and time on customers that do not want to see your retargeting ads. If anything, our pool of retargeting opportunities may get slightly smaller, but we are not necessarily losing a valuable audience. The consumers that like our message, appreciate our products, and engage with our content will not opt-out. Our ad spend will be going toward an audience that isn’t running away from our message or feeling jaded about the greater topic of sharing online data.  

Our ad spends will be more productive, retargeting ads won’t annoy our followers or supporters that value privacy, and our engaged followers will still get our reminder ads 

I would call that situation a great win-win-win. 

 So, don’t be afraid of the Off-Facebook Activity tool granting some power back to the people. It will lead to a less collective apprehension (hatred) of targeted ads and more return on your ad efforts.  If you are ready to create a modern social ad strategy, reach out to our team!

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