What Has Changed About Facebook Ad Targeting In 2022

What Has Changed About Facebook Ad Targeting In 2022

February 25, 2022

Noticed anything unusual while setting up Facebook ads recently? Had the sad realisation that you can no longer target “cactus” 🌵 as an interest group? Been forced to reassess your audiences and find new ways to reach them? You’re not alone!

Meta has finally implemented the sensitivity protocols they’ve been promising for years. In response to recent industry pressure and the 2018 GDPR battle, Facebook advertiser targeting settings have been scaled back.

What changes have been made to Facebook ad targeting?

According to Meta, they have removed options that relate to topics people “may perceive as sensitive”. Here’s an overview of some of the biggest categories this includes:

The history of changes to Facebook advertiser targeting:

In 2016 some concerned users pointed out that advertisers could create Facebook ads related to housing, employment or credit that excluded people based on race, gender and other factors – restrictions that are actually illegal to apply to housing and employment applications. Meta have made small changes over the past few years to silence their critics by removing the option to target by these factors on Facebook, along with age and zip code, for housing, employment or credit ads. Later, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook removed more than 5,000 ad targeting options along the same anti-discrimination lines. 

The pros and cons of Facebook ad targeting:

For the individual, more specific targeting means a tailored, highly personalised ad experience which we’ve come to expect from social media platforms. You only see ads that will interest you, unlike the more general radio, TV and bus ads that are presented to us. 

For small businesses, ad targeting means that they have more chance of exposure with limited budgets, while charities, non-profits and social causes or organisations are more likely to reach people who are actually interested in their causes. 

The cons are a little more difficult to define. These days, there is a rising sensitivity about people being identified based on their affiliation to social causes, health conditions, or demographics. Data-based algorithms are supposed to be impartial, but they’re still designed by humans with their own existing biases. This means that societal discrimination can still slip into their calculations.

It's also pretty obvious that advertisers can abuse the power they have to reach select groups, preying on fears or the needs of the community they hope to exploit. Just think about all the claims of Russian bots targeting Americans to influence the 2016 elections! There’s a lot more at stake here than sales.

What can social media marketing teams do to adapt to the changes in Facebook ad targeting?

Meta have reminded advertisers that they still have some targeting capabilities that are similar to the previous versions, eg. Engagement Custom Audiences. They also claim they’re planning to give users more freedom to choose the type and frequency of the ads they see.

Our advice is to focus on growing your own audience and gathering info on people who support you already. This information can be an invaluable resource and will help you to reach new and similar audiences. But it’s vital to be open and honest about any data collection so your audience doesn’t feel their privacy is being violated.

We also recommend being honest with your clients and the rest of your team about these changes and how you’re adapting to them. Avoid making any big promises based on current data access that might be restricted, or even disappear, in the future. Use your creativity to get your brand message across in new and innovative ways!

Final thoughts on Facebook ad targeting

If a system or algorithm can be abused, then it should be improved and refined to prevent people from vulnerable groups being taken advantage of. It might negatively affect brands in the short term, but the marketing industry is full of creative people who can find new ways to reach their audience. On top of that, social media is constantly in flux, so we should all be used to these kinds of changes. 

Written by our copywriter Katie Dennison