Facebook launched Partner Categories back in 2013 to give marketers an effective way to use third-party anonymous data to create hyper-targeted campaigns. Data mining companies like Experian and Acxiom collect demographic and behavioral data on other channels, then pass it along to Facebook. The social media network is then able to match the data to users’ profiles so advertisers can target them.

But, back in March, Facebook released a brief statement announcing that it would be disbanding Partner Categories in the interest of its users’ privacy. Although it did not elaborate on the reasoning, it is likely due to the privacy concerns of its users, especially in the case of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that went down this past March.

Last week the hammer finally dropped, and Partner Categories are no longer available to be used in new audience targeting. Before panic sets in, I think we should be looking at this as an opportunity to improve our marketing and take back some control. Let’s start by discussing about how this specific change is going to impact advertisers.

Why It Matters

The end of Partner Categories is already making waves in the marketing and advertising industries. The phase-out will have a clear impact on marketers as:

  • It will be harder for brand to reach new audiences and, especially, the right audiences that are most likely to purchase form them
  • The cost of new customer acquisition is almost certainly going to rise, as it has already been creeping up due to limited inventory
  • There is no clear solution that will perfectly fill the targeting gap

So what now? We’ll this is where the fun starts…

Diversify Your Acquisition Efforts

Many marketers and business owners have come to rely on targeted Facebook advertising as a means for driving traffic and acquisition. With rising ad and conversion costs on Facebook, this is a great time to take a step back and think outside the box to identify some new opportunities such as:

Search Engine Marketing: Comprehensive SEM platforms, such as Google Ads, still represent a huge opportunity to reach people at all stages of the customer journey. Such campaigns can be targeted toward those most likely to purchase from your company and can be instrumental in introducing you to new audiences.

Focus Retargeting: Although it won’t fill the gap that Facebook is leaving in helping you reach brand-new audiences, but it can keep you front of mind in prospective customers who have already visited your website, helping to drive and recapture conversions.

Branded Content: Many media outlets offer sponsored content opportunities for advertisers. This is an effective channel for brands that are targeting customers with certain behaviors or interests. For example, a footwear brand that is seeking to drive sales of its newest model of soccer cleats can draft a sponsored blog post to be published on a well-known soccer blog and news website.

Partnerships: Tap into the power of partnerships as a way to broaden your reach and be linked to other relevant, like-minded, and reputable brands. If you’re a clothing company, for example, consider partnering with well-known retailers on pop-up shops or custom pieces. Not only will you attach your brand name to the retailer, they will also promote the products across their own channels, introducing you to their followers.

Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing is an effective way to introduce your brand to a new audience. Before entering into a partnership make sure that you are working with reputable individuals by verifying engagement metrics.

Other Social Media Channels: Facebook has (had) arguably the most complex and in-depth advertising platform for social media networks, but other networks do offer similar tools, each with their own unique feature sets. Pinterest has a robust advertising platform that targets users based on their interests (from past pinning) and keyword searches. Twitter allows its advertisers to target audience based on the accounts they follow, keywords, geographic location, and by behavior. Learning how to take advantage of the unique functionality of each platform will open new communication opportunities.

Influencers: It may seem like the industry’s latest buzzword, but influencers can provide real value for your brand, provided you have a strong strategy in place and properly vet your partners. Find an influencer who is creative and will craft a campaign that is memorable, unique, and clearly boosts awareness of your brand. As with affiliate marketing, be diligent in selecting which influencers you will work with to ensure you are protecting your brand’s reputation.

And those are just the existing channels.

The end of Partner Categories is a great trigger for marketers to think creatively and develop innovative approaches to reach new audiences as we think about diversifying our marketing efforts and reducing dependency on Facebook. Those who are able to do so will reap even greater benefits in the end.

At Bern Digital, we’re actively seeking to reduce dependence on any one channel for our clients and partners every day. How are you working to expand your marketing activities? Reach out on Twitter at @MathewBernstein and @BernDigital and let’s discuss.