This is a guest post by SocialCode CEO Laura O’Shaughnessy. SocialCode is a digital agency and Washington Post Co. subsidiary that focuses on social media marketing and advertising.
One of the most high-potential advertising features on social media is Facebook’s Custom Audiences. Over the past three years, advertising capabilities have skyrocketed on social media platforms – specifically, the ability to deploy very targeted ads to drive response. For example, Twitter rolled out targeted Tweets this summer, a capability that allows the targeting of promoted tweets to followers by geo location and device.
Facebook Custom Audiences takes that micro-level of targeting to a whole new level. The product lets brands upload lists of potential and existing customers to Facebook and then serve specific ads targeted to those groups. For example, an automobile brand could upload a list of customers that had bought an entry level car with them four years ago and then serve those contacts targeted ads encouraging them to learn about new cars.
In our experience with Custom Audiences, we have witnessed a surprisingly low number of brands taking advantage of this incredibly powerful targeting capability, but we have seen extremely beneficial results for the small number who have. Overall, in campaigns using the feature we have recorded that Custom Audiences:
- Acquired fans at a rate 1.5x than general targeting
- Engaged at a rate more than 3x than general targeting
- CTR outperformed general target CTR by over 70 percent
With results like these and very few takers, we took a closer look to determine why adoption of Custom Audiences Targeting has been slow out of the gate.
We learned from our clients the following top three tactical concerns they have about incorporating Custom Audiences into campaigns. We’ve also accompanied these concerns with a few facts to clear the air and put their minds at ease:
1. Privacy – Brands are hesitant to give up lists containing customer contact information.
Fact: Facebook has encrypting solutions in place that hide users’ actual information. While it does target users on the list specifically – that contact is coded and grouped so the user’s identity and information details are hidden. In addition, Facebook has strict terms in place that state they will not will not give access to or information about a brands custom audiences to other advertisers, use them to append to the information they have about users or build interest-based profiles, or use them in any way associated with the brand unless requested.
2. Data Control – Facebook requires brands using Custom Audiences to upload their own existing client lists onto the Facebook platform to be hashed and grouped. However, contact data for big brands is often held by an agency or external vendor and the connection between these systems and Facebook is still being established. The task of not only aggregating dispersed data, but working with systems that are not compatible can seem daunting.
Fact: Until integration with third party vendor systems is finalized, brands can use Facebook’s free tool, Power Editor, to upload client information and create a targeting cluster. Power Editor is easily installed through Chrome browsers. To use the tool, brands simply upload customer contact data while Facebook goes on to hash and match the email list against its database of user emails. A custom cluster is then created based on the match rate – or the percentage of the client emails that match up to Facebook emails. In our own clients’ campaigns we have seen match rates as high as 60 percent. Once Facebook matches the list, the brand is able to use this ‘cluster’ of users as an aggregate target – not on an individual user base.
3. Scalability – Often, existing client email lists are too small for Facebook’s recommended targeting minimum.
Fact: Analytics tools enable brands to profile customers on an existing email list to match other Facebook fans with overlapping interests. It is possible to expand a list with the same type of targets, and then monitor the difference in response between your customers, Facebook fans, and those who are both fans and customers.
Overall, the hurdles in the way of implementing Custom Audiences into your social ad campaigns are very low compared with the benefits. We know that as brands begin to adopt Custom Audiences in a sophisticated way they will quickly become an essential part of the marketing mix.
Prior to joining The Washington Post Company, Laura worked for several DC-based consumer technology companies where her purview spanned from the business planning and partner development to the management and execution of large search engine and acquisition marketing campaigns. Laura holds an M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago.