Facebook's Trust Crisis: The Real Impact On Advertisers

Facebook has trust issues—trust from consumers, trust from publishers. And now, in light of Facebook’s most recent policy changes, the social giant is on the brink of alienating its core advertiser constituency as well. 

Facebook has announced multiple new restrictions in advertising data usage on its platform. The elimination of Partner Categories—targeting options provided by Facebook's third-party data partners—represents the most dramatic shift. In the past, many brands have relied on Partner Categories to target Facebook users with offline purchase data from companies like Acxiom, Experian and Datalogix. 

Facebook’s third-party data restrictions are a reaction to the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica data breach. While drastic measures might be understandable, the realizations that these changes are sparking among advertisers are eerily similar to those had by publishers earlier this year, when Facebook announced it would begin prioritizing the posts of family and friends over those of publishers. The realization, in a nutshell: Over-reliance on Facebook—whether for traffic or targeting—is a dangerous thing. 



The New Reality for Brands on Facebook

Publishers who were heavily dependent on Facebook for referral traffic were the ones that felt the greatest sting following the social platform’s latest algorithm shift. Similarly, advertisers that have relied heavily on Facebook for its third-party data integrations are going to take a heavy hit in ad effectiveness on Facebook, at least in the short term. 

In reality, Facebook’s elimination of Partner Categories doesn’t mean that brands can no longer use third-party data to target advertising on Facebook. Marketer can still leverage third-party data targeting as long as they acquire and bring data to the platform as a custom audience. For certain categories of advertisers, this will be a necessity. Although Facebook has a wealth of data of its own, it was reliant on third parties for offline behavior and purchase data. 

Advertisers must now approach their data sourcing separately from their social investments. If done right, this can bring clarity to their investments and benefits to their overall strategy. For instance, with data sourced directly by brands and managed through their DMPs, brands can use that data across all channels. As a result, marketers can begin to discern the true effectiveness of their spends on Facebook compared to others.

The Bigger Issue

The recent moves at Facebook underscore a key trend: Consumer trust in social media is at an all-time low. In a recent Digital Content Next survey, 89% of consumers were reported to prefer content on publisher sites and apps due to the belief that there is too much low-quality, non-credible content on social media. 

Meanwhile, in looking to repair its relationship with users, Facebook is eroding trust among publishers and advertisers. With the traffic promotion change, few publishers view Facebook as a partner in developing long-term content alliances. Similarly, with the changes in its third-party data policy, Facebook becomes a less attractive promotional vehicle for brands as it provides no contextual capabilities. 

Still, with its lack of contextual content monitoring, Facebook is still a risky platform for marketers looking to build their brands in a brand-safe environment. With the absence of rich data targeting, Facebook’s struggles with ensuring brand safety will continue to  leave major advertisers leery.

In assessing Facebook’s current state of affairs, the old adage about trust rings true: It takes years to build, seconds to destroy, and forever to repair. While this doesn’t bode well for the social giant, it does signal a new age for advertisers: one built around transparency, ownership, and control.

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