Facebook Ad Targeting Removes Third Party Data Options

August 21, 2018

Back in 2013, Facebook launched partnerships with major data providers including Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai. This allowed advertisers to target existing and potential customers using detailed third party data. This type of targeting included everything from someone being a homeowner to being a soda drinker.

However, things have changed…

In July, Facebook announced the removal of Partners categories from its advertising interface; setting an end date of August 15, 2018 for digital marketers to utilize those targeting options – approximately half of their 1,200 targeting criteria.

Why the Change?

This decision mainly comes from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco that exposed the social media platform’s detailed targeting options and sharing of personal information without consent. This caused Facebook to land in hot water with its users and brought scrutiny from Congress and the European Union.

With the sweeping changes demanded by the GDPR laws, EU fines, HUD complaints and potentially more regulations on the way, Facebook decided to make some changes.

What to Expect Moving Forward

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Facebook clarified that it will still work with companies like Experian and Acxiom in order to measure ad performance and provide metrics, although it will also be conducting a review of those ongoing relationships. Facebook may also move toward sharing data in a shared server environment in order to offer further assurances of user privacy.

Facebook confirmed that the change is permanent, not a temporary precaution.

Meaning, if you’re spending any money on Facebook advertising, double check that your targeted audiences are not currently utilizing any of the removed categories. If so, you only have until October 1 to change them before they are stripped out of your targeting and could cause your campaigns to substantially decrease in effectiveness.

Some advertisers are going be affected more than others. Advertisers with the least information about their customers will face the biggest adjustments, while advertisers with huge customer lists will likely find it easier to transition to utilizing their own data in new ways.

Other Ways to Target Your Market

While this third party data was helpful for setting up targeted audiences, there are still many impactful ways to reach your market with Facebook advertising.

Interest Targeting

Facebook collects data based on what users interact with on the platform, and places those users in buckets based on interests. While this is probably the most basic way to target users with Facebook ads, it is built on actual behaviors – which is a good starting point.

Advanced Geo-Targeting

It’s common knowledge that you can target people within a specific location. But what most people don’t know is that you can also target people who live in a specific area, people who are traveling in a specific location, or people who were recently in a specific location. This is useful for zeroing in on where your target market is frequenting or spending a good amount of time. 

Website Custom Audiences

Utilizing the Facebook Pixel on your website is a great way to start building a solid audience to retarget. The next step from that would be to create a Lookalike Audience from that group so you can prospect for business with Facebook users that behave like your website visitors.  

Email Custom Audiences

You can upload your email list into Facebook to match users on the platform and serve them ads. This is a great way to leverage your own data and expand your reach by building a Lookalike Audience from this list.

Engagement Custom Audiences

You can create a custom audience of users who have watched your videos, interacted with your page, interacted with your Instagram profile, or even interacted with your events. By putting these users into an audience, you have a highly targeted group of individuals who have already expressed interest in your business.


Even with the drama from losing Partner Categories, there are still some high-quality ways to target your audience using Facebook advertising – so don’t throw in the towel and delete your Page just yet.

You may find that when forced to get even more creative with your audiences, you find even better solutions for getting more of a return on investment.

Are you concerned that your Facebook targeted audiences will need to be revamped after the removal of this third party data? Call the social media experts at Sales & Marketing Technologies at (407) 682-2222 for a free strategy session to discuss what’s next for your business on Facebook.

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