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Are You Prepared for Big Changes Within Facebook Advertising Platform?

In 2013 we saw some great improvements by Facebook within their advertising platform: Introduction of Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, FBX, Retargeting through Custom Audiences - all topped with amazing financial results in Q4 (53% of ad revenue from mobile, wow!). This has set a great foundation for an exciting 2014.

Even though the year is just starting, we’ve already seen a lot of movement around the ads platform and have read quite a lot of new announcements!

One of these stories — if you’ve been following news around Facebook Ads over the last few weeks — is the cancellation of their (controversial) part of ad inventory: Sponsored Stories.

In essence, Facebook is cutting down almost half of its ad types. However, we can’t really talk about "the end of an era” for Sponsored Stories, as Facebook plans to include the most important part of Sponsored Stories into already existing ads — social context!

Bigger Picture and Implications for Advertisers

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All of this is part of the bigger picture — simplification of advertisers experience (creatives), introduction to objective based advertising (optimization) and updates in ad creation process (targeting).

Facebook started simplifying their ad offering in September of last year, when they trimmed half of the inventory (from 27 different ad types to 15) and this last announcement is just a follow up on that story.

With changes and a definite shutdown of Sponsored Stories by April 9, Facebook will also "force” objective-based advertising onto its advertisers and introduce several updates to the heart and soul of Facebook advertising platform — targeting and demographics.

All of this raises some important questions:

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  • Will existing ads successfully replace good performing Sponsored Stories?
  • Are you going to be able to track differences between ads with social context and without it?
  • Will we see better performance from other ad types?
  • Will this change have another big impact on brands after recent changes to News Feed stream declined organic reach?
  • Is objective-based advertising good enough to support the multiple campaign goals that advertisers have?

While changes with Sponsored Stories and Objective-based advertising raise some concerns with advertisers, improved targeting options could have immediate (positive) impact on campaign performance from April 9.

Updates to Targeting: Improvements in Right Direction

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Facebook plans to introduce a new targeting structure which will give advertisers more flexibility and let them focus on specific audiences on a completely new level.

The overall concept of targeting has been redefined as having four key areas (locations, demographics, interests, behaviors). This organization creates more flexibility and precision in audience creation in terms of the and/or logic between groups.

Example: historically, if you selected "Parents" "Photography" "Photo uploader" within interests, the audience constructed was People who are Parents OR interested in Photography OR people who upload [many] Photos. However, the intended audience was: "Parents, who are interested in photography and upload pictures". Now, the specific audience will be targeted as intended.

Revamped Interest and Geographic targeting will help advertisers in creating a clear list of keywords (no more duplicates like SuperBowl and #SuperBowl) and reach audiences in areas by selecting just a location you want to advertise in (you don’t need to select USA and then New York City if you want to reach audiences just in NYC, new structure enables you to do that just by selecting NYC).

One of the interesting improvements is in advanced demographic targeting options, where you will be able to select different options — better coverage of workplace, education and job title types as well as expanded Relationship status types. There is also the added functionality of selecting the recency of a life event (3 months, 6 months, 1 year).

A new targeting type, Behaviors, has been added. These categories are specific to a user's particular actions, past purchase behavior or purchase propensity. This category is made up of some targeting segments previously categorized as Interests.

Objectives and Introduction of Ad Groups: Proof of Maturity and Performance Goals

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With introduction of objective-based advertising, Facebook took a chance to improve the things "under the bonnet”.

Advertisers will see a big change when it comes to optimizing and managing their campaigns: introduction of ad groups (or ad sets) will create a better environment and give advertisers more flexibility with budgets, bidding and testing the ads.

As a proof of maturity, changes in Facebook advertising platform are happening on a monthly, and even weekly basis — all signs of a good platform becoming a better one by listening to its users.

Result of all this can be summed up by saying that Facebook Ads are not so much about social anymore, they are part of a bigger story — becoming a vital part of performance-based advertising.

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