The Hidden Meaning of Facebook’s Ad Relevance Policy


Facebook recently unveiled a new policy that asks users to assess which ads they like or dislike, in an effort to serve up more compelling ads.

On the surface, this change makes perfect sense as a way for Facebook to please its users and thus expand its advertising empire. Yet the hidden message between the lines for advertisers should be crystal clear as well: Provide more targeted and captivating ads, or be gone!

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it would update its News Feed ad-hiding tools to find out why users don’t think certain ads are useful. When people hide an ad in their feed, Facebook now sends them a prompt to understand why they’ve hidden it. A pull-down menu includes such choices as “This ad is not relevant to me” or “This ad is spam,” or even “I keep seeing this ad.”

Facebook will attempt to show better-targeted ads based on which ads have been hidden. The social network is also putting more weight on answers from users who don’t normally hide ads, because that audience could signal a particularly inappropriate or ineffective advertisement.

This change will force advertisements to become much more engaging in order to remain on Facebook’s user feeds. In other words, advertisers will have to improve the quality of their ad content while increasing the relevance of their ad messages to better target individual tastes.

Obviously, Facebook is one of the most influential of Internet properties, so I have given a lot of thought to this latest policy change. Here are a few ideas about the best strategies for responding to it.

Use Segmentation to Divide and Conquer Your Target Audience

To maximize the impact of advertising, marketers need to consistently reach the right audiences and engage them with the right messages, but this is far more difficult than it sounds. The best approach to improve ad engagement involves a strategy known as customer segmentation.

Segmentation is a method of identifying the different types of personas among your target audience. Think of these personas as groups of people who demonstrate a similar affinity for certain types of ads. In this way, you can design specific ads that will hold the greatest appeal for each unique group.

To be frank, personalized ads essentially involve sending out the same message in different wrappers. Various types of images, fonts, color schemes and design elements can be applied, depending on the preferences of each persona type.

These personas are grouped around various consumer engagement signals which are calculated by feeding sets of big data about customers into a machine learning system. Cognitive science principles are applied to identify consumer personas and build dynamic ads which are personalized for each respective group.

Weave Consumer Preferences into Rich Contextual Offers

Creative content is developed by a combination of retargeting (determining what people wanted in the past) and pre-targeting (predicting what they’re likely to want in the future). By combining a range of interactive elements, marketers can then create highly compelling, persona-focused ads.

Blending demographic data with a user’s location can generate special offers that really grab the attention of each demographic group. For instance, sending out coupons from a franchise at an airport food court could be extremely attractive to hungry travelers trapped by a flight layover during a blizzard.

Another part of this challenge involves delivering Facebook ads that work flawlessly across multiple types of screen formats, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. Likewise, each ad must be optimized for delivery over different channels, including display ads, video ads, text-messaging ads, and ads over social media.

Facebook implemented this new policy to get out in front of mounting consumer fatigue over irrelevant and inappropriate advertising before it becomes a real problem for the social network. To its credit, Facebook recognizes that consumers are in control, and when consumers are in control it is best to serve them what they want to consume.

Marketers need to learn what consumers really want and then automatically integrate those preferences into their ads to increase engagement. In this way, consumers will finally get the ads they want in the way they want to engage with the ads, rather than getting irrelevant ads that turn them off.

Marketers who post relevant ad content on Facebook’s user feeds will be more likely to increase their click-through rates while driving greater engagement for targeted sales leads. Again, the goal for advertisers is to first reach the right target audience with their best ads, and then engage users with irresistible offers.

Facebook’s latest policy shift is just an incremental change on the path toward making its ads more contextually aware and relevant for users. To succeed in this ever-changing digital landscape, advertisers will need to rethink their approach. Instead of trying to create an ad campaign that will generate the most money, they would do better to create an ad campaign that will generate the most relevant user experience.


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