From unintended consequences of its core features to deliberate abuses of the way it made users’ data available to developers, Facebook is firefighting on several fronts in 2019. It should come as no surprise that its attempts to pivot to what CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls a “privacy-focused social platform” are going to have an effect on companies that have been using Facebook for legitimate marketing. Yesterday, the company explained one of those effects.
It’s related to a soon-to-launch tool for ‘managing off-Facebook activity’, which will “include a list of the apps and websites someone visits that use our business tools such as the Facebook pixel, SDK and API”. And the ability to disconnect this off-Facebook activity if they want to. In a blog post, Facebook explained what this might mean for marketers.
“This feature may impact targeting. When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won’t use the data they clear for targeting. This means that targeting options powered by Facebook’s business tools, like the Facebook pixel, can’t be used to reach someone with ads,” it explained. “This includes Custom Audiences built from visitors to websites or apps. Businesses should keep this in mind when developing strategies for these kinds of campaigns in the second half of the year and beyond.”
There’s the obligatory optimistic message – “We believe that offering people greater transparency and control will ultimately have a positive, long-term effect on businesses using Facebook” – and a promise that Facebook’s measurement and analytics tools will “remain intact”. We suspect most music marketers have a good sense of the bigger picture here: the importance of Facebook’s (overdue) moves towards more transparency and privacy protection for its users. Fretting about what this means for music marketing doesn’t mean they don’t understand and welcome the moves more generally.
But fret they might, because some of the tools being impacted have become core to the way music is marketed in 2019. And also because, like a lot of changes on platforms like Facebook, the precise nature of the impact is decidedly ‘to be confirmed’ until it happens. “Keep this in mind when developing strategies for these kinds of campaigns,” is a long way from precise advice on *how* those strategies will need to change.
Having already adapted to the market changes brought by Europe’s GDPR legislation, the marketing community can and will adapt to Facebook-specific changes too – which after all, could and should benefit the fans of their artists. It’s not just Facebook either: witness Google’s announcement earlier this monthof its own plans to provide new protections and controls within its Chrome browser, warning that “the ad-supported internet is at risk if digital advertising practices don’t evolve to reflect people’s changing expectations around how data is collected and used”.
Again, it’s welcome in the bigger scheme of things. Just expect a few bumps along the way with all this, because Facebook’s use of the word ‘may’ (“may impact targeting”) and Google’s assertion that “we’re eager to receive feedback from users, partners and other stakeholders” make it abundantly clear that even these big-tech giants aren’t quite sure how people will react to their new privacy tools, and what that in turn will mean for marketing.