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A Little Bit of (Facebook) Transparency Goes a Long Way

A Little Bit of (Facebook) Transparency Goes a Long Way

June 29, 2018

Facebook has added a welcome layer of transparency, but is it enough for agile marketers?

Apple’s much anticipated launch on Sept. 12 included various new iPhone models, but the star of the show by far was the Apple Watch, with its new, built-in, FDA-approved ECG monitor. This is the brand’s largest step forward into the healthcare/medical equipment field and can mark a huge shift in their marketing strategy.

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A Little Bit of (Facebook) Transparency Goes a Long Way

After much talk and some beta testing, Facebook finally rolled out its new transparency solutions for consumers yesterday. Our customers – some of the largest consumer marketers in the world – have asked us about the new Facebook transparency changes and how it will affect them and their marketing campaigns.

Marketers today can craft campaigns for a certain target audience and guarantee that ONLY those chosen people will be able to view the ads through paid promotions – these are typically known as “dark posts,” since they aren’t readily viewable to the entire public. This is the reason why your friend may have viewed an interesting promoted post on their Facebook feed, but you didn’t happen to come across it.

Dark Posts: Not just for Marketers, for Politicians and Foreign Powers, Too

Dark posts -- promoted posts that are meant only for the eyes and ears of chosen consumers – became a favorite of political agents, and indeed, to this day, Donald Trump is one of the top advertisers on Facebook, using primarily dark posts. According to Wired and other news organizations, fake account managers in Russia published massive amounts of dark posts designed to divide the United States and incite voters before the 2016 election. In parallel, Facebook was charged with poorly securing the vast amounts of consumer data that it held in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

As more users increasingly understood that not only was their personal data insecure on Facebook, but they were being manipulated by unscrupulous political advertisers, the more cautious people became, leading to a large decline in Facebook users. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the number of users in North America dropped for the first time ever from 185 million in the previous quarter to 184 million.  Mark Zuckerberg, dealing with allegations and negative press regarding these many issues, addressed Congress to clarify Facebook’s flaws and promise the American people and the world, that he “will learn from this experience to secure our [their] platform further and make our [their] community safer for everyone going forward.”

Introducing: Facebook Transparency

In April 2018, Facebook announced its Transparency efforts, a huge improvement in ad clarity, and this past week rolled it out to users worldwide. We believe this is a step in the right direction, helping both consumers and marketers have a better understanding of how Facebook Page owners are using the platform. Facebook now offers its customers a feature called ‘view ads’ that allows anyone to see the ads a specific page is running — even if they are not part of your News Feed. For “issue” (i.e. political) posts, even more comprehensive information is documented for consumers to access. But the “issue” transparency options do not apply to businesses unless they are posting about specific political issues.

Here is an overview of Facebook’s newest Transparency Features:

The Running “Info and Ads” Tab

Facebook has added a new sidebar link called “Info and Ads”.

The new menu item leads to a mini-feed where instead of posts, the ads being run by the brand are displayed. Here are some examples of ads that these companies are running, but do not necessarily appear on their public Facebook Page:

Ads in the Feed

If you’re looking for the target audience, its reaction(s), or the company’s timing strategy for a commercial ad, you are out of luck, since only the creatives are shown.

BrandTotal: Transparency on Steroids

Everyone welcomes an added layer of transparency on Facebook, given its importance and influence in the daily lives and choices of millions of people. However companies that aim to build an agile marketing strategy would need more information than Facebook is currently offering to fully understand their commercial environment. The new Facebook Ads section only shows the commercial ads running at that moment, without any information about timing, campaign breadth, targeting, or how it relates to campaigns on other social platforms.

Along with a view on real time campaigns, a BrandTotal user can see the brand’s targeting strategy, all campaigns running in the past 90 days, timing and testing data, performance metrics, impression numbers, comments and sentiment analysis, as well as Instagram’s (a Facebook subsidiary) dark posts. In addition, if there are related posts running on other social media sites, these will be automatically grouped together in the BrandTotal platform using artificial intelligence to be viewed as comprehensive campaigns. Of course, it may be obvious, but the Facebook “Info and Ads” relates only to posts on Facebook, and not dark posts on other platforms, whereas BrandTotal gives you a view of your peers’ marketing activity on all the relevant social platforms.

So, if you just want to see what your competitors are posting on Facebook right now, the new Facebook tool will be useful; however, if you want to be an agile marketer, using competitive intelligence across all social media to create an effective and competitive strategy, BrandTotal is what you need.


Featured image source: Maxpixel; Other image: Facebook

About the author

Gabriel Ellis

Gabe is BrandTotal's Head of Customer Success and a crack digital marketer. He was born in Italy and still appreciates good pasta and espresso.

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