PUBLISHED: Sep 21, 2021 4 min read

What to Expect from Facebook’s Targeting and Audience Ad Updates: September 21

Katie Gray

Katie Gray

Associate Strategist, Digital Media

Continuing a long-term trend, Facebook is giving its bidding algorithm even more say-so in advertising campaigns. Starting today, Facebook will be rolling out updates to its Detailed Targeting Expansion and Lookalike Expansion products that will impact campaigns using the Conversions Objective and optimize for conversions, value, or app events. As part of a more significant push to aggregate audiences to maximize campaign efficiency, the new updates can potentially cause extra hurdles for advertisers who wish to use audience data to acquire customer insights. Here’s what advertisers need to know about these new updates.

What is Detailed Targeting Expansion?

Facebook’s Targeting Expansion product uses detailed targeting inputs to guide delivery. Advertisers who use the conversions objective, leveraging Detailed Targeting, optimize for conversions, value, or app events. While advertisers have historically input detailed targeting selections, Detailed Targeting Expansion will automatically apply Targeting Expansion to Detailed Targeting based on performance. Advertisers will still input their data, but Facebook may deliver ads beyond detailed targeting selections based on system-wide predictions.

What is in the Lookalike Audience Update?

Similarly, Facebook will soon automatically deliver ads beyond the current lookalike audience range, expanding the size of the advertiser’s chosen audience by 1%-10% based on Facebook’s performance predictions. Currently, Lookalike Expansion uses your seed audience (website, mobile, or customer list custom audience) to guide delivery. Advertisers will continue to control the seed used for lookalike audience creation, but Facebook will no longer allow advertisers to target only the seed-based lookalike audience in Conversion Objective campaigns.

Why do these updates matter?

Advertisers that use Detailed Targeting with Audience Expansion off or Lookalike Audiences may see a change in conversion or app objective campaign performance. For reporting, advertisers will be losing the ability to exclusively target specific audiences for their prospecting efforts. Without this option, they also lose the ability to accurately view performance by audience due to the possibility of the audience expanding past the targeting parameters. This latest update will be another step Facebook has taken to let the algorithm take the lead in seeking out potential customers. This move creates bigger, broader audiences to maximize campaign efficiency.

How do these updates impact digital marketers?

Facebook predicts that advertisers should expect to see campaign performance stay relatively the same or even improve. Since Facebook’s goal with this change is to increase the size of the audiences receiving ads, campaigns that utilize low percentage lookalikes or narrowly detailed targeting will likely see the most notable changes. Restrictive audiences can limit performance, and with this latest update, the algorithm can be more cost-effective, in Facebook’s opinion.

Cutting-edge advertisers are already enabling Detailed Targeting Expansion and using large lookalike audiences, around 10%, are ahead of the game. As ready advocates for “broad is better” for performance marketing, they will continue to be excited about these changes.

Through our testing, Amsive Digital has learned that opting into audience expansion typically does improve performance for Conversion Objective campaigns. So, little will likely change for many of our clients; the biggest effect of this policy change will be felt by advertisers who usually turn off audience expansion, as well as advertisers who focus on testing defined audiences against each other.

Is there a way to avoid these changes?

As noted above, Facebook’s audience expansion tool is often an excellent way to improve a campaign’s performance. However, advertisers who need to know the performance of strictly-defined Lookalike and Detailed Targeting audiences will need to find a workaround to avoid data pollution by the now-mandatory audience expansion. Amsive Digital’s workaround is to create the lookalike and detailed targeting audiences outside of Facebook and upload them as first-party audiences. We are able to do this via our proprietary database of over 250 million records, which contains information on over 2,700 attributes for each record. The database allows us to create custom Lookalike audiences and recreate almost all Detailed Targeting audiences native to Facebook.

Stay tuned for any new developments to these updates, and in the meantime, learn more paid media insights. Read How to Prepare for Google’s New International Ad Taxes Starting October 1.