Facebook Custom Audience utopia – so close, yet so far.

Facebook is undisputedly the most powerful targeted marketing tool, ever. Yet the utopia of reaching exactly the people you want with exactly the right message remains tantalisingly out of reach for many large enterprises.

The opportunity

The promise of Facebook Custom Audiences (other social network targeting tools are available!) makes so much sense… “use what you know about your customers to tailor what you show them on Facebook“. When you think about the possibilities of who to target and what to say to them it becomes a compelling proposition. As you probably know, this feature isn’t new, it’s been around for a few years.

The problem

There’s just one, elephant sized snag. Most large brands have been collecting customer data for many years, but when they drafted the T&Cs of what they’d do with that data, Facebook was a mere twinkling in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. Many data use statements probably only just about cover “digital communications”!

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As a result, many large organisations find themselves stuck in a frustrating place where they have buckets of customer data which would enable fantastically creative and relevant ads to be delivered… if only they were allowed to use it. Instead they have to make do with Facebook’s array of out-of-the box targeting options including things like Partner Categories.

At the heart of it, I think people probably find the idea of changing the status quo too large a barrier. Countless meetings with lawyers, data controllers, CRM teams and the like… throw in some potential scepticism from senior stakeholders and suddenly that next project off the rank is looking pretty appealing instead.

The solution

There isn’t a quick fix, primarily because it requires support from a whole range of people across the business, often working in different business units (e.g. marketing, CRM, legal, data control). However, such are the opportunities, large enterprises should be pushing this issue right up their priority list.

How many brands have changed their T&Cs to ensure that in the future customers can be included in this custom audience targeting? How many are going back to customers to seek permission? How many are doing neither?

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