What does Facebook’s audience targeting change mean for advertisers?


Facebook has long been known as the king of social media advertising with its powerful audience targeting options. As marketers, we’ve been able to use these tools to hone-in on targeting within our advertising, reaching relevant users and showing them ads that they are likely to enjoy and engage with.

The in-depth audience targeting options work in the favour of both user and advertiser – it allows us to reach the audience that we want to be reaching, and as consumers, it allows us to be shown the type of content that matches our interests.

Facebook has recently announced that they are making some changes to the targeting options on the platform – they have removed Partner Category audience targeting options from within the behaviours section. What will that mean for us as advertisers?

A little bit about Facebook’s audience targeting…

For those who aren’t familiar with the platform’s ads manager, Facebook’s detail targeting is broken down into three different sections. (It’s amazing how granular you can go, and if you’re not already familiar with the different options available, it’s definitely worth a look!)

  • Demographic (education level, job title/industry, relationship status, parenthood, and life events such as ‘recently engaged’)
  • Interest (e.g. fitness, food, drink, hobbies, entertainment, and more)
  • Behaviours (e.g. device use, anniversaries, travel behaviours and more)

Interest targeting mainly focuses on a user’s online interests and behaviours (including on Facebook and off Facebook), whereas behaviour targeting tends to focus on a user’s offline behaviour (e.g. income information).

What is a Partner Category, and why has Facebook scrapped them?

Put simply, a Partner Category on Facebook is data that Facebook hasn’t collected themselves, but have instead been provided by a third party company who specialise in peoples’ data. Due to recent news about Facebook’s data collection and use in the past, they have started to crack down on privacy a lot more recently. You may have noticed that each social networking site has asked you to re-confirm their terms of use since the news broke about data misuse.

Facebook ads manager audience example

The Partner Categories that have been phased out are to do with things like income, affluence and homeownership, which could all be seen as sensitive topics. For example, you can no longer target somebody based on the likelihood of them eating out frequently, as this is seen to be related to a person’s income.

So, what does this mean for marketers and brands?

This definitely doesn’t mean that you should abandon Facebook and leave it out of all future strategy planning – far from it, in fact. Facebook still has a huge plethora of information on people based on their online activity, and as long as people continue to use the platform, this database of information on peoples’ online habits and interests will continue to grow.

It does mean that you may have to re-strategise slightly when it comes to how you target your audience, depending on who you’re trying to target, and it may take slightly more brain power – sorry! Here’s an example: say you are setting up some ads for a property company who would like to target wealthy people looking to rent. Both direct income targeting and residential targeting now do not exist, so you will instead have to spend a little bit more time researching your target audience, and whittling down their likely interests and online behaviours. While it may mean some brainstorming of new ways to target your desired audience, it definitely doesn’t mean the end of Facebook advertising.


If you’d like to know more about Facebook advertising, or how we could help your brand market themselves on social, please get in touch with us via social@passiondigital.co.uk