Facebook has approximately ten thousand different ad targeting options you can use, depending on a whole lot of different factors. You have all of the obvious options, like age, gender, and location. You have trickier options like connections to influencers and commonality for likes. You have lookalike audiences and copycat audiences. And, of course, you have other elements like income targeting.
Special Targeting Factors
Facebook has a special set of restrictions on some kinds of targeting options. These are targeting options they categorize as “Partner Categories.” When you create an ad and when you set your targeting options, you can see certain specific types of detailed targeting options and their parameters. An example Facebook uses is home ownership status. When you choose a specific category, you see what subcategory it is (like demographics > home > home ownership > homeowners) and the description of that targeting option. You can also see details of the option and, most importantly, the source of the data.
When you’re using a targeting option that has a source labeled “partner category” you’re getting data from one of Facebook’s third party partners. In other words, it’s data you have access to because someone else sold that data to Facebook in a large database.
Partner Categories Example
What, you didn’t think Facebook harvested everything, did you? God, no. Facebook has a ton of personal information, but I don’t know about you, I’ve never put my income level into Facebook. They have no idea how much I make based on my posts or my likes. I’m not in any groups meant for specific income ranges, or anything like that.
No, generally there will be an entry like “Source: Partner Category provided by Acxiom. Publicly available data and consumer self-reported data.” The exact information will vary; the company providing it might be different, and whether or not the data is self-reported will be different.
Acxiom, for the record, is an IT service management company that specializes in data analysis and harvesting. The data they collect, collate, and analyze is passed on to their business clients, like Facebook. Facebook pays a lot to have access to that information, and you in turn pay to be able to target users based on that information. Facebook discloses what companies they work with, actually; their partners are Acxiom, Acxiom Japan, CCC Marketing, Epsilon, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud, and Quantium.
Facebook Partner Data
Partner categories are, importantly, only available in specific areas. Acxiom provides data from Australia, France, Germany, the US, the UK, and Japan. CCC Marketing provides data from Japan. Epsilon provides data from the US. Experian provides data from Australia, Brazil, the UK, and the US. Oracle provides data from the UK and the US, and Quantium provides data from Australia.
Partner categories have two major restrictions. One is location, as mentioned above. If Facebook doesn’t have access to data about users in your country, you can’t target that information in that country. You also can’t access partner category information from outside that area. Crucially, if the information is only available in the US, and you’re a UK agency, you can’t access it. This is true even if your targeting is restricted to the US and if your client is in the US. You have to actually be based in the US to access this US marketing data.
This is true primarily to make it easier for Facebook to track data restrictions. Data sale and privacy laws vary from location to location, and selling information across country borders is a massive hassle. Rather than deal with it, Facebook restricts it.
There’s one more quirk of partner category data; since it costs Facebook to obtain, Facebook tweaks costs to cover their expenses. Up to 15% of your total ad bid will be redirected to the cost of the data you’re using. That means if you’re spending $100 on ads, you’re actually only spending $85 on ads; the other $15 goes off to Axciom or whoever to cover the cost of accessing the data.
Facebook does say this fee varies and that the 15% is a maximum reduction, so you might only see 2% or 5% reduction, or somewhere else in the middle. It’s worth noting, however, that to get the same reach and the same ad bids, you need a higher total budget to cover the cost of partner category data.