You may have noticed that Facebook has been in the news quite a bit recently. And here at Good & Gold, we’ve noticed because of that harsh spotlight, confusion and misconceptions about the way the social media giant actually works tend to spread rather quickly. We find ourselves constantly fielding questions from clients and friends about how the platform collects, stores, and uses data. Given all the questions, we thought it’d be helpful to address some of the more common Facebook misconceptions and do a bit of old-fashioned mythbusting.
Reality: You CAN, as long as you have an active account! Go to your account settings, then click on Ads. Here you can find out everything Facebook knows (or thinks they know) about you, including your interests, any current advertisers you’ve interacted with (including websites you’ve visited or apps you’ve used), and any categories it places you in. Categories include things such as what type of cell phone you use, what race Facebook thinks you are, what types of locations you visit (for example, maybe you frequent seafood restaurants), how engaged of a shopper you are, and more.
Reality: Yes...and no. When you delete your account, in theory most of your data is removed from Facebook’s servers within 90 days—but not your “shadow profile.” Shadow profiles are essentially data points on users and non-users alike that continue to collect information that Facebook stores, including when you make a purchase on or browse any page with a Facebook pixel installed (much of the web at this point). So, not only does the company collect data points on you if you delete your account, but that they are able to even if you’ve never had an account.
Reality: This used to be true, going back to 2013, but it changed this year. Previously, Facebook would beef up your user profile with information they got from Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai, and would allow advertisers to target you based on this information. Now, advertisers on the platform can only target you based on Facebook’s data or the information advertisers themselves provide Facebook about you.
Reality: No, Facebook doesn’t listen to your conversations—they don’t need to. They know your location, they know your friends, and they know your friends’ location. If your friend has spent the last week researching new stereo equipment, for example, and you’re hanging out with them, Facebook assumes there’s a decent chance that they might be telling you all about it. Or if your spouse has been looking at kitchen appliances and you spend a lot of time together in the same location, Facebook generally assumes that you may also be interested.
Also, you’re predictable. Yes, even you! But you have fairly well-defined purchase behaviors based on past purchases, and Facebook is smart and agile enough to figure it out and know that if you bought a new house a month ago you might be looking into window treatments today.
Reality: Based on the above, we know this isn’t entirely true. There are good reasons to hyper-target your audience, and it can help make your campaigns more effective. But assuming your own customer data is accurate, the truth is that uploading customer lists and telling Facebook to find lookalikes is likely the most effective strategy for your advertising campaigns.