Facebook and Twitter have both announced efforts to make advertising more transparent to the public, and frankly it’s about time. The realization of how easy it was for ads purchased on these platforms to affect the outcome of a national election left a lot of people questioning their privacy. In response, Facebook and Twitter plan to create more transparency by making “dark posts” public. “Dark posts” are targeted newsfeed-style ads (mostly paid/promoted) that don’t publish to your Timeline or in your fan’s feed organically. These new tools will allow anyone to “view ads” from a brand page in Facebook and a “transparency center” on Twitter.
While this a great first step for Facebook and Twitter to win back public trust, how does the removal of “dark posts” impact brands and agencies? Here’s what you should know:
You won’t lose the ability to run targeted ads
As someone who works in the social trenches of the agency, “Facebook ends dark posts’” was a scary headline at first pass. Our clients rely on “dark posts” to target specific audiences based on interest and behavior. It often means increased results and ad efficiencies for them. So, there was relief in understanding that the new systems Facebook and Twitter are putting in place won’t eliminate the ability to target, test and run paid media outside of your native feed. What these systems will do is give the public and brand competitors a closer look inside your ad practices.
Competitors can now see your ads
One of the biggest conversations around this announcement within the industry is competitive advantage, or rather, the advantage it gives your competitors to finally see the bigger picture of your social strategy. Marketers are always keeping an eye on what their brand’s biggest competitors are doing, and we’ve all been in meetings—internal and with clients—where a competitor’s campaign has been a topic of comparison and sometimes even envy. So yes, I’m enthusiastic about this next level of competitive research at my disposal, like seeing ads I may have never been served otherwise and taking note of messaging and creative nuances. While some brands may be nervous about this type of exposure, remember that there are still many unknowns about the purpose, goals and insight that go into developing well-crafted campaigns. Even with this additional layer of transparency, competitors aren’t going to have the keys to your kingdom.
Transparency is great … but does the consumer really care?
And what about the consumer? Does this put our relationship with them in jeopardy? These transparency tools were designed in response to privacy concerns and intellectual threats to ease the minds of millions of Facebook and Twitter users. Whether consumers will care enough to actively seek out ad practices of individual brands remains to be seen. However, if we’ve developed the type of relationship with our audience—and the world—that we at BaM strive to, then opening up ad practices becomes irrelevant. We’ve already earned trust, respect and affinity through honest and authentic communication about the brands we represent.
In the end, it’s all about building love.
As an agency, transparency is something we wholeheartedly support to create a digital environment with public safety in mind. As for what this reveals about social efforts for the brands we represent, we’re enthusiastic about building brand affinity and will continue to develop campaigns for our clients that grow their share of culture regardless of which competitors might be watching.