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Facebook Partner Categories: Frighteningly Effective

Written by: Juliana Casale, Director of Marketing

As anyone who’s ever been served a retargeting ad after abandoning an item in their shopping cart can tell you, social media marketing has become extremely (sometimes frighteningly) sophisticated. The appeal of Facebook as an ad channel has always been the level of insight it provides into the hearts and minds of consumers; not just gender, age and location, but whether someone’s in a long-distance relationship, has a birthday coming up or reads Twilight. While Broad Categories have provided brands with an excellent opportunity to match ad campaigns to buyer personas based on self-selected data, Facebook has taken the level of detail several steps further.

When Partner Categories launched in April 2013, the value to performance marketers was immediately clear. With access to privacy-protected clusters created by third-party data providers, advertisers were given the ability to target consumers based on their activity outside of Facebook, across desktop and mobile — effectively giving them superpowers. Clusters include people in households where auto insurance is renewed in the month of February, people in households who are heavy buyers of peanut butter and jelly, and people in households in congressional district 5 in Connecticut. The list of available categories began at just over 500, with additional buckets added on a regular basis by third-party partners Datalogix, Epsilon and Acxiom.

Marketers who have gotten comfortable using this feature can drill even deeper into targeting techniques. Nanigans offers managed users Audience Affinities, a tool that identifies high overlap with custom audiences. As a real-world example, we ran an affinity analysis on a list of high value purchasers for a luxury retailer, and that helped us choose optimized Partner Categories for them. Some of the results were obvious, like “high end retail” and “in market” for sports cars (indicators that a consumer is a big ticket shopper), but others like “recent home buyers” were less intuitive. The affinity analysis turned up some excellent wealth indicators in alignment with the ROI the retailer had in mind, and as a company with a very low repeat purchase rate, their custom audiences were extremely valuable when partnered with an affinity and lookalike ad strategy.

Nanigans affinity analysis for Facebook.

Layered keyword sets are another way brands can maximize their use of Partner Categories. For instance, a shoe retailer could use a shoe buyer Partner Category and refine the targeting with keywords based on the type of shoe. For flats or comfortable shoes a teacher keyword set would make the most sense, whereas hipster or vintage keywords might better suit a combat boot. Layering is a powerful way for brands to refine their target audiences and achieve higher ROI, serving ads to those who are most receptive to the messaging.

Nanigans offers Facebook’s Partner Categories feature via the Ad Engine platform. It’s currently only available for US advertisers, though a UK rollout is in the works. According to COO Sheryl Sandberg, it’s just the beginning: “Now marketers can reach exactly the people they are looking for — such as people who buy fashion apparel or are in the market for a new car. We’ve more than doubled the number of Partner Categories in the US and now offer more than 1000. And we still believe there is still significant opportunity ahead as we continue to improve our targeting capabilities.”

Interested in using Facebook Partner Categories and Audience Affinities to help your business?

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