Facebook Updates Custom Audience Lists — Here's What That Means for Medical Marketers

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Facebook has increased transparency in ad targeting, which means users can opt out of Custom Audience lists. How will this impact healthcare marketing?

After recent privacy scandals and congressional hearings, Facebook’s reputation as the mecca of online advertising has taken a hit. Despite these setbacks, data shows that Facebook remains a highly effective venue to reach a wide range of audiences — especially for medical marketers.

A recent study of medical influencers supports the theory that Facebook is still the place to be for medical marketing. According to the report, over 98 percent of medical influencers use Facebook, and almost as many use it in their daily lives. Further, only three percent of those surveyed have decreased their Facebook use due to privacy concerns. This data helps to confirm the staying power of Facebook marketing, and its uncanny ability to help medical marketers reach new patients. 

Yet widespread privacy and security complaints have led Facebook to make some changes to its ad experience. Recently, Facebook rolled out an update that aims to increase user satisfaction by limiting the reach of ads. This change comes in the form of greater transparency in Custom Audience lists.

Now, Facebook users can choose to opt out of certain Custom Audience lists, which limits marketers’ ability to target particular ad audiences. For medical marketers, this may mean less connection with core patient groups. However, it may also create some surprising benefits for both healthcare providers and their patients.

What’s Changing?

According to Facebook, a Custom Audience “is a type of audience you can create to help build your reach. It’s made of information — called “identifiers” — you’ve collected about your customers (such as email, phone number and address) and provided to Facebook.”

Once customers have been added to your Custom Audience list, you can “match” their Facebook and Instagram profiles to relevant ad campaigns. In an environment where privacy concerns run rampant, Facebook aims to improve customer satisfaction by allowing users to view their own Custom Audience list information, and to opt out of any list if they wish. 

Users’ new ability to opt out of Custom Audience lists doesn’t spell doom for medical marketers, however. Improved satisfaction with Facebook ads can actually lead patients to engage more with the healthcare content they do see, and increase their trust in the provider that is serving these ads. Even though Facebook users have long possessed the ability to hide select ads, the new opportunity to engage with Custom Audience lists can help them manage their ad preferences in a more complete way.

It’s true that some patients might opt out of your organization’s Custom Audience lists. But Facebook’s changes are still likely to be a net positive for medical marketers on the site. Transparency in Custom Audience lists works to improve trust between healthcare marketers and their audiences, and advertisers can use opt-outs as a metric for patient satisfaction. 

What This Means for Facebook Ads

Facebook still offers major advantages to medical marketers. Healthcare providers have the ability to target patients based on precise personal and demographic information, unlike almost any other site. Facebook’s advertising platform helps to hone Custom Audience lists so the patient groups you target are as relevant as possible.

New rules allowing Facebook users to view themselves in — and potentially remove themselves from — Custom Audience lists may at first seem like a blow to medical marketers. However, improving your audience’s trust in the transparency and honesty of the Facebook ads they see will help to improve trust in your organization, with the added benefit of removing patients who don’t find your content relevant. 

With these updates, medical marketers and their audiences both have the opportunity to create a better Facebook experience. Ultimately, a more transparent and targeted relationship with patients is a valuable thing for healthcare providers looking to engage with users through digital marketing.

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