Late last year, Facebook (now Meta) announced that it would be removing thousands of Detailed Targeting options that relate to potentially sensitive or discriminatory topics. This includes a variety of topics related to health, race, ethnicity, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and religion.

Have you heard about this new update, which officially took effect on January 19? Are you wondering how it will affect your business and your current social media advertising strategy?

Explained below is everything you need to know about the changes to the Facebook Detailed Targeting options. You’ll also find some tips on how to navigate these changes and continue using Facebook advertising to reach your audience and grow your business.


For a long time, all kinds of brands have used Facebook’s Detailed Targeting features to reach highly specific audiences with great success. This tool allowed businesses to include and exclude certain people from their ads based on a variety of topics, including interests, behaviors, demographics, and device types.  If your business has been using Facebook Detailed Targeting successfully, you may be wondering why the social media giant is making changes now. What is their reason for eliminating so many topics from their list of targeting options?


One of the most noteworthy reasons for this change has to do with the European Union and its strict consumer data protection laws.  The General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) states that sites like Facebook cannot target users based on certain parameters (including those that are now being eliminated) without getting explicit consent from every individual user.

Ever since this law went into effect in 2018, Facebook has been battling against it. However, the company has been unsuccessful.  After much debating and deliberating, Facebook is now ready to concede. As a result, they’ve gotten rid of many different targeting options that may be considered discriminatory.


Over the last several years, people across the globe have become more vigilant about their privacy. This is especially true when it comes to things like health conditions, religion, and sexual orientation.  Internet users have also started to worry that Facebook’s Detailed Targeting options could be used to discriminate against underrepresented groups. This includes members of specific religions, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of certain ethnicities.

Representatives from Facebook have explained that the site is working hard to reduce the chances of users experiencing abuse from the platform’s ads system. They hope that eliminating certain topics from the Detailed Targeting feature will help with this. However, only time will tell what the outcomes will be.


Do you currently have ads running that include targeting options that fall under the “potentially sensitive” category? If so, you might be wondering what will happen to them now that Facebook’s new update has gone into effect.  Per Facebook, existing ad sets will continue to run through March 17, 2022. However, you and your team may need to make updates to your targeting selections at some point between now and then.  Facebook will also provide alternative recommendations for targeting your audience within its Ads Manager.


In addition to asking “what caused this change?”, you’ve probably also been wondering how it will affect your business or organization.  For a lot of brands, this update is going to have a big impact on their social media advertising strategy. This is particularly true for cause-based businesses, political parties, and healthcare brands and organizations.  For example, brands can no longer create targeted ads based on topics like “chemotherapy” or “lung cancer awareness” or “Heart Health Awareness Month.” They also cannot target specific religious practices and groups, like “Lutheran Church” or “Jewish holidays.”

Any business that has made a specific issue part of its brand messaging will have to pivot and change the way they handle social media marketing, too. This presents a problem for a lot of brands geared toward young consumers.  Young consumers (i.e., members of Gen Z) are more likely to support businesses that support causes that align with their values. Now that brands are not allowed to use Facebook targeting options that relate to certain issues and causes, they may temporarily lose access to this key demographic.


You and your social media marketing team may not be able to use Facebook Detailed Targeting the same way you once did. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still create targeted ads and gear your content toward a specific audience.  Facebook offers plenty of other targeting options to help brands reach specific groups and improve their social media marketing outcomes. The following are some of the best ones to consider:


The Broad Targeting feature allows you to target audiences based on general topics like gender, age, and location.  When you utilize Broad Targeting, you rely on Facebook’s delivery system to help you get your ads in front of people who are most likely to invest in your products or services. This helps you to find potential customers you might have never known about otherwise.


The Custom Audiences feature allows you to find existing audiences among people who are already using Facebook. You can utilize sources like customer lists, website traffic, app traffic, and Facebook engagement to create a Custom Audience composed of people who are already aware of your business and may want to buy what you’re selling.


Facebook creates Lookalike Audiences from existing audiences. This feature can help you to optimize audience reach and get your ads in front of people who are likely to be interested in your products or services.


When you leverage the lookalike audiences feature, the Lookalike Expansion feature is automatically applied to help you optimize conversions.  With the Lookalike Expansion feature, you get to control the audience that’s used to create your lookalike audience. Facebook may also deliver ads beyond the selected lookalike range, though, if the system predicts that it will improve your ads’ performance.


The Targeting Expansion feature will use your Detailed Targeting inputs to help with ad delivery.  As is the case with the Lookalike Expansion feature, Facebook may deliver ads outside your Detailed Targeting selections. This only happens, though, if the system predicts it will help to improve your business’s advertising outcomes.  You can opt into this feature for nearly all of Facebook’s advertising objectives (the exceptions are Reach and Brand Awareness).


It’s great to know that all of these Facebook Detailed Targeting alternatives exist. However, it’s also important to note that you can still use the Detailed Targeting feature. It’s changing, but it’s not going away.  To get the most out of Facebook’s Detailed Targeting feature, be sure to implement these best practices:


In the past, Facebook’s Detailed Targeting feature has allowed brands to make their ads highly specific.  There is a downside to this option, though, and that’s the fact that highly specific ads can make a business’s audience too narrow. This, in turn, can make your ads less effective and make it harder for you to see a significant return on investment.


You may not be able to target ads based on topics like religion or political affiliation anymore. However, you can still target audiences based on plenty of other factors, including life events.  The Life Events option allows you to reach people who have recently been engaged, recently moved, recently got a new job, recently experienced a loss in their family, etc. This is an effective but often under-utilized way to find people who are in need of products or services like yours.


Remember that you can still use combinations of behaviors, demographics, interests, location data, and more to create ads targeted to specific individuals.  While you don’t want to make your ads too specific, you don’t need to give up on the layering options altogether. This is an excellent tool that allows you to reach your target audience and get them interested in what your business has to offer.


If you’re still feeling lost about how you’re going to handle the new Facebook advertising update, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and ask for advice.  Working with a social media marketing agency will help you to learn the ins and outs of Facebook advertising. It also ensures your promotions and campaigns are as effective as possible.  When you partner with a professional, you get to save time, too, and focus on other aspects of running and growing your business.


The new updates to Facebook’s Detailed Targeting may be a bit intimidating at first. If you remember the best practices and alternatives outlined above, though, you’ll be able to navigate these changes with ease and set your business up for long-term social media advertising success.

Do you need more help updating your advertising practices? If so, reach out to us today to learn more about our social media marketing services.

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