PMG Digital Made for Humans

Understanding Off-Facebook Activity

3 MINUTE READ | August 28, 2019

Understanding Off-Facebook Activity

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

Announced last week, Facebook’s new Off-Facebook Activity tool will give each user a summary of the third-party websites and apps that share a user’s visit history information with Facebook; allowing people the opportunity to clear that history from their account if they choose to. This feature was announced last year, but given additional recommendations from policy experts and consumers, the tool’s release was delayed for several months, and a phased rollout is anticipated. People in South Korea, Ireland, and Spain will be the first to access this tool, and in the coming months, Off-Facebook Activity will be available to everyone that uses the social network.

Off-Facebook Activity demo

Source: Facebook’s Off-Facebook Activity

Along with the Ad Library updates as well as “Why am I seeing this ad?” and “Why am I seeing this post?”, this new feature is another way to give people more transparency and control over their data on and off Facebook. PMG anticipates this tool will affect businesses’ ability to target users who use the tool to clear their personal history. The summary of information listed in the Off-Facebook Activity for each user is data gathered from apps and websites that use Facebook’s business tools, including the Facebook Pixel, SDK and API. To help brands prepare for the Off-Facebook Activity roll out, we anticipate the following effects on digital programs.

Impact on Targeting

As clarified by Facebook in its message to businesses, when someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we will no longer be able to use the data they cleared (deleted) for ad targeting purposes. Meaning that the ad targeting options available via Facebook’s business tools such as the Facebook Pixel can no longer be used to reach that person with ads. This also includes Custom Audiences builts from site or app visitors.

Once this feature takes effect, PMG will be limited in using broader interest-based or demographic targeting to reach users. When a user clears their history, they are still able to be reached with ads based on their on-platform engagement activity; however, we still expect to see a decrease in audience sizes as users begin to take action to opt-out of marketing activity on the platform. The total estimate of audience decreases is currently unknown but we’ll be monitoring closely to understand the users’ adoption.

Impact on Measurement

Because Facebook’s measurement and analytics tools do not incorporate PII in order to protect people’s identity, there are no anticipated changes to measurement once the Off-Facebook Activity is live. As stated by Facebook in the announcement, 

“ We will still be able to provide accurate measurement to help businesses understand the impact of their Facebook investment while honoring people’s choice to exercise control over their off-Facebook activity.”

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