Everything to know on the biggest Facebook change for recruitment and employer branding
In March of this year, Facebook settled an ACLU class-action job discrimination suit. Facebook promised to make sweeping changes as part of the settlement, to prevent employers to target ads based on categories like race, age and gender. This will have consequences for every recruiter who works with Facebook to run job marketing campaigns. You’ll find all about that in this blog.
Although it is not completely clear what the impact will be on campaign performance, it might be a good idea to start a conversation internally or with your vendor, if you have not been updated yet. If you’d like, you can use this blog as a reference. If you have any questions, just connect with me on LinkedIn and I’d love to help!
Facebook offers a lot of ways to target their users for advertisement campaigns and they have become one of the biggest in the industry. They rank second with roughly 22% of all digital ad spend on Facebook, with Google taking the first spot with roughly 37%. The number 3 is Amazon, with a mere 9%.
Facebook has become so big, because they have got a huge user base and advanced targeting options. There are plenty of cases where companies did bad stuff using those targeting options, like Cambridge Analytica.
Targeting is all about dividing people into separate groups and showing some groups your ads, and not showing it to others. This is fine for eCommerce, but illegal for employment opportunities. However, Facebook did not do enough to prevent companies from abusing those targeting options for job marketing campaigns. Job marketing campaigns are campaigns that are meant to persuade talent to visit and apply to a vacancy, using ads on different marketing platforms.
In September of 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Facebook and ten employers for using the platform to target their job ads — for positions in male-dominated fields — only to younger men.
In March of 2019, the ACLU and Facebook have reached a settlement, in which Facebook agrees to do sweeping changes to their platform for campaigns for Employment Opportunities, Credit Opportunities and Housing Opportunity or Related Service. It will be impossible to discriminate with targeting for campaigns that are marked as Special Ad Category campaigns.
These new rules have kicked in on 26th of August 2019 for companies that have the intent to run such campaigns or for companies that target people in the US for such campaigns, that are created in the Facebook Business Manager.
Starting on the 3rd of December, all campaigns have to comply with these new rules. That means also campaigns created using the API or third-party services. There is a detailed timeline at the bottom of the article.
Example of campaigns that need to comply with these rules:
- US advertiser targeting a housing, employment and credit ad to the US (applies)
- Advertiser based in the US targeting a housing, employment and credit ad to a country outside the US (applies)
- Advertiser in France targeting a housing, employment and credit ad to US (applies)
- Advertiser in France targeting a housing, employment and credit ad to a country outside the US (not required)
If you mark a campaign as a Special Ad Category, you will have to comply with these new rules. The Facebook Business Manager will even display a warning that you are now creating or editing a special ad category.
Below you’ll find the consequences of these new rules.
For campaigns marked as special as category campaign, advertisers can not target on age and gender.
Location targeting must include at least a 15-mile radius when targeting cities or towns. Zip code targeting is no longer available.
Exclusion of a location is no longer possible.
Language targeting remains available.
Facebook has put out the following statement on changing detailed targeting: ‘Some detailed targeting options, which may include demographics, behaviors or interests, are unavailable.’
After investigation, it became clear how many detailed targeting are remaining: just 383. Some examples of what is remaining:
- Software engineering
These are less specific than the regular detailed targeting options. Although not confirmed, it is believed that Facebook offers up to 40 000 detailed targeting options for regular campaigns.
Next to that, the exclusion of a detailed targeting option is no longer permitted.
There are no changes to retargeting, as Facebook already stated the populating of a custom audience can’t be done in a discriminatory way.
For example, if you use detailed targeting to attract males under 40 to your career page, you can’t use that traffic for custom audiences.
There will however be a big change for Lookalike Audience; they will not be usable for special ad campaigns.
Facebook offers an alternative, which they call Saved Ad Audiences. They are similar to Lookalike, which will have more restrictions in terms of the factors that will be considered, to prevent discrimination. That means Facebook does not take details like age, gender and race into consideration when creating this Special Ad Audience.
You can use these Special Ad Audiences in the same way you use Lookalike Audiences. For example, you can set the Audience Size to 1% to 10% of the population of your selected location.
To give you a brief overview of important dates, here’s a timeline:
- 18–09–2018: The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Facebook.
- 19–03–2019: The ACLU and Facebook settled. Facebook announced they will implement ‘sweeping changes’ to its advertising platform later that year.
- 01–07–2019: Facebook starts the gradual rollout of changes to its platform. They have started with changes in the Facebook Business Manager, where they inform advertisers that these rules will be rolling out in 2019.
- 26–08–2019: All employer opportunities campaigns created or edited in the Facebook Business Manager and that are required to comply, should be marked as a Special Ad Category. This means all rules, as described above, will kick.
Campaigns that are created before this date, can be left running for a while, as long as you don’t change anything to it.
- 16–09–2019: Changes to the Facebook Marketing API will be made available, and developers should begin updating their implementation.
- 04–12–2019: All campaigns must comply with these new rules. That means also campaigns created through the Facebook Marketing API or your vendor.
- 2020: Somewhere in 2020, all ongoing campaigns that are created or edited before these new rules kicked in, have to be modified to comply with these new rules. No definitive date has been communicated yet.
I’m no fortune teller of course, but I will share my thoughts on the future of job marketing and employer branding campaign.
Facebook already shared that these new rules will be rolled out worldwide, but they have not yet defined a date for this. I think they will try to do it as late as possible, as this will harm their ad revenue.
I guess that this will happen somewhere in 2020, but it will be a gradual rollout. I think the EU will be next, as Facebook is already under serious investigation from the EU.
I’m curious how this impacts their rollout of Jobs on Facebook. Companies are going to have to think about new ways of reaching the right talent, which of course Facebook is also doing; it will be an interesting race!
By the way, I’m going to write a separate blog for Facebook on Jobs, which should be online soon!
There are already investigations into these kinds of practices on the Google Ads network (1, 2), but they are not as concrete as with Facebook. No lawsuits specifically to employment ads have been filed yet, for example.
However, I think it makes a lot of sense that Google will follow. Google is already under investigation by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing discrimination. That department is the same as the one that filed housing discrimination charges against Facebook. Those charges were part of the reasons Facebook came up with the Special Ad Category, which also apply to Housing Opportunities.
Next to that, Google offers the same kind of targeting options, it has got an even bigger network and they have entered the HR industry with Google for Jobs and Google Hire. I’m curious to see how quickly unions or lawmakers will come looking!
Google currently has ads policies that disallow discrimination, but those are not specific to job ads or employer branding.
LinkedIn is, of course, a great place for running job ads or employer branding campaigns, as they have so much professional information on people. LinkedIn allows recruiters, recruitment marketers or employer branding marketers to target very specifically; even more specific than Facebook and Google.
Just like Facebook, LinkedIn has policies that disallow discrimination for hiring practices. If you want to target on age or gender, you have to specify that you want to use LinkedIn to discriminate in ads for employment. Next to that, they only allow targeting based on a city (and thus not a neighborhood), which is not discriminating. That means LinkedIn is doing a great job already!
A very big channel when you want to reach young people: Snapchat. Snapchat already offers a special campaign type for employment campaign, for which it prevent discrimination.
Twitter does not seem to enforce any policies regarding discrimination regarding job ads or employer branding. However, just like Google, they are under the investigation of the HUD, which could be an indicator for the future.
There are big changes happening in the job marketing and employer branding domain, which will have an impact on you. Now would be a good time to start a conversation internally or with your vendor.
If you need any help or would like to discuss this, I’m always happy to help! Just connect with me on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: I work at Wonderkind, a company that created a product for running employer branding and job marketing campaigns. You can find the Wonderkind statement here.
Views are my own.