Facebook’s Ad Transparency Feature: Your New Favorite (Free) Competitive Research Tool
For anyone who's ever looked at an advertisement on the Internet and thought to themselves, “I, for one, hope I am not being brainwashed by malevolent actors sitting in an undisclosed room lit by a single dim light bulb,” I have some pretty cool news.
Facebook has decided to give users more information about the ads they see and the businesses and organizations with pages on the site.
The decision, announced last week by COO Sheryl Sandberg, is a response to criticisms that the social network does not do enough to make sure advertisers are not doing bad stuff – spreading messages of hate, swinging presidential elections, and the like.
“We underinvested in prevention,” said the chief operating officer at Facebook HQ. “We underinvested in proactively policing the ecosystem we have built.”
Now, when a user visits an advertiser's page, such as yours, he or she will find a tab labeled “Page Info and Ads.” Here, users will find some basic – yet useful – information about your business: the names you've used in the past, how often you've changed your name, and when you created the page.
Additionally, users can check out the ads you're currently running, including the ones that aren't shown to them. They can filter your ads by country and flag anything they deem inappropriate – whether it's violent, sexually explicit, misleading, or any other bad adjective you can dream up.
This announcement follows the big news from the spring: Facebook now tells users in the U.S. who paid for a given political ad and how much that advertiser is paying the platform overall. The same features will soon roll out in Brazil, which has an election coming up in the fall.
Evidently, Facebook would like to avoid a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which recently landed our boy Zuck in Congress (and inspired some truly imaginative memes that you should browse at your leisure).
How will this impact my business?
Well, assuming you're not deliberately attempting to undermine democracy as we know it, y'all should be fine.
Jokes aside, this announcement comes with some serious implications for Facebook advertisers.
Knowledge drop: you have competitors, and your competitors want to beat you. Now, your industry rivals have the power to see all of your active Facebook advertisements – and to report them, if they feel so inclined. It's not yet clear whether Facebook will take measures to prevent businesses from flagging their competitors' ads without valid reasoning. However, it is unlikely that the platform will remove fair, inoffensive content simply because it was flagged a couple times.
And, no – we don't recommend that you blindly report your competitors' ads for no reason. We're all adults here, right?
Now, for the more unsettling idea: that your competitors can look at every single one of your Facebook ads and try to do them better.
Of course, studying the strategies of your opponents and acting accordingly is nothing new – that's exactly why Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick (rude SpyGate comments unwelcome). But, it's less than ideal to have all of your Facebook ads queued up in a single convenient location, complete with geographical filters, for your competitors to review at length.
Again, it's unclear if Facebook will take steps to monitor this behavior. They could, of course, track businesses and their employees and make sure they're not spending lots of time in the Active Ads sections of their rivals' pages. Until then, however, it seems to be fair game, which means you should seize the opportunity while it's there.
Blatantly ripping off the ideas of others in your industry? Not advisable. Staying on top of your competitors' paid social tactics to give yourself a better chance of effectively reaching consumers? The Patriot Way.