Facebook’s walled garden is in full bloom with lush meadows of customer data. But many marketers need more specific data than the insights inferred by Facebook users’ behavior within the platform. Often, those marketers have turned to its third-party data tools, such as Partner Categories. They’ll have to look elsewhere: Facebook is removing these services, based in part on the scandal surrounding its dealings with Cambridge Analytica.

Many of the marketers who relied on Facebook’s third-party data tools are concerned that their advertising on the platform won’t be as effective without that data. Others are considering whether to advertise there at all.

Fortunately, you can still get the data you need to drive conversion inside Facebook—and, across other digital touchpoints. With the right data partner, you can build custom audiences from extensive audience insights that will deliver more return on your customer data investments.

Get to know your audience

What exactly are audience insights? They’re a set of data that describe and define your audience, so you can better understand the different groups of people that comprise it and then create optimal segments.

Individually, any one type of insight is useful. When combined, their usefulness increases exponentially. The more attributes you link, the better you’ll understand what makes your audience tick; what makes them likely to convert or purchase or refer or advocate. When used in concert, these insights can help you predict, for example, who is likely to become your customer and who is not. Audience insights are often divided into three categories: demographic, psychographic, and behavioral.

Demographic insights: Descriptive characteristics such as age, gender, household income, education, location, and the like; they help to distinguish between an aspirational target and an actual target.

Psychographic insights: Attributes such as interests, hobbies, and opinions, as well as lifestyle preferences and brand affinity; they help inform your choices for deliverables such as messaging and creative, content types, influencers, and communication channels.

Behavioral insights: Inferences based on actions that people have taken, such as purchases they make, posts they publish on social, cars they own, or charitable causes they contribute to; these help to deduce intent and predict next actions.

These insights are essential to defining your targeting criteria. After all, if the “who” is wrong for your campaign, then it won’t matter how awesome your offer or creative is, you’ll still miss the mark.

Insights in a privacy-centric world

In light of recent regulatory changes such as GDPR in the EU or new legislation in California, as well as the Facebook Cambridge analytics debacle, it’s vital to consider how consumer privacy factors in to audience insights.

Although there are numerous privacy principals to adhere to when you use consumer data for marketing, the two most important are transparency (or notice) and choice.

Transparency: Companies that use transparency or notice (the terms get used interchangeably), have mechanisms in place to let people know if and when they’re collecting data and that there’s an option to find out how that information is going to be used. One example is a pop-up box saying that a site uses cookies to personalize the user experience.

Choice: The principal of choice means that consumers have the ability to control whether they opt in to or out of marketing communications; for instance, a sign-up box for an email newsletter or an unsubscribe button at the bottom of an email.

By applying these two principals, notice and choice, you’re already well on your way to observing privacy best practices in terms of audience insights. But there’s action that just as important as the others: Know who you’re working with.

In today’s privacy-centric environment, it’s crucial to choose your data and implementation partners carefully. Ask questions such as: How do they source their data? Do they follow published terms of service? You must ensure that a prospective partner is a reputable company because you’ll be known by the company you keep.

Now that Facebook is phasing out tools that provide access third-party data for targeting, choosing your data partners wisely is more important than ever.

What’s different at Facebook?

Once Facebook fully eliminates these tools, you won’t be able to target its users based on attributes that have been verified through other sources. You won’t know, for example, the type of car someone owns or the ages of children in their home. Much of the data that will remain in the platform is self-reported by users who choose to tell Facebook their age, relationship status, interests, and the like.

Other types of data are inferred, meaning that Facebook sees certain signals on its platform from its users’ behaviors that suggest, for example, that someone likes a certain type of political candidate or cause.

Some marketers consider Facebook’s audience data to be sufficient for targeting their advertisements on the platform. If your targeting is broad and your price point is low, the self-reported data on Facebook may be good enough. Plus, Facebook has massive reach. So, if reach is more important than conversions, it might still be a good fit.

However, for marketers trying to reach a high-value or niche audience, who need more information for their targeting, and who will no longer have access to it third-party data tool, there are options. One is to leverage custom audiences that have been created using data about what matters to their target audience and to their specific campaign; that combine the best of their first-party data with privacy-centric third-party data.

The ideal engine for building custom audiences will use AI to access a large, dynamic consumer graph — representing millions of real people with millions of diverse data points about them. The tool will select from the most relevant and predictive behaviors, demographics, past purchases, interests, affinities, and the like to develop a truly unique and custom audience segment based on your key criteria.

Marketers for a brand that sells products to families with young children took that approach. They had a tight budget and timeline, so they needed to be certain that their ads were being served to families with babies and toddlers. They used the SpotRight platform to find people who had children ages zero to two years who were interested in their client’s brand, and then expanded the search to find people who looked just like them. The marketers sent that audience through their brand’s Facebook account for targeting, and the campaign was highly successful.

Stepping outside the wall

Facebook is a walled garden, so they only allow the targeting you create there to be used in their platform. Custom audiences are not only more effective, but also more cost effective, because you can use them to reach the same type of audiences or segments synchronously across multiple platforms. So, in addition to targeting that custom audience on Facebook, you could also use it for activities such as targeting via pre-roll video, on other social sites, via programmatic campaigns, and in broader digital targeting.

The result is that your marketing team can create custom audiences based on the insights that matter to your campaign, without any of the typical cost, time, and resources required. In fact, marketers already using AI-based tools to build custom audiences are seeing improvements such as 60 percent higher click-through rates and 30 percent lower customer acquisition costs. This is no surprise considering that tests we conducted with a large set of individual-level purchase data found that SpotRight’s algorithms are able to predict which audience members are the ones who are 10 times more likely to be a buyer.

Facebook may be bricking up its walls, but that’s OK. Using the right partner to build a robust, AI- and privacy-driven custom audience is fast and easy. The custom audience perform better than a syndicated or typical custom audience. And marketers can use it synchronously across platforms to maximize their impact. Those are the kinds of audience insights that will make your profits bloom.