June 19, 2019

Facebook’s Clear History Tool: Should Pharma Marketers Be Concerned?

Image showing a laptop and iPhone with Facebook on the screen

At last year’s Facebook Summit, F8, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans for a new tool called Clear History that would give Facebook users the option to disassociate their online activity from their Facebook profiles, essentially erasing their personal digital footprints. Clear History is poised to roll out in late June or July 2019, and be implemented globally by the end of September, and marketers can’t afford to mute this conversation.

What Happens When People Use Clear History?
In short, Clear History allows Facebook users to see a list of apps and websites they’ve visited that employ business tools like the Facebook Pixel, SDK and API. They then will have the ability to remove personally identifying information from those data-capturing tactics.

Facebook says use of the feature won’t completely delete a user’s browsing activity or off-line actions, but it will make user data anonymous, which means that data can still be used for measurement purposes.

How Will Clear History Affect Retargeting?
By applying Clear History, users will remove themselves from retargeting pools or Custom Audiences (the tactical offering used by Facebook to categorize users into targetable groups for marketing efforts). With no true transactional or monetary conversions applicable in pharma, and the sometimes-limited scalability of potential audience sizes — think rare disease categories or limited data availability, etc. — retargeting is a significant driver of segmentation diversity on social plans. Because retargeting is a commonly recommended tactic in paid social media, this could result in potential impacts on performance once the update is rolled out.

What Can Pharma Marketers Do?
There are precautions we can take: We can ensure that people only stay in our retargeting pools for short periods of time, like 30 days. We can monitor frequency more closely, so that we don’t allow exposures to rack up, making our ads too invasive. We can also monitor our retargeting pools to measure attrition. We can be selective in WHO we retarget, specifically, to ensure maximum relevancy of audience, we can choose to only retarget the top 25% of site visitors.

There have been similar updates before: At one point, Facebook introduced the ability to block ads and/or pages, and marketers responded similarly then as they are now. Eventually, people stopped taking the considerable amount of time to do that, if they ever even started (think unsubscribing from junk emails). It slows down the browsing experience and when a user only stays on social media for minutes at a time, that’s a commitment.

The right audiences welcome the right content: Facebook stands by this philosophy as their net positive from a marketer standpoint, “It also makes the argument that informing people about how their information is being used will only improve how consumers feel about the ads they see.”

Concerned about how Facebook’s Clear History tool might affect your brand? Reach out to your account team today.

Mike Doan is director of social media for Intouch Media.