Everything You Need to Know About the Facebook Targeting Changes (and how it affects recruiters!)

Have your ads recently been rejected due to a violation of Facebook’s new policy towards discriminatory practices? Then your ads are probably affected by the restricted Special Ad targeting. No clue what we are talking about? Don’t panic just yet. By the end of this blog you will understand what this Facebook targeting change means exactly… And how it can even benefit the performance of your campaign.

If you’re an online marketer, you’re no stranger to the never-ending Facebook targeting changes. At this point, it’s part of our daily lives 🤷 But the extension of Special Ad Categories – Facebook’s newest ad guidelines – have a very specific impact on online recruiters. We’ll give you a brief run-down so you can use this knowledge to improve your campaigns.

Special Ad Categories, what’s it all about?

As one of the biggest advertising platforms, Facebook has to continuously improve its policy to keep up with modern society. Therefore, on December 7th of 2021, all Facebook ads targeted in Europe that are about credit, housing and employment opportunities became part of the Special Ads Categories. For employment this includes topics such as vacancies, internships or professional certification programs.

So, what’s the catch? Ads belonging to these Special Ads Categories have restricted targeting: you won’t be able to target age, gender or postal codes and a lot of other targeting attributes such as location, interests, audiences and exclusions are thoroughly shifted. But don’t worry, we will guide you through all changes that apply to the new policy.

If you think you can ignore these changes, think again! If your ads don’t comply with the Special Ad policy, you are at risk of losing access to your account or it will even be suspended. That will, without a doubt, negatively impact your future recruitment efforts. So it’s best to comply with the rules at hand, because you can be just as successful with them

Why did Facebook extend Special Ads Categories?​

You might be puzzled –what exactly was the reason behind this change? 🤔

The truth is that there is a legitimate, valid reason behind the recent extension of Special Ads; and that is that certain ads, recruitment ads for example, are prone to unintentional discrimination by for example age, nationality, religion or gender. Changes like these are always called for, and we welcome them here at sympl! Equitable recruitment is always the way to go.

So… What does this Facebook targeting change mean for recruiters?

There are quite a few implications for online recruiting. An obvious one is that demographic characteristics such as age or gender can no longer be selected to target your audience. Besides, location targeting won’t be as specific as it used to be since you will have to set a minimum radius of 15 km (the exact number might depend on your targeted country). Even if you use the ‘pin drop’ location feature📌.

In addition, there are other impacts to keep in mind:

  • Less detailed targeting options: The list of available interests or behavioral features will be limited. For example you won’t be able to show your job ads to users with specific work-related characteristics.
  • No use of exclusions: You won’t be able to ‘remove’ or exclude a specific part of your audience from your original target audience.
  • Say hi to Special ad audiences: The often used Lookalike audiences, where Facebook uses behavior similarities based on custom audiences to form new ones, are replaced by Special Ad Audiences that only use online behavior and activity without using those demographics that are potentially discriminatory.
  • Limitations on lead generation ads: When using lead generation forms, specific fields such as date of birth, gender or adress, city or marital status will no longer be applicable.

If none of the above ring a bell, check out our refresher on targeting 101.

Are these Facebook targeting changes a curse or a blessing?

Is this the end of the world for recruiting on Facebook? Most definitely not!
We’ve seen recruiters getting blindsided by all the targeting options before and narrowing their targeting down to very specific details. But this is not how Facebook works best. These new targeting changes are an opportunity to break the habit of (too) narrowcasting into broadening your targeting audience. We have plenty of examples that giving “space”  to the Facebook algorithm to play around in will improve your performance significantly.

There are effective ways to transition into Special Ads –we’ve got proof! Here at sympl, we adapted our campaigns before these changes came into force and did some extensive testing

We created Lookalike audiences (in the classical way) and compared them with Special Ad Audiences. Both types of audiences were based on our own first-party data sets derived from the over 6,000 recruitment campaigns we’ve carried out. Here’s what we found:

  • Cost-per-Click (CPC) remained more or less the same;
  • Click-through Rate (CTR) almost doubled; 
  • Applications also doubled between two and five times.

 

So, Special Ad Audiences didn’t limit us, if anything, they almost boosted our campaigns📈. But this is because we relied on our own first-party data sets, we didn’t need to use interest audiences or broad audiences at all!

How can you win these Special Ads over to your side?

Don’t know how you can boost your Special Ad Campaigns? Here are a few golden tips

  • Good copy is your best friend! Play with what you want to say. For example, if you’re looking to fill a junior position, maybe include something as ‘Want to kickstart your career?’
  • Same goes for your visuals; you can always use images that people of your target group can identify with or directly specify what you’re looking for. No beating around the bush here!
  • Look at the detailed targeting options that are still available and search for the ones that match your ideal candidate profile. Allow Facebook’s algorithm to test out these options and potentially discover surprising new ways to reach your target group.


We are actually convinced that this is a blessing in disguise. This new policy allows recruiters to see further than they maybe did before. By going broader in your targeting and using the right datasets, online recruiters will realise their Facebook targeting was too narrow. It allows the algorithm to do more testing and optimise according to the campaign objectives to boost the campaign performance as a result.

The best course of action? Collecting and relying on your own first-party data. Start with setting up your Facebook Pixel properly. With this Pixel, Facebook is able to optimize advertising based on your data such as website visitors or conversions. The more info you provide, the more accurately your ads will be shown to the suitable audience. Yes – due to recent changes (hello Apple iOS 14.5!) this is not as straightforward as before but it’s a good first step. 

Don’t know where to start, or don’t have access to first-party data? sympl has over 11 million data points to offer, compiled from over 6,000 successful recruitment campaigns and our own machine-learning algorithm. If you want to ensure that your job ad performs at its very best, sympl has got you covered with our easy-to-use software.

You got this!

These Facebook targeting changes are nothing but a bump on the road to being the best online recruiter you can be. And from Belgium, to Bulgaria to French Polynesia, Special Ad Categories begin… Now!

Oprah encouraging

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