Facebook announced a wave of new features this week for online advertisers and retailers heading into the holiday season. 

At the same time it revealed new product tags, new ways to target ads, and an experimental way to share online discounts, the social media giant also announced it was launching promotional tools and support for Black-owned businesses.

Let’s explore the array of new features for brands on Facebook and Instagram:

Product Tags For Instagram Ads

After more than a year of testing, Instagram is officially launching the ability to tag products in ads. Even better, the company has streamlined the process.Originally, advertisers had to make an organic post, tag your products, then promote that post. Now, you can create ads with product tags directly within the Ads Manager. 

When seen, product tags appear as white dots which can expand to reveal a range of details including the name of the product,and its price. 

Shopping Engagement Custom Audiences

Facebook announced a new type of audience targeting aimed at helping brands “reach people who’ve already shown interest in their product or brand by doing things like saving a product, viewing a shop, or initiating a purchase.”

Shopping Lookalike Audiences

Another new way to target audiences was announced, which allows you to reach shoppers with similar interests as your existing customers on Facebook and Instagram. 

Shopping Ad Discounts

Facebook is testing a new way to promote your sales and discounts directly in the Promotions tab within the Commerce Manager.

For example, you can highlight a discount on a specific set of products by grouping them together in product sets. 

At the moment, Facebook only allows you to run a few types of discounts – price reductions, minimum purchase requirement, and discounts using an offer code. 

#BuyBlack Friday

While the Covid pandemic has affected just about every business in America, black-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard. According to Facebook, more than 40% of black-owned businesses in America.

This is why Facebook is launching a new event every Friday through November 27. Every week, Facebook will be promoting #BuyBlackFriday across all its platforms, including publishing a gift guide and business directory of black-owned businesses. 

With many shoppers wary of facing crowded shopping malls and stores, most experts believe online shopping will shatter previous records this winter. Facebook is doing everything it can to make itself one of the premier choices for marketing, advertising, and ultimately selling your products.

On October 24, Facebook and Instagram plan to roll out a major change which has the potential to break content across millions of sites using WordPress.

On that date, the companies will remove functionality which allows sites to embed content from the social networks. 

The change does not only mean that publishers will no longer be able to embed this content on their websites. The change is retroactive, meaning that all content ever embedded on your site could potentially become inaccessible or broken. 

There is one exception – though it will likely be impractical for many out there. 

The change is removing support for unauthenticated Facebook and Instagram embeds, meaning that those with a developer account and a registered Facebook account will still be able to link content between their app and Facebook or Instagram. 

The Technical Changes

To get into the nitty-gritty – Facebook is deprecating the current oEmbed endpoints for embeddable Facebook content on October 24, 2020. oEmbed is a popular open format means of embedding content from one site to another. 

The Facebook integration of oEmbed endpoints has allowed pages to quickly and easily embed HTML or basic content from pages, posts, and videos on their own site or app. Unfortunately, that aspect of the Facebook API is being removed. 

In response, WordPress has also said it will be removing Facebook and Instagram as supported oEmbed sources.

What You Can Do

As expected, developers began work on ways to fix content or prevent losing access as soon as the announcement was made. 

So far, there are two major options for those wanting to keep support for embedded Facebook and Instagram content on their websites:

oEmbed Plus – Developer Ayesh Karunaratne has created an expanded version of the existing system for embedding content from Instagram and Facebook which provides a workaround. 

Even using the plugin, you will have to register for a Facebook developer account and “create an app”. However, you don’t have to actually develop an app, just register one with the site. 

You can see the guide for the plugin here for an idea what the process entails.

Smash Balloon Plugins – Developer Smash Balloon has provided a potentially easier option by updating their previous plugins to provide continued support – no developer account or app required. This is possible because Smash Balloon is effectively using its own API key to provide authentication for embedded content to users. 

As COVID-19 continues to be a major concern for people across the country, Facebook is introducing a new way for businesses and creators to monetize online events on the platform. 

Critically, the company says it will not collect any fees for paid events held on the platform to help businesses and individuals struggling during the pandemic. 

“Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences, and we’re testing paid events with Messenger Rooms for more personal and interactive gatherings.

In testing, we’ve seen businesses use Facebook to host expert talks, trivia events, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, intimate meet-and-greets, fitness classes, and more.”

While Facebook is far from the first to offer a way to deliver paid events that are entirely streamed to attendees, their service is unique is the all-in-one nature. Facebook can handle not just the streaming, but payment, advertising, and organic word-of-mouth. 

To put it another way, a person can see the ad for your performance in their feed, make a payment, and view your event without ever leaving Facebook. The company is also one of the only services which does not take a cut of ticket sales. However, purchases made on Apple devices or through the iOS Store are still subject to Apple’s 30% fee. 

Prohibited Content

As with all content shared on Facebook, live events must stay within the Community Standards, Partner Monetization Policies, and Content Monetization Policies.

While these guidelines include the obvious things you might expect, such as banning hate speech, inciting violence, or “sexualized content”, the social network’s content policies prohibit some areas you may not expect. 

For example, promoting health products including medical masks and hand sanitizer is currently banned on Facebook. 

Other restricted categories include:

  • Debated social issues
  • Conflict or tragedy
  • Objectionable activity
  • Sexual or suggestive activity
  • Strong language
  • Explicit content
  • Misinformation
  • Misleading medical information
  • Politics and government

In addition to restricting these types of content, monetized events cannot include these some specific media:

  • Static videos
  • Static image polls
  • Slideshows of images
  • Looping videos
  • Text montages
  • Embedded ads

In the announcement, Facebook says the paid events will be available to brands and individuals for at least one year. After that, they may introduce new fees or even remove the service.

What is the California Consumer Privacy Act?

The CCPA or California Consumer Privacy Act is a law recently enacted in California which extends privacy protections for residents.

While the act is big news for those living within California, many of us outside the state had not heard about the law until it recently went into effect. 

Specifically, the law requires businesses to disclose what personal information they collect and how that information will be used in relatively clear language. The CCPA also requires businesses to provide easily accessible ways to opt-out of having their information collected. 

Lastly, the law provides for Californian citizens to ask for the data which a company has collected on that person, what it has been used for, and have that information deleted upon request. 

Does The Law Apply To You?

The bad news about the law is that it does not only apply to businesses based in California. It can be applied to any businesses collecting or selling data of Californians. 

The good news is that the CCPA provides for exceptions for smaller businesses who do not primarily collect or sell data. To be affected by the law, your business must:

  • Earn more than $25 million per year.
  • Collect data on more than 50,000 persons.
  • Make more than half of its revenue from the sale of personal data.

What is unclear is how this will apply to the number of social networks based in California who sell targeted both inside and outside California. 

How Facebook and Instagram are Responding

Facebook (which owns Instagram and operates a large portion of Instagram’s advertising) has announced a new feature which automatically limits the data used to target ads – especially those targeted to Californians.

The Limited Data Use flag acts as a pixel to control how Californians’ personal information is collected and used. This means businesses can easily implement the flag for campaigns targeted in the state. 

To allow time for businesses to implement the flag, the company is automatically limiting data for a limited time on all events in California by default.

A growing number of brands are hitting pause on their Facebook ads for the month of July as part of the Stop Hate for Profit boycott. 

The advertisers, including some of the biggest brands on earth like Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and Unilever, are part of a movement which argues that Facebook has been allowing hate speech, racism, and violence run rampant while the company has also “turned a blind eye toward voter suppression on the platform.”

Who Is Involved

Currently, more than 500 companies are taking part in the boycott. For the exhaustive list of brands, check out this spreadsheet which is being updated as more brands join in.

Here are many of the most recognizable brands involved in the boycott:

  • Acura
  • Adidas
  • Artlogic
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Best Buy
  • Birchbox
  • Boston University
  • Campbell Soup Co.
  • Chobani
  • CityAdvisor
  • CLIF BAR
  • Clorox
  • Coca-Cola
  • CVS
  • Dashlane
  • Denny’s
  • Dockers
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Fossil
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Henkel
  • Herschel Supply Co.
  • Honda Motor Company
  • HP
  • J.M. Smucker Co.
  • Kay Jewelers
  • LEGO
  • Levi Strauss
  • Lululemon
  • Magnolia Pictures
  • Mars, Inc.
  • Merck
  • Merrell
  • Microsoft
  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • Mozilla
  • OBEY
  • Patagonia
  • Patreon
  • Pepsi
  • Pfizer
  • Pop Sockets
  • PUMA
  • Reebok
  • Siemans
  • Six Flags
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • The North Face
  • UnileverUSA
  • Vans
  • Verizon
  • Volkswagon
  • White Castle
  • Wingstop
  • Zoe’s Kitchen

Facebook’s Response

In response to the boycott and increasing pubic pressure, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement promising to make significant changes to how content is handled on the platform, such as:

  • Providing voting information and helping register people to vote
  • Preventing “new forms of potential voter suppression.”
  • Banning “any content that misleads people on when or how they can vote,” including removing “false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day.”
  • Preventing voter intimidation on the platform
  • Rejecting ads which include “claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health, or survival of others.”
  • Labeling content from public figures which would typically violate content policies. 
  • Removing content, regardless of the source, “if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote.”

In the statement, Zuckerberg emphasized that the company was attempting to balance “public health and racial justice while maintaining or democratic traditions around free expression and voting.”

So far, the public seems to feel this response is too little and vaguely worded. Since the release of the statement, at least two hundred companies have joined the boycott.

Following the appearance of COVID-19 in America in March, Facebook put in place a number of restrictions which entirely banned the sale of face masks. Now, as most states are reopening and chances of a medical supply shortage are lessening, the company is relaxing some of these rules on non-medical face masks.

Why Non-Medical Face Masks

While medical professions are still seeing a limited supply of face masks, demand for KN95 or other medical-grade masks has fallen. Instead, many are opting for cloth coverings which are considered acceptable by many health experts. 

This has created an increased demand for these non-medical face masks while reducing the overall demand for non-medical masks. 

Medical Masks Vs. Non-Medical Masks

Under these newly relaxed guidelines, advertisers can now start selling non-medical masks. According to facebook, these include masks which are:

  • Non-medical grade
  • Not promoted with medical or health claims
  • Handmade or fabric masks
  • Designed to be reusable
  • Made of refashioned materials

Phased In Restrictions

To prevent a tidal wave of advertisers all trying to sell face masks en mass or an increase in bad actors, Facebook is lifting the ban in phases. For now, advertisers wishing to promote their masks will have to meet a few specific requirements:

  • Advertisers must be in good standing with Facebook ads, having no violations or disabled ads due to policy violations
  • Ad accounts must have an advertising history of at least 4 months. This means those who created an ad account a year ago but have not used it would not be eligible, while those who have been running ads for at least 4 months will be. 
  • Ad accounts cannot be from a country with unusually high rates of ad policy violations for selling masks during the bad, including Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

What Can Be In The Ads

Additionally, Facebook is still mandating a few restrictions to ensure that advertisers only promote non-medical masks. 

For instance, absolutely no medical or health claims can be made in the ad, including the mention of disease prevention or protection of the respiratory system. 

Any mention of community benefits of wearing masks can not include health mentions or overstate the benefits of masks.

To give an idea what this looks like in practice, Facebook provided an example in their policy guidance:

“‘We’ve pivoted our business to making masks to help keep our community healthy’ would be allowed, but stating ‘We’re stopping the spread of COVID-19 by making masks’ would not be allowed.”

Facebook Policy

Notably, while Facebook is reducing the restrictions on masks, they are still banning ads promoting hand sanitizers, surface wipes, COVID-19 test kits, and other related medical products.

Facebook is testing the idea of adding an entirely new type of service to its already large umbrella – email. Several small-to-medium businesses are seeing a new set of tools on the site which make it possible to send marketing emails to your customers. 

With the tools, businesses could not only compose and send emails directly through Facebook, but track their performance with detailed analytics as well. 

In a statement to AdWeek, Facebook confirmed the test, saying it will be limited to a small number of businesses:

“We’re testing new email marketing tools with a small number of businesses to help them more efficiently notify their customers of changes to their services and operations.

We’re evaluating whether these tools are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it further.”

Of course, if the feature is well received, it is likely to be implemented into the main Facebook system and made available to everyone. 

How To Send Marketing Emails Via Facebook

Facebook Email creator

While I personally haven’t been able to find the tool, those who have been given access are being alerted via a pop-up message near the left sidebar menu. 

Once you have clicked the Marketing Emails tab, you are directed to a prompt to confirm your new Facebook email address:

“Reconnect with your email subscribers using marketing emails. Select your audience, customize your design, and track performance all in one place. Confirm your Page’s email address to get started.”

After your email address has been confirmed, you will then be able to begin adding email contacts to your list. This can be done individually or in bulk using a spreadsheet. 

During this process, you will be asked to confirm that you have received permission to send promotional messages to these contacts.

Facebook email permissions

With this process complete and your contacts uploaded, you can now start composing and sending email messages using the Pages app. 

Facebook email creator

A Free Solution For Businesses Without Email

For businesses that currently do not have a professional email account established, the tool could provide a potentially powerful way to craft and send messages that look more professional than what can be achieved through other free clients like Gmail. 

However, it is unclear whether the tool will allow businesses to receive email responses, raising questions about its usefulness outside of sales promotions or fliers. 

For now, this is a test to keep an eye on as more people get the chance to try it for themselves.

Facebook is launching a major overhaul called Shops which will make it easier for brands to sell their products to users without sending them off the social network. 

In theory, the move would allow e-commerce businesses to operate their entire business over Facebook, without an external website or online shop.

With Facebook Shops, businesses can turn their Facebook pages into completely shoppable storefronts. The company also plans to extend the feature to Instagram in the near future.

While the service is free to set up on the social networks, it is powered by third-party services such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo which tend to require a fee or subscription to use. Additionally, the service will charge a fee when customers complete a transaction using the feature. 

Businesses will also be able to include their shops in Stories or buy ads to promote their shops and products across the social networks. However, it is unknown exactly what those ads will look like when they arrive.

In a blog post, Facebook indicated they will be working to integrate loyalty programs into their online shop sometime soon. 

“You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” said a company representative. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage, and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

While discussing the move in a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that brands struggling to recover from the COVID-19 shutdowns could use the feature to connect with new and existing customers.

“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” said Zuckerberg. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

Facebook has started rolling out a new tool for all users in the US and Canada to easily transfer their photos and videos off the platform and onto Google Photos.

You can find the tool in your Facebook settings menu, under the “Your Facebook Information” tab. From there, all you have to do is connect your Google account before you start transferring your photos over.

The tool was actually launched late last year in Ireland and has been slowly expanding to international markets until now.

Much of the motivation behind the tool is Facebook’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, a collaboration between some of the biggest names in tech to establish ways for people to easily transfer data across online platforms. Some of the other names involved include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

Of course, it is safe to assume that the threat of international regulations and policymakers concerned with data transparency.

Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy, Steve Satterfield, told Reuters that the company views the data tool as a significant part of its plan for satisfying the demands of legislators around the globe.

“It really is an important part of the response to the kinds of concerns that drive antitrust regulation or competition regulation,” explained Satterfield in an interview.

While Facebook’s photo and video transfer tools currently only support Google Photos, the company has indicated that it plans to integrate support for other services in the “near future.”

Over the past two weeks, several of the largest online ad platforms have taken swift steps to address problems with advertisers attempting to profit by stoking fears during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube have all responded in unique ways to stop the flow of misinformation, prevent profiteering, and provide new resources to protect public health.

Google Ads Blocks Advertisers Capitalizing on Crisis

This week, Google Ads updated its Inappropriate Content policy to specifically disallow content which:

“…potentially capitalizes on or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards a natural disaster, conflict, death, public health emergency, or other tragic event.”

The new regulation specifically cites price gouging, selling essential supplies that are in high demand but scarcely available, or ads that use sensitive keywords to manipulate their click-through rate.

For more details about which strategies to avoid and what keywords to be careful about using during this time, check out the full help page Google Ads has created for advertisers.

Google and Bing Block COVID-related Ads

Initially, Google had introduced a policy which entirely disallowed advertising products or services related to coronavirus across the entire platform. However, recent reports suggest they have internally revised this policy to make an exception for trusted organizations like hospitals, medical providers, or other major organizations attempting to provide reliable information to the public.

The search engine is also blocking the sale of face masks on its ad platform, following similar policies from Facebook.

Bing has taken similar steps by blocking all ads related to COVID-19, except those coming from trusted sources.

As a Microsoft spokesperson explained:

“Microsoft Advertising has taken precautionary measures to block ads for delivery related directly to COVID-19 under the Microsoft Advertising Sensitive advertising policy. This precaution also applies to some COVID-19 related medical supplies. We will only allow Public Service Announcements from trusted sources, such as official Govt. agencies, to promote COVID-19 content.”

Facebook and Instagram Block COVID-19 Ads, Create New Resources

Since March, both Facebook Ads and Instagram have been blocking the sale of face masks on their platforms. The policy has since been expanded to include hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes, and COVID-19 testing for children.

At the same time, Facebook has created several new resources for both businesses and the general public, many of which can be found in the new “Marketing for Uncertain Times” deck which contains industry playbooks and general advice for staying informed.

Twitter Gives Advertisers Leeway

After originally banning any and all ads which mentioned “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, Twitter has revised its ad policies to allow some advertisers to mention the virus.

As the company explains:

“In response to the shifting advertising landscape, and in order to support helpful causes during this time, we’re now allowing managed clients and partners to advertise content containing implicit or explicit reference to COVID-19 in certain use cases, with restrictions.”

The specific cases Twitter will be allowing are:

  • Adjustments to business practices and/or models in response to COVID-19
  • Support for customers and employees related to COVID-19

Despite this, Twitter says it will continue to block ads which include:

  • Distasteful references to the virus
  • Content that may be sensational or likely to incite a panic
  • Inflated prices or products related to the virus
  • Ads for face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, supposed vaccines, or treatments.

TikTok and Pinterest Partner With WHO and Red Cross

TikTok and Pinterest have taken similar steps as others by blocking ads which “reference coronavirus, including when promoting products or services, to create a sense of fear, or to cause widespread offense”, as a TikTok spokesperson said.

In addition, these platforms have also been working with major health organizations around the globe to help spread relevant information and prevent misinformation.

Pinterest has been redirecting any searches on the platform to official content provided by the WHO to prevent the chance of delivering custom results which could be difficult to monitor for disinformation.

TikTok has taken similar steps by donating in-feed ad space to notable organizations including the WHO and Red Cross to ensure users have access to helpful information.

YouTube Blocks COVID-19 Ads Except From Trusted Sources

YouTube’s ad policies have largely been in-step with Google’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the platform would not allow any form of monetization on content relating to the coronavirus, citing “sensitive topic guidelines.”

Since then, the company has taken some steps to loosen that policy by allowing news organizations and reputable creators to produce videos about the issue in a sustainable way.

In a letter to the community, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained:

“In the days ahead, we will enable ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels, including creators who accurately self-certify and a range of news partners. We’re preparing our policies and enforcement processes to expand monetization to more creators and news organizations in the coming weeks.”

Despite this allowance, the company stresses it will continue to remove content that violates its policies or spreads misinformation.