This is a significant update for Facebook advertisers – today, The Social Network has announced that it will begin counting people who’ve not connected their Facebook and Instagram accounts in its Accounts Center as separate entities for ad purposes – i.e. if your accounts are not connected, Facebook will now assume that your Facebook and Instagram profiles are two different people.

As explained by Facebook:

Starting today, if someone does not have their Facebook and Instagram accounts linked in Accounts Center, we will consider those accounts as separate people for ads planning and measurement. Facebook and Instagram accounts that are connected in Accounts Center will continue to be counted collectively as a single person. This change will roll out over the next few weeks.”

Facebook’s Accounts Center, which is accessible via your settings in each of its apps (Facebook. Instagram and Messenger), enables you to connect your accounts on each, so that you can do things like cross-post content, log-in using your credentials from each app, use Facebook Pay and more.

Facebook Will Now Count Unconnected Facebook and Instagram Accounts Separately in Ad Reach Data

Because of the varying functionality, most Instagram/Facebook users have synched their accounts, especially those that run Facebook Pages (for ad purposes). But still, there will be many who haven’t, and now, Facebook will count them separately in its ad performance stats.

“Previously, we counted someone with multiple accounts as one person for ads purposes if they linked their Facebook and Instagram accounts via those apps, or if we believed that the accounts were owned by the same person. For example, if someone used the same email address across their Facebook and Instagram accounts or accessed both platforms from the same device, we counted them as one person when they interacted with ads.”

Now, that will no longer be the case. Which could make Facebook’s ad reach numbers look a lot better, with much broader scope, based on variable accounting.

As we roll out this methodology update, advertisers may see an impact to campaign planning estimates and performance reporting for unique metrics. There will be increases in pre-campaign estimates such as estimated audience size, but for most campaigns we do not believe this will have a substantial impact on reported campaign reach.”

Which is interesting in the context of Facebook also recently broadening its campaign reach estimates, with its ‘Potential Reach’ data now being displayed in ranges instead of specific numbers.

Facebook Will Now Count Unconnected Facebook and Instagram Accounts Separately in Ad Reach Data

That change was implemented due to various legal challenges over the inclusion of fake and duplicate accounts in its approximations, which advertisers claim Facebook has done knowingly for years, misleading ad partners as to the true projected reach of their campaigns.

Facebook implemented this change last month, and now, it’s moving to change those audience estimates once again – which could, theoretically, once again expand Facebook’s reach estimates through means that it knows will be at least somewhat incorrect.

Will that open Facebook up for future legal challenges? I mean, it’ll be difficult for Facebook to argue that it’s not aware that it may be inflating reach estimates based on this explanation, which outlines how it’s previously used more accurate measures to ensure that its counts are a better reflection of actual reach.

For its part, Facebook says that this change is about respecting user choices around how their information is used for ads, with people having the option to decide how their personal data is reflected in these elements.

But that seems like a questionable justification for this change.

Either way, it’s happening, and it’ll be interesting to see just how it impacts your ad reach estimates – and subsequently, how the ad industry responds to the update.

You can read more about Facebook’s coming measurement update here.  

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