Facebook is trying to mitigate the effects of Apple’s latest app tracking change, which is still reverberating across the digital advertising industry. The company wants to guarantee that its ad products continue generating good results, despite having less audience information to work with.

While we are still learning about the full implications of the ATT update, we can speculate about what it will mean for audience reach and targeting accuracy in general. However, many media buyers are moving toward more automated audience targeting options, with Facebook and Google encouraging marketers to use their machine learning tools in order to maximize response based on estimates and predictions.

Which is where Facebook is heading with this shift – as part of its latest API update, Facebook has included this note:

To help advertisers find additional opportunities that weren’t originally available to them, when advertisers leverage Detailed Targeting and optimize for conversions, value or app events using the conversions objective they will be automatically included into Targeting Expansion.”

Targeting Expansion enables Facebook’s ad algorithms to show your ads to a broader potential audience than those who fit your specific ad targeting selections.

When you choose this option, we will display your ad to additional individuals who we believe will provide you with more and/or better results. When our system decides that targeted expansion would enhance performance, it will put it into effect.”

Facebook’s system may determine that your ads would receive a better response if they were shown to a larger number of users who are not explicitly targeted by you, and it will then show your ads to those users based on its own estimates, even if those users do not fall into the categories that you have explicitly targeted.

There are several significant caveats to this, the most notable of which is that Targeting Expansion does not apply to targeting choices based on geography, age, or gender. As a result, if you want to target women between the ages of 25 and 30 in Delaware, your advertisements will still only be displayed to that group of women. Nonetheless, if there are more individuals to whom Facebook believes your advertising may be useful, outside of the other interests or qualifications that you have chosen, it may automatically push your ads outside the limits you have set.

Is this a positive development?

It all depends on the situation. It is possible that some ad buyers and marketers would have very specific subsets that they would like to target, and that they would derive value from being able to keep their ads focused on specific interests – and that they would derive little value from the potential for Facebook to expand their audience. However, there are times when putting your trust in Facebook’s automation can result in significantly better results – and, as previously stated, with less data to work with, Facebook is working to improve its system understanding in order to show ads to the right users, even without the full insight it has previously had access to.

In short, Facebook’s ad targeting algorithms are becoming more sophisticated, but they will never be completely reliable. Given that Facebook has now made this the default setting, you would think that it will provide better results for most companies. However, it may have a negative effect on smaller businesses in particular, since it will prevent them from maintaining their targeting aligned with their selected interests.

In any event, it’s already in place – Targeting Expansion will now be added by default to most conversion-based campaigns, and in many cases, you won’t be able to opt-out. You will, however, be able to exclude certain audiences from the option within Ads Manager if you’re looking to maintain specific control over your reach.

You can read more about Targeting Expansion here.