It's probably happened to you: You're searching online for the perfect gift to get someone, when you head over to Facebook, only to see  ads all over your feed for the things you were looking at. Everything you just looked at on Amazon, or Target, or wherever, starts showing up and you're wondering whether it's supposed to be a sign, or if someone is just watching you. 

It's creepy. It's also about to end.

Facebook previously announced it's introducing a "clear history" tool that will let you delete off-site activity that advertisers to target ad campaigns. The company is now starting to prepare advertisers for the change

That's good news for users, but it's probably bad news if your business depends on advertising features like the Facebook pixel. According to Facebook:

When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won't use the data they clear for targeting. This means that targeting options powered by Facebook's business tools, like the Facebook pixel, can't be used to reach someone with ads.

The Facebook pixel is the feature that tracks when someone visits an advertisers website and then allows that information to be used to display ads to them on Facebook. This change, if widely adopted by users, could have a significant impact on the Custom Audiences feature that lets you target customers based on their activity on your website or app.

Despite the fact that it's an opt-in feature, once people realize they can turn off the feeling of being followed online, do you think anyone is going to choose not to?

Here's an even more important question: What does this mean for your business?

Don't be at the mercy of anyone else's platform.

First, this is the perfect example of why you should never put all of your marketing efforts in one place. If you're completely dependent on these features for new customers, you are at the mercy of Facebook. It's never a good idea to build your entire business strategy on someone else's platform.

Instead, your marketing strategy should have multiple channels for reaching your audience. If targeted ads are your thing, there are other places you can get in front of your customers including social media sites like Twitter and Pinterest.

Consumers hate targeted ads.

Second, while targeted ads work to some extent, the reality is that consumers hate them. No one likes to see ads for GrubHub after they order lunch, or ads for iPhone protectors after you search for what to do when you crack your screen. It's just creepy.

Instead, be transparent with your customers about your advertising strategies, and earn their trust through relevant content. That doesn't mean find better ways to target ads.

A visit to your website isn't always the best, and certainly not the only indicator of relevance, despite the fact that some percentage of people click on these ads. Relevance is about understanding your audience and creating content that matters to them.

Build your own audience.

Finally, grow your own audience. Regardless of the size of your current base of customers, focus on how you can nurture it and grow it through tools like email marketing. Permission-based email marketing is when a visitor opts into your email newsletter, or provides you an email address with the understanding that it will be used to send offers or marketing material.

Email marketing is still a far more effective way to reach your audience. It has higher delivery rates, higher click-through rates, and better revenue per conversion rates than any target social media advertisement. It's true that it's more work to build an audience, but in the long run, it's far more effective.

Published on: May 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.