If you work in the social realm, may that be organic or paid marketing, you’ll likely know that Facebook and Instagram are now owned by Facebook’s rebranded parent company: Meta.
And since the transition to the “Metasphere,” the challenge was raised–primarily by Apple: living in a cookie-less world by allowing users to opt out of cross-platform tracking. Otherwise known as the iOS 14 update.
This update impacts you and your marketing efforts. Tracking user behavior and habits is now way more challenging than ever.
From a user’s position, it’s easy to understand the reasoning behind the pivot. Respecting people’s right to privacy? Ground-breaking. Restricting social media companies from knowing too much about their users? Sounds like they should have been doing that since day one.
From an advertising position, this means our job has never been so difficult, and will only continue to be so– especially where converting users is concerned.
Meta is still wildly important when it comes to building and nurturing your audiences, and more importantly, it still plays a key role in a holistic digital marketing strategy.
So, let’s break it down.
This prompts some questions:
- Does social media convert users anymore?
- Not to mention, what counts as a conversion?
- Is there a way around tracking issues?
- How can we optimize tracking within the parameters that Meta can utilize?
- Is Meta still a viable platform to spend advertising dollars on?
To put it plainly, the answers are a lot of: “Yes, and…”
Privacy, User Behavior + Getting Smart with Your Messaging.
What is iOS 14 and what does it have to do with Meta?
The iOS 14 Apple update took place in the Spring of 2021 and gave users an opportunity to actively opt-in to cookie tracking or opt-out of cross-platform tracking. This greatly impacted how the Facebook Pixel was able to track and collect information from users on Apple devices. Remarketing audiences were now more limited, and the conversion data shown within Meta’s platform became less accurate. This means advertisers were no longer able to effectively target the warmer audiences they could before.
Apple users aren’t the only users impacted. In fact, Android just announced its privacy protection updates (still in beta testing).
“The Privacy Sandbox on Android beta is limited to a small number of Android 13 devices for now but will expand ‘over time.’” – The Verge
It’s essential to remember that while privacy policies and tracking parameters are a bit more rigid, the everyday user is very likely still interacting with brands and companies in the same way. Reaching and retargeting them is just a bit more tricky. So what does this mean for you?
People still purchase from companies and brands they know, like, and most importantly: trust.
Social media converts, but more importantly, people convert. It’s easy to forget in a digital world that users are people.
People are behind brands, companies, products, and services.
People are behind the screens that we scroll on every day.
Communicating with your users in a way that resonates with them is more important than ever.
Your ideal customers are human.
And humans need to brush their teeth or they get cavities and a slew of other oral complications.
They could (and very likely do) go to the local grocery store and buy a tube of run-of-the-mill arctic fresh whitening toothpaste.
However, you own a toothpaste + oral health company.
You specialize in pH balancing the oral biodome.
Your products are scientifically proven to work 5x better on cavity prevention and reversing the negative effects of dental decay.
You know your products are inherently better, but the average human who has never heard of you? They do not.
Crafting a story around why they should take a chance on your products, even though they are likely more expensive, for the sake of their smile and long-term oral health is a challenge that must be met head-on.
To summarize: We’re human, so be human. Don’t rely solely on flashy ad creative. While that stops the scroll, the headline hooks and the caption sells users on deciding to click on your ad. Make your ad messaging creative and impactful.
As an aside: Facebook remains in the top spot as the most used social media channel, with 2.9 billion active users monthly, and Instagram holds strong at 2 billion active users monthly. People scrolling through their personal social media accounts may not have high intentions of converting, but 55% of consumers are learning about new brands on social media, and that number increases with younger generations. Brand awareness is crucial to getting people in the door, and with this many users, it’s hard to ignore.
“Detailed analysis by the team at Kepios shows that there are 4.76 billion social media users around the world in January 2023, equating to 59.4 percent of the total global population. Social media user numbers have continued to grow over the past 12 months too, with 137 million new users joining social media since this time last year. That equates to annualised growth of 3 percent, at an average rate of more than 4 new users every single second.”
Advertising in a Cookie-Less World, or Trying to Anyways.
With over 2.9 billion monthly users on Facebook, the everyday consumer probably doesn’t enjoy the idea that every action they take online is being watched, recorded, and tracked. Let alone used to inform advertisers for profit. The new privacy initiatives, most recently championed by Apple and now followed by Google, that allow users to opt-out of cross-platform-tracking is a huge win for users who cringe at the idea of being followed around the internet. Users were being tracked from their favorite social media platforms to their preferred search engines and then to their email app then to their music platform – one can see the never-ending rabbit hole.
You can see the never-ending red thread of user behavior that used to exist.
But we digress, online behaviors historically have been used for such. We all have had that random conversation with our neighbors about their new car, or grill, or pool… only to open up our Facebook accounts to see ads for… Cars, Grills, and Pools. From a consumer perspective, interest-based targeting based on audio data and search engine results can feel a bit intrusive.
But from a marketing perspective? It’s just plain smart.
Honestly, this is essentially a moot point. Because now, if users search for “George Forman Grill” on Google, it’s not exactly guaranteed to show up in their social media feeds.
For a long time, advertisers have relied heavily on Interest-Based-Targeting, Lookalikes of Subscribers and Current Customers, and Lookalike Audiences based on converting user behavior on their website. Paired also with being able to target Job Titles, Employers, and Household Income based on Zip Code Location.
That’s 47 words worth of “It used to be relatively easy to narrow down your target audience.”
With users’ ability to opt out of tracking, the once holy grail of tracking (Facebook Pixel) is no longer king of audience building. But lucky for you, Meta is being forced to pivot.
This is where custom audiences come into play.
Creating custom audiences who engage and interact with your content on the platform is more vital than ever. Why? Because Meta can see user behavior and engagement as long as they are on Facebook or Instagram. It’s not blind to user behavior as soon as they click the link in your ad. The results are more concrete and Meta doesn’t have to guess what users are doing off-platform. With the surge in video content taking over these platforms, a natural audience builder has been put into play: Video Views.
There are so many options for building custom audiences with users who watch your videos.
To give you a taste:
- Users who watched 3 seconds or more of your video
- Users who watched 10 seconds or more of your video
- Users who watched 25% of your videos
- Users who watched 50% of your videos
- Users who watched 75% of your videos
- Users who watched 100% of your videos
And you can layer:
- Custom retention time frames (15, 30, 45 days etc.)
- Group multiple videos, or have standalone videos
On top of using video views as a custom audience generator, you can layer current social media engagement and lookalikes of users who engage with your brand. This includes:
- Users who watch your stories, reels, like posts, or comment on your content.
Like Karma, analytics is going to track you down.*
No matter what custom audience you generate, the ability to track them on-site is still very much a reality. Regarding tracking, using Facebook’s Conversions API (CAPI) pixel and implementing UTMs are important additions. Cross-referencing data with your other platforms (such as Google Analytics or Shopify) is a must. However, this is something that applies to all channels and is a good habit of being in regardless of which platform you’re measuring.
Fun facts about the new Meta CAPI Pixel:
- The Meta (CAPI) Pixel uses server data rather than IP-Address data for tracking events on your website.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Intent.
Tying Meta into the bigger (marketing) picture…
Take a step back and look at your entire digital marketing strategy. You’ll note social ads are just one piece of the user journey roadmap. When users have a higher intention to convert or find a solution to their problem, they’re often going straight to search engines, primarily Google.
A common practice when creating a Google Ads strategy is to set up a strong branded campaign. By doing this, you can make sure that your ad and website are coming up on top any time someone is searching for your brand specifically on Google. This is usually designed for a warmer audience since people who found your site through this campaign are already familiar with what you offer and know how to find you. These campaigns are great because the user intention is high, which generally leads to higher click-through-rates and conversion rates.
However, this campaign strategy is limited to those who already know about a particular brand. This is how the brand awareness piece on Meta ties in. In order to get these warmer leads on search engines, your digital marketing strategy should involve a robust way to build that top-of-funnel audience. As mentioned above, more people are finding out about new products and services on social media platforms. Once they are ready to convert, they’ll remember the brand they saw multiple times on their Instagram feed and head to Google.
It’s no secret that digital marketing channels change constantly, which means advertisers need to do the same. This will not be the last time a change to privacy settings or tracking affects the way campaigns are created.
Facebook and Instagram (Meta) are still the most popular social media platforms across user demographics. However, TikTok is growing in popularity as an advertising platform. One not to be put on the back burner, especially as they jump-started the short-form video content trend that has since migrated to Instagram in the form of Reels, which are now posted cross-platform on Facebook.
You have to work smarter with getting in front of your target audience or audiences, realigning your expectations of how your audiences are going to interact with your content, and how you measure “success” on social. In the grand scheme of marketing, one channel or touchpoint isn’t enough for any strategy, and in many cases Meta serves as a vital piece in that user journey. This is where setting KPI goals come in clutch as well as making sure you have realistic expectations of what a healthy ROI is for your Paid Social Advertising dollars.
But, the answer here is simple: Yes. Advertising on Facebook and Instagram is still viable and spending your digital ad budget.
*You get bonus points if you understood the Taylor Swift reference.