What happens With Your Facebook Ad Data After You Close Your Browser…? We’ve All Known For A While Now That Facebook Amasses Our User Data And Personal Information To Some Degree, And Potentially Recycles It For Ad Targeting.
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Facebook Advertising: Does It Even Work?
Have you ever caught yourself scrolling through Facebook, perusing through your emails or even thinking aloud to yourself, and you come across an ad which seems to know what you’re thinking…perhaps before even you did? A promotional message which ascertained your needs just at the right moment, and even tantalized you with an irresistible sales offer? We’re sure you know this feeling all too well, as most, if not all modern consumers experience this on a daily basis—and it has become the norm. Much of this new “aerial marketing” style of omniscient knowledge has driven a wedge in trust between consumers and the businesses who yearn to reach out to them—and social media giant Facebook might just be the biggest reason why.
As it is, most of us are aware of the sheer quantity of personal and private information harbored within the friends-and-family platform that seeks to connect individuals. However, Facebook also contains a robust operational structure geared towards aiding businesses in their goals. In fact, the social media giant is on track to earn over $4 billion in revenue only from advertising in this year alone. That means somebody must be clicking on those ads! The real question is, who are those people clicking the ads, and what drew them to it? What in particular made them click on it, and how can you as a business owner quantify your performance in manageable terms? Before any of that, what are you even trying to accomplish, and why do you believe Facebook Ad data may be able to help?
While these may seem like trivial questions, almost laughable, they are the foundational stepping stones towards building a solid marketing strategy in a seemingly easy yet highly convoluted world inside the Facebook advertising infrastructure. Of course, before one can answer these questions, it’s important to understand the premise of Facebook Ad data use, and why it works. Amid the recent privacy scandals and data breaches pertaining to Cambridge Analytica, it’s also crucial to understand what Facebook has done to come forward in light of these events, how they may shift the advertising landscape going forward, and whether or not to believe the words of a media conglomerate who, in fact, has much, much more information about you than you would be comfortable knowing.
A Love-Hate Relationship: How Facebook Targets You
So far, one thing is for certain: Facebook has a lot of our data, and is making money from it somehow. The easy assumption is to say they’re selling us, or selling our data. But the reality is slightly different—as vox.com deftly puts it, Facebook doesn’t sell your data, but rather sells access to you. Essentially, they compile and utilize various sets of information that are procured about or around you, and consolidate it—then they monetize from it, slowly (the key word being slowly). By doing this, they have raked in $40 billion in 2017 purely from ad revenue…and it’s now 2020. However, all is not dandy as we still face one massive problem—how and why does Facebook have all of our information, and why does nobody raise an issue about Facebook’s Ad data use?
The problem with that claim lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of how Facebook’s advertising infrastructure works. Facebook reassured the masses, both governmental and public, shortly after the Cambridge Analytica situation. When inquired to testify before Congress in 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke down the walls of uncertainty and established an understanding of what is—hopefully—the truth behind the mystery of Facebook’s massive data engine. It was not long after that before Facebook updated their Data Policy, launched a diverse suite of ad preference settings within the user interface and an ad education portal to inform and elaborates on the true inner mechanics of the Facebook Ad data targeting system. As a Facebook spokesperson remarked for the Washington Post, “We want the ads people see on Facebook to be interesting, useful and relevant.”
How Facebook Manages Its Data Tracking Operation
Facebook keeps these ads useful and relevant in four different ways: tracking on-site activity, logging external websites being visited, targeting ads sourced from data compiling firms, and finally, consolidating all of this data into a unified conglomeration of an omnichannel marketing treasure trove. On-site activity usually refers to standard methods which we are accustomed to; pages liked, interests logged, ads clicked, device/location settings, and even perhaps your cellular provider. Facebook has already established this precedent. The more surprising realization is that Facebook’s tendrils extend far beyond the blue walls of your Timeline. In fact, the social media monopolizer routinely stores large swathes of offline activity or other browsing history sourced from external pages with a “like” or “share” button—pages often teeming with advertisements demanding your attention. They can also access those sites which include a Facebook Pixel, the piece of code given to publishers to track site metrics through Facebook Analytics. Think about it—those are all tiny gateways within which Facebook can peer through, observe and harvest data on consumer habits as they please.
Facebook also collaborates with third-party companies such as Experian, Acxiom and Epsilon, all of whom were sourced from for mailing lists and various other offline marketing pursuits. These companies take years to process documents such as public records, contest fill-ins, warranties and surveys to gather and consolidate their customer’s most detailed profile and then feed this data into comparative models which analyze and assess variables to draw further conclusions. Are you vegetarian? Do you live in a colder region? Now they know. And of course, when ultimately combined with the online Facebook Ad data gathered from you, the ultimate 360 degree consumer profile has been generated.
Although these profiles are founded upon various assumptions and fragmented pieces of information, they have helped Facebook overcome the societal stigma pertaining to data privacy and transform it into the advertising giant it is today. However, while this powerful ad system may fare well for companies who line up at Facebook’s doorstep for a healthy serving of consumer data, your privacy is exposed in the hands of a platform you trust. As Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, Facebook’s Ad data usage is “the most invasive in the world.” Companies absolutely use data brokers for mailing lists and tracking cookies are normal amongst any website, he explains. But no other company except for Zuckerberg’s takes that much of a person’s data, balls it up and sells it by the scoop!
Understanding Your Customer On Facebook: Dos and Don’ts
Before diving deeper into each of the following steps, there’s a few key aspects to be understood about Facebook Ad data and the way they operate. It begins with comprehending why many businesses fail at Facebook advertising and often times it’s simply because they’re not the right fit for the ad, or for Facebook Ads in general. As Neil Patel claims, Facebook Ads are most optimized for those business who seek to post ads which generate demand rather than fulfill one. By creating niche markets and developing a brand awareness, business execs can understand their place within market share, the reach of their ad efforts and specific, tangible numbers to raise or lower within context. After all, users are on Facebook to talk to people, not to shop! It’s your job as an intelligent modern business to captivate users within reason, without asking them to purchase or commit hard right off the bat. Now that will definitely earn you a higher bounce rate!
Visitors aren’t necessarily looking for your business online, much less on social media…it’s usually happening upon your ad by chance. Therefore, relay to them a “sign up” style call-to-action (or CTA) by confirming them on an email list rather than posting a “buy now” button! Settle for simple conversations that offer freebies or email gifts to provide immediate value and benefit to the consumer, while eliciting an emotional response of simultaneous delight and curiosity towards your brand—the ultimate recipe for marketing success. You can always upsell a customer down the road—but you can’t upsell a potential conversion who didn’t convert! Patel goes on to explain that the most optimized business models for Facebook Ads earn revenue over time rather than all at once (recall the slowly word from earlier?) Establishing a solid client-brand relationship, particularly these days in the face of much digital uncertainty and informational overload, resides in foundational trust and small moves forward.
Now, the ads themselves come in all shapes and sizes. Facebook Ads may appear on your Page, a post, and may promote your product/service or perhaps a landing page. Remember—just because Facebook is honing in on native platform content, you can still also push your own brand and site. Facebook ads primarily operate by choosing an objective and targeting users based on location, demographic, and profile information to begin with. This information is usually available freely on Facebook. After this, your marketing team sets a budget and a bid price for every click or one thousand impressions your ad will receive. Finally, developing and launching a landing page to receive your click-throughs and potential conversions can make or break the sale—or whatever end goal you are trying to hit.
Facebook Ads; Metrics, Targeting Options and How They Work
Facebook has a swathe of targeting options, ranging from location to age, gender, interests, relationships with others, and your “About” info such as education and workplace. Of course, each of those selections could be the right one—depending on the audience and goal. Curious to see what Ad data Facebook is collecting and storing about you? There’s actually a way to download and view all of the content and data analytics the platform has collected from you! By navigating to the top right corner and opening the settings dropdown menu, a user can land on the privacy information tab and download an entire document filled with Facebook’s Ad data use about you thus far! This can give you as a user direct insight into the insights they have about you, and how they are utilizing it to target you with appropriate messaging.
The #1 mistake marketers commit with Facebook Ads: improper targeting. The second? Not having an adequate objective in place based on what you’re trying to accomplish, or using the wrong metrics to fulfill an incorrect goal parameter. Every ad provides various metrics at your disposal to aid in performance and quantitative tracking and identify opportunity areas—but it’s up to you to know what to make use of and what to discard. Your marketing campaigns will rely on specific, identifiable direction to build an audience, attract customers and drive traffic back to your site. As such, being able to ascertain your goals and calculate an accurate ROI from ads can help speed up the traffic-inducing, lead-converting or revenue-earning process! And understand your goals starts by understand the metrics available to help hit those targets.
Deciding which metrics to track is tricky within the Facebook Ad targeting and data conception process. While there are several types offered immediately, only a few truly hold value worth your time. The rest are what’s known as “vanity metrics” (the name speaks for itself.) Sure, a large number of “impressions” sounds great—but what does that really mean? Are those insights truly bringing in customers or sales, or just existing as passerby glancing at your ad and not interacting (perhaps because your image or copy was weak?) These are the significant distinctions to make in the ad creation process. Technically, any metric can be a vanity metric…it’s all dependent on setting specific and measurable goals which are relevant to your business goals. Here are some of the most common metrics used by Facebook Ads:
Cost Per Result: the average cost of an ad based on the result where the result is a custom metric defined by a specific business goal.
Ad Impressions: how many times an ad was viewed (useful for brand name exposure/recall, not useful for lead generation)
Ad Frequency: how many times your ad was viewed, on average, by an individual (higher frequency helps with recall, lower frequency helps with lead generation)
Ad Clicks: the number of times someone has clicked on your ad—always a good thing! This can be any action including a like, expanding the ad or clicking through to the website.
Click-Through Rate: the percentage of people who clicked an ad out of the total number of people who saw the ad. High click-through is good, meaning people are interested in the content. Lower is bad, meaning your ad copy or image is not enticing enough.
Cost Per Click/Impression: how much you pay when someone clicks your ad / per 1,000 views (helps with engagement and cost-benefit analysis of ad investment to specific reward)
Conversion Rate: the percentage of people who click an ad who go on to make a purchase and become a customer (very important, the highest level of transparency to ad performance)
At the end of the day, one might think:“Wow, Facebook sure has a lot of options for marketers to use, but also a lot of hurdles that we must jump. Is it too cumbersome of a task to onboard the utilization of Facebook Ad data in my business’s workflow?” The answer is absolutely not! Keep in mind, their firm seeks to use ad rewards in the form of higher relevancy scores and lower bid prices because they simply want happy customers on their platform who keep returning to the platform. If the advertisements on Facebook routinely annoyed individuals and were being shown to those who weren’t remotely interested, they would bounce off the social media platform and opt-in favor of one that aligns more with them and their needs. Therefore, growing an audience (and ultimately, a fanbase) on Facebook is contingent upon resonating with them and your content with the ad platform within which you must operate. That way, you can give the people who seek your business what they want in an efficient, robust and cost-effective manner!