Growing Privacy Concerns Put Social Networks' Targeting and Tracking at Risk

Growing Privacy Concerns Put Social Networks’ Targeting at Risk

This blog post was updated October 2020

Advertisers on social may find themselves with fewer insights and ways to target as third-party cookies get phased out. With the release of the Apple intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) settings in 2017, Mozilla and Apple blocking cookies in 2019 and 2020, and Google planning to phase out third-party cookies, this tracking method is gradually being stripped away.

Growing privacy concerns lead Facebook to roll out the Conversions API for targeting and tracking.

Currently, most social networks use web browser information to power a pixel or tag (Facebook Pixel, Twitter Tag, Pinterest Tag, LinkedIn Insight Tag), which is a snippet of code that is placed on a brand’s site. This data greatly benefits social campaigns by providing valuable conversion insights, building audiences of qualified users, and powering conversion-based buying that encourages users to perform a specific action on a site.

Facebook’s Solution: The Conversions API

Without cookie data, social networks lose access to valuable information. Platforms such as Facebook are looking at other ways of getting this data. One such solution is the Facebook Conversions API. The Conversions API is a measurement and performance tool offered alongside the Facebook Pixel. With the API, brands can send web, offline, or CRM data from their server directly to Facebook servers without the use of web browsers. This setup gives brands more control as they decide what data is shared with Facebook and when it’s shared. Since sharing is through servers, the data can be more reliable than web browsers, which may crash or have an ad blocker enabled.

Facebook also made a recent announcement that they’ll be phasing out the 28-day attribution window beginning October 12, 2020, likely in response to Google’s plan to remove third-party cookies. The default attribution window will now be set to 7-day click. Facebook has ensured that this change will have no impact on the performance of ads, but does weigh in their favor the transition to the Conversions API.

To learn more about the API, check out About Conversions API on the Facebook Business Help Center.

The pixel and Conversions API drive successful conversion campaigns on Facebook, so without this information, tracking sales from social can be difficult, media dollars may be spent on those with no purchase intent, and lower funnel optimization may not be achieved. For brands who want to continue using these tools if tracking online activity is no longer available, we recommend considering shifting from the Facebook Pixel to the Conversions API.

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Considerations for Implementation

Before making this shift, there are a few things to keep in mind. Implementing the Conversions API requires technical knowledge of APIs. For those who do not have an in-house developer team and need to outsource the work, moving to the API will require setup and management costs. This can be a tough sell as the Facebook pixel is easy to set up and oftentimes requires no technical knowledge or an outside partner.

This process may also take time as brands decide on the best fit for their business, whether it’s using an in-house developer (existing or new hire) or partnering with an organization through the Facebook partner program or elsewhere. The Facebook program connects brands with vetted partners to assist in technical services including the pixel, SDK, dynamic ads, and Conversions API. To learn more about the program, check out the Facebook Marketing Partners site.

While Facebook is the only social network that has begun rolling out a solution to third-party cookie blocking, other networks will soon start using this technology. If you would like to learn more about the Conversions API or are looking for a partner to assist with your conversion-based buys, contact us today!

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