Social Media

Facebook Pixel Update Explained: What Is A First Party Cookie?

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If you run any Facebook advertising you've likely gotten an email in the past few weeks with information on a pixel update.  Here's what it says:

Important Facebook Pixel Update

Hi Tom,

On October 24, Facebook will begin offering businesses a first-party cookie option with the Facebook pixel. This change is in line with updates made by other online platforms, as use of first-party cookies for ads and site analytics is becoming the preferred approach by some browsers.

Businesses have long relied on cookies to serve ads to relevant audiences and understand visits to their sites. Up until now, Facebook has used its pixel — powered by third-party cookies — for website analytics, ad targeting, and ad measurement. This new option will also help advertisers, publishers, and developers continue to get accurate analytics about traffic to their websites.

Businesses can opt out of first-party cookies by updating their pixel settings in Events Manager.

The controls people have over ads on Facebook in Ads Preferences will not change. Our Business Tools Terms also still require businesses to clearly disclose how they use cookies and share data collected on their sites with third parties, so we recommend businesses review their cookie-related disclosures. To learn more about this update, visit the Help Center.

You are registered as an admin of these Facebook Ad Accounts which have Facebook pixels:

None. You aren't registered as an admin of a Facebook Ad Account that owns a pixel. Please check any pixels associated with your Business Manager account.

Thanks,

The Facebook Ads Team

What does this mean for you?

For years now since the inception of cookies most ad and analytics platforms use third-party cookies, but recently certain browsers have blocked or announced plans to block third-party cookies because of all the data privacy concerns that have been circulating.  Facebook's latest update is not only in line with their privacy issues, but also on popular browsers.

Let's start from the beginning.

What is a browser cookie?

A cookie is just a small text file that is dropped on your device (typically browser) when you visit a website.  There are many uses for cookies: saved logins, shopping carts, game scores, user profiles, analytics, advertising, ad frequency capping, ad targeting and retargeting.  There is nothing inherently wrong with cookies, but they can be used for shady purposes in regards to user data.  Imagine every time you add a product to your shopping cart on an e-commerce website, you then close your browser and open it back up.  Without cookies you would lose what was in your shopping cart every time.  Imagine logging onto your email app and every single time typing your user-name and password.  That data is all stored through the use of cookies.  

Cookies simplify and customize your web experience.  This also allows advertisers to better target products and services.  This can be as simple as only showing ads regarding pregnancy products to women vs men.

What is the difference between a first-party cookie and a third-party cookie?

From a technical standpoint there is no difference in how they work or the data they can track.  First-party cookies are issues directly by the website a user is visiting while third-party cookies are created by someone else.  For example, if you visited amazon.com and they cookied your browser to track your shopping behavior that would be a first-party cookie.  If they were using a Facebook pixel, historically a Facebook owned cookie would be dropped in your browser.  That's a third-party cookie because you visited Amazon.com, not Facebook.com.  

From a user standpoint, it's difficult to know who's doing what with your data.  Cookies can be blocked as well through private/incognito windows, Safari and Firefox by default blocks third-party cookies, most browsers allow you to customize cookie settings, software to block cookies, and ad blockers.  Relying on third-party cookies is becoming more of a challenge as these blockers are increasing in usage based on the media bringing light to privacy concerns and not necessarily doing the best job in explaining.

Because cookies store user data they have been recognized as a threat to user privacy.  Recently there was a lot of talk about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe which took effect on May 25th this year.  You'll notice a lot of websites you go to now have a privacy/cookie policy announcement which is as a result of this initiative.  

Now back to Facebook the and recent notification all advertising account admins are getting about the latest pixel update to first-party cookies.  The primary driver of this changes is Safari and Firefox changing how they handle third-party cookies where they are automatically blocked, but you can manually opt into them.  This potentially resulted in a lot of lost data for Facebook advertisers.  Facebook switching to first-party cookies eliminates that issue as well as many privacy concerns users may have.  Google and Microsoft already made the change earlier this year.  

How does the Facebook first-party cookie solution work?

When a user clicks on a Facebook served ad a unique string gets added to the URL.  If there are pixels on the website that are opted in to share first-party cookie data with Facebook, the URL parameter will get written into the browser as a first-party cookie.  In the events manager on Facebook ads you'll be able to manage this setting and opt out if you'd like.  This officially launches on October 24th. For the vast majority of advertisers receiving this notification, there is no further action needed.  You may even see improvements in the retargeting data.



If you’d like more information on this or any help with Facebook advertising and pixel management calls us or send us a message. We’re here to help.

Which Facebook Metrics Are Going Bye-Bye?

Some of you may have recently noticed a little information bar running across the top of your screen in Facebook Ads Manager and Power Editor

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Initially, Facebook’s phrase "removing some metrics" comes off as a bit of a surprise. However, no one should really be alarmed. Yes, they are taking away some metrics, but only ones that are redundant and can still be measured by other metrics remaining in Facebook. Below we will go through each metric Facebook is removing and discuss what alternative we recommend. 

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Actions, People Taking Action, Cost per Any Action:

The Actions metric is a composite of various actions and events such as engagement, clicks or conversions. Recently, Facebook has been adding more and more actions that people can take on an ad. Therefore, the Actions metric is becoming less relevant. We recommend customizing your own composite metric reflecting actions that are meaningful to your business

Amount Spent Today:

We recommend using the dynamic date selector on the top right of Ads Manager and Power Editor. You can then click on "Today" and use the Amount Spent metric. 

Button Clicks:

Currently, this metric shows the number of times people clicked the call-to-action button on your ad. These clicks are also reflected in the Link Clicks, Event Responses and Offers Saved metrics. 

Canvas Component Time Percentage:

Overall, this metric hasn't been very popular. However, if you do use it, Canvas View Time and Canvas View Percentage metrics can be a helpful alternative. 

Carousel Card:

Now, this one comes as a bit of a surprise. Facebook says "We're no longer supporting the Carousel Card breakdown for conversion metrics (ex: Website Conversions) and for any calculated metrics such as CTR because these insights have been infrequently used." When running a carousel ad, we do like to reflect on which cards are performing better by looking at the highest CTR or most purchases, etc. Facebook is leaving the ability to see Link Clicks by each Carousel Card, and you can still see overall conversion results without the card breakdown. 

Link Click Destination:

Facebook has had some trouble with deep links and backup link destinations. Alternatives are Outbound Clicks and Landing Page Views that can measure which clicks lead people to destinations off Facebook.  In the future, Facebook plans to explore other ways of providing more granular app deep link or app store destination insights.

Mobile App Actions Conversion Value:

We recommend using specific app event conversion values such as Mobile App Purchase Conversion Value.

Page Mentions, Cost per Page Mention:

Because these metrics are not as relevant anymore, they are not very helpful to understand positive or negative sentiment towards your brand. Alternatives to seeing the success of a Page Likes campaign are Page Likes and Page Engagement.

Page Tab Views, Cost per Page Tab View:

This metric measures the number of views of tabs on your Facebook Page that are attributed to your ads. Similar, to Page Mentions, there is a better way to see success of a Page Likes campaign and that is through Page Likes and Page Engagement.

Positive Feedback, Negative Feedback:

This metric is already incorporated into the Relevance Score metric. Instead of breaking them out positively and negatively, which can sometimes be confusing, Facebook is just sticking with the Relevance Score. 

Social Reach, Social Impressions, Social Clicks (All), Unique Social Clicks  (All):

These metrics show the number of people who saw an ad when displayed with social information. Facebook has said "The Social Reach metric isn't meaningfully different from the Reach and Impressions metrics and the insights provided aren't actionable, since advertisers don't have control over when ads are/aren't shown with social information." Overall, we’re not losing too much on this one. We recommend forgetting about the social aspect and sticking to Reach and Impressions to evaluate campaign performance. 

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How do you feel about losing some of these Facebook metrics? Is it just a healthy Facebook update? Or are you dreading the start of July 2018? 

Our team at RelayPM understands the impact of this update, especially if you are using these metrics for analysis and reporting. 

We are excited to see the forward direction Facebook is moving. “Measure What Matters” is a program Facebook is launching in March to help marketers learn more about measurement principles. One track will offer programming for branding oriented campaigns and another will focus on measurement for direct response campaigns. This program will be offered on the Facebook Business website and on Facebook Live and in-person events.

Facebook's Doing What?

Since the now infamous Facebook post from Mark Zuckerburg on January 10th the latest change coming to the Facebook news feed has taken of the news.  From criticism to confusion, who should really be concerned? 

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Let's break down the Facebook news feed for starters.  You have three kinds of posts you will encounter at any given time in the news feed.  The first kind are posts from friends and family.  These are from anyone that is considered your friend on Facebook.  Either you accepted a friend request from them or they accepted one from you.  The second kind of posts are those from pages you follow.  These are typically business pages, either private or public that you have chosen to follow.  When they post updates to their timelines a certain percentage of followers will see their post chosen by Facebook's complex algorithm, but most having to do with the post engagement.  The third kind are sponsored posts.  These are from businesses that pay Facebook to show their advertisements in front of people that the business chooses through Facebook's targeting.  Facebook has to constantly balance their algorithm so keep people engaged and logging in as many times of day as possible.  

The latest change to the Facebook news feed will affect two of the three types of posts mentioned above.  Posts from friends and family and posts from businesses you follow.  Here's what Zuckerberg said in his post:

“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other."  (see the full post here)  

Out of this change Facebook is shifting their algorithm to give greater exposure to posts from friends and family.  The only way to give greater exposure to one of the three kinds of posts is to give less exposure to another.  Well Facebook certainly is not going to show less paid advertisements so what will potentially take a hit are the business pages that you follow.  If you have a business page (which most reading this post will) you will potentially see less reach on your posts.  This is similar to the change Facebook made a couple years ago which was to give more room for sponsored ads.  At the time Facebook needed to bring in more revenue.  

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Before going into a panic we certainly want to wait and see what happens as this is implemented.  Continue to monitor the reach of your organic posts for a decline in reach.  Most likely publishers posts with lower engagement will take the biggest hit.  Facebook said the reason for this change was from a study where they found people who aimlessly scroll through their news feed without interacting with the content walk away feeling unfulfilled and that they wasted their time.  

As a business what you can do to limit the effect?  Post highly engaging content.  Do not just post to post.  Make it count.  Maybe this means posting less, but posting more high quality content.  As much as Facebook needs to make money, they have always valued engagement as the highest priority.  Businesses should shift their focus from getting as many eyes as possible to posting something their followers will truly want to engage in.

 

No More Ad Text Character Limit On Facebook?

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Facebook has been making some big changes lately. If you’ve been keeping up with them, then you know that they removed the 20% text limitation for ad images. Historically, if you created an image ad with more than 20% text, Facebook would disapprove the ad. In most cases, this wasn’t a big deal, but I’ve seen ads get disapproved because of unreadable background text. Even with the removal of text ad limitations, Facebook is still recommending that advertisers stay below the limit due to their “audience preference”. Instead of giving you a statistical grid to show you where exactly the ad text starts to lose reach, they simply state that the more text your ad contains, it will come at a higher cost and experience less distribution. 

Facebook’s ad text limit has always been a 25-character headline and 90-character description. The only way to overcome this limitation was to create a post on your page to boost the ad. From there, you can go into ad manager and modify the target audience as you please. 

With this limitation, the only campaign objective an advertiser can have is page post engagement. Sure, you can add a link to the text, and you have a “like” button, but that leaves too many competing options for the viewer. 

Last night, I was creating an ad for a client when I noticed that the character limit disappeared. Typically, when you start typing, there’s a character countdown on the right side. With the character countdown missing, I was able to type as much text as I wanted. See example:

 
 

At first, I thought there was some sort of glitch. I decided to try saving the ad. No issues. I scoured the internet for information on the change. There was nothing. I wanted to make sure that I could activate the ad, have it approved, and get impressions before jumping to conclusions. At this point, it was 1 a.m., so I decided to check back in the morning. 

I woke up the next day, and this is what I saw:

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Impressions, spend, and a 3 relevancy score (right in the client’s range before I extended the text). After looking deeper into Facebook’s ad specs, I found this:

 
 

The most important statement is, "The recommended text length is how many characters of ad copy could be displayed on smaller screens." I checked a couple different sized screens, and my ad saw the full text in every case. I recommend testing to see what kind of results you get.

Now it is time to expand and test…