We did it. We have officially been living in a post-iOS 14.5 world for one year. In late April 2021, iPhone users were given the option to turn off digital tracking outside Facebooks apps. Only 4% opted in. The world didn’t end for us digital marketers, but it certainly changed.
Marketing teams saw their carefully crafted, high-performing ad audiences evaporate. Return on ad spend (ROAS) declined. Highly granular targeting became ineffective. Tracking changes meant that suddenly ad campaigns lost credit for their role in the customer journey.
We all had to recognize that it’s not 2019 anymore. Sure, some found hacks and tricks that helped bridge the gap, but iOS 14.5 solidified a reality that has been a long time coming.
It was part of an ongoing shift toward greater consumer privacy. We’ve already seen Google stop selling ads based on browsing history, and we will likely see more moves like this from tech giants. This might be by choice, as part of their value proposition to customers (shout out Apple) or by necessity, to comply with or get ahead of stricter consumer privacy laws (shout out Google and Facebook).
Instead of spouting off high-level platitudes or trying to game the system, we spent this past year figuring out what really works before sharing these findings with you. The answer requires marketers to level-up, but it’s effective.
Working effectively with iOS 14.5 constraints demands that marketers rethink their Facebook ad strategies. Here we share what we’re doing in practice across the core phases of campaigns:
- Audience Building
- Tracking Optimization
- Campaign Optimization
- Measurement & Reporting
Facebook spoiled us for years with their granular audience targeting and tracking. Let’s face it, sometimes we got a little lazy. We became over-reliant on running highly segmented campaigns with audiences whose online behavior showed they were primed to convert.
But what if instead of being The End of Paid Social Marketing (TM), this is an opportunity? Go back to your paid social strategy, before even thinking about how to optimize your campaigns in Ads Manager.
Strategies need to become more creative, more flexible, and simpler. It’s time for marketers to think laterally about their campaigns and to end their over-reliance on Facebook as the sole paid social platform.
Yes, your audience, or some of them at least, is almost definitely on Facebook and Instagram. But what about TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, or Pinterest? And that’s before you think about audio ads on Spotify or niche newsletter sponsorships.
Another option: work with niche influencers. Promoting their posts is a good supplement to ads from your owned channels.
Yes, this will stretch your budget and take more time. To help make it more manageable, simplify what you want to achieve with paid social.
Choose one or two core metrics and ruthlessly align your tactics to them. Pick the points on the marketing funnel you care most about with each audience, then restructure your campaigns and ad sets to focus on those KPIs. Less is more.
To make what we’re talking about a little more concrete, enter Joe, who sells artisanal cheese online. Facebook Ads was one of his best performing marketing channels, but since iOS 14.5 ROAS has steeply declined. He realizes he needs to adapt his paid social strategy.
As a result, he decides to test advertising on TikTok and Reddit. He also streamlines his Facebook ads to focus on awareness and sales conversion goals.
iOS 14.5 brings a push for advertisers to use much broader campaign audiences. The idea is that within these broad groups, Facebook’s algorithms will optimize towards the best performing audience set.
But this doesn’t mean you should just create “aged 18 – 65+ in the United States” audiences for all your campaigns. Use data to match your campaigns to specific needs and touchpoints during the customer journey, rather than just targeting demographics.
You are already sitting on data you can use to inform audience creation: your customer and sales databases, Google Analytics, social listening, stakeholder interviews. Talk to your customer service and sales teams.
First-party data—data you collect yourself, rather than data collected by another entity—is the name of the game. While it may seem difficult to collect your own data rather than relying on a third-party tool, prioritizing first party data is a win-win for you and your customers. Why? Your customers understand they are giving you this information, and it’s a more accurate way to create audiences that match your core customer base.
Back to Joe: he digs into his own data and runs a customer survey to better understand who his most valuable customers are. He identifies that one of his key audiences are “luxury grocery store gourmands”, who supplement groceries from high-end stores with purchases from artisanal suppliers.
Previously he had targeted a similar group based on tight demographics and specific stores. He reconfigures one of his audience groups to have a broader reach but tighter focus on key purchase considerations like ethical food sourcing.
He also reallocates part of his budget from Facebook ads to paid content collaborations with well-qualified food Instagrammers.
Almost every advice article about adapting to iOS 14.5 says this. And yet, marketers are still out there wondering why their sub-par stock photos and lazy copy aren’t converting. Your audience is bored by it, so they tune it out and you end up with low click through rates (CTR) and high cost per acquisition (CPA) that make you question your career choices.
High quality creative is a must, not a nice to have. Take your personas and audience insights and map your creative to it. Create video, even if you DIY using the many easy-to-use editing tools out there.
Use copywriting best practices and frameworks. Try out different approaches and show how you are meeting your customers’ needs. Stand out from your competitors, whether you are entertaining, educating, or informing.
Rotate creative frequently to avoid ad saturation with your audiences. The more your creative engages your audience, the more competitive your auction bids will be and the better your overall performance.
Back to our example: Joe produces some new content using his camera phone. He teams up with a local supplier to shoot some brief videos about their goat farm. He maps out and refines his messaging and copy across the ad sequence.
Now that you’ve outlined your core KPIs in your strategy, make sure you can accurately track their performance. These tactics are what we’ve found most effective to combat iOS 14.5 data loss while respecting user privacy.
What to Implement First
These steps will help you get the most out of what tracking data there is and increase the accuracy of your reporting data.
Start by verifying your domain with Facebook. Doing so means that you can edit thumbnail images and link descriptions when you are sharing a link from your own website.
From here, ensure that your UTM tagging is correct on website links you share in social ads. You can use Google’s free URL builder or Facebook’s link builder to create your tags. Keep a tracker of campaign and content codes to enable analysis over time for different audiences, campaigns, and creatives.
Then set up Facebook Advanced Matching. This optimizes your ads by sending hashed user data with Pixel Events. This is a win for privacy-oriented customers, whose data is protected via hashing, and for your ad strategy, as you get more information about customer behavior.
Using Advanced Matching increases attribution accuracy and custom audience sizes. And, whisper it, Facebook also promises that it decreases CPC.
Enable Aggregated Event Measurement and Prioritize Conversions
Aggregated event measurement allows you to track web conversions from Facebook ads—even from iOS 14.5 users. However, there is a catch. You only get eight events, and must rank them.
Facebook will track these events for all users. But if an iOS 14.5 users completes multiple events, you will only get conversion data for the event you’ve put in your #1 priority slot.
For example, Joe creates conversion events for key points in his sales funnel. In priority order they are:
- Customer creates an account
- Adds an item to their cart
- Begins checkout
- Completes a purchase
If a customer using iOS 14.5 completes all these actions, Facebook will only report a completed checkout for that customer if they’ve opted out of tracking.
Think about what conversions matter most and prioritize those. They may not always be purchases.
For example, later on Joe may decide that creating an account is his most important conversion event because customers who create accounts join his mailing list, where he can reach them more directly.
Set Up Facebook’s Conversions API for a Clear Picture
In addition to setting up aggregated event measurement, set up Facebook Conversions API (CAPI). This is another tool to gather conversion data.
Instead of trying to hack around iOS 14.5 restrictions, the Conversions API respects them while providing a robust link between your owned data and Facebook.
This means reduced CPCs and better measurement. And you can optimize towards bottom of funnel or after-purchase actions. It can be complex to implement, but the rewards are worth it.
If you’re driving customers to a website, it does largely the same job as aggregated web event measurement using a different method. The API can track some conversions that aggregated event measurement can’t and visa versa. Using both together (and setting the API up correctly to deduplicate events captured by both methods) gives you a more complete picture of ad performance.
How you set up the API depends on the measurement platform you are integrating it with. We use Google Tag Manager (GTM), for which you need a Google Cloud Platform Account to use with CAPI. It’s a bit more detail than we can get into here, but there are plenty of helpful guides.
Example: Joe improves his social tracking with UTM codes and implements Facebook Advanced Matching and Conversions. He starts to get a better idea of which ads are driving customers to buy. His CPC decreases.
Change up those campaign settings that used to work so well, before you run through your entire monthly budget and get so-so results.
Try using conversion objectives that keep people on Facebook but push them into your funnel. For example, you might use a conversion form to get users to opt into your CRM and follow-up with an email sequence.
Set up retargeting sequences for people that have already interacted with your ads, using strategically linked creative assets. If someone watches a certain amount of your top of funnel video ad, retarget them with some bottom of funnel content.
Once your ads are ready to go, test your assumptions on smaller budgets. Test audiences, creative, and messaging. When you’re doing this, you can target Android users as a specific group, but don’t become dependent on this approach. And bear in mind that there might be other differences with the Android and Apple audiences which mean that characteristics don’t 100% translate between them.
Example: Joe sets up a new ad set where people who view at least 33% of his goat farm video are retargeting with a sales offer. He tests this new sequence with old and new audience groups.
For Ecommerce Businesses
Consider setting up a Facebook shop if you don’t already have one. Keeping people in the Facebook app can get more eyes on your products but you need to decide if the selling fees and shop upkeep is worth it.
If you run a shop on Shopify or WooCommerce, install their measurement plug-ins.
Example: Joe sets up a Facebook shop for selected products. He tests to see whether ads which keep people within Facebook perform better.
Marketers have griped for years about Facebook’s owned analytics. The loss of customer data with iOS 14.5 should be the final push towards getting your campaign measurement set up in Google Data Studio.
You can pull in data from all your paid efforts alongside Google Analytics and Shopify data, which will give you a much more holistic understanding of campaign success. And while you’re doing this, you will need to get ready for GA4, too.
Set up the same conversion events in Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager or GA4’s interface to see how ads actually convert.
Example: Joe finally takes the plunge and sets up a simple Google Data Studio dashboard to measure some of his key metrics. As he is using UTM tagging, he gets additional visibility on traffic and sales that are driven by Facebook and Instagram but not recorded in Meta analytics.
He gets further data from the GTM and CAPI integration and can see if a targeted aftersales offer is providing acceptable return on investment. After implementing these best practices, Joe starts to see a major improvement in his ad campaign performance and sales.
If you want to improve your Facebook campaign performance, contact us to talk about how our paid social strategy services can help your organization.