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What Advertisers Need to Know About Apple’s & Facebook’s Changes

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Anyone who’s advertising on Facebook Ads has been seeing plenty of updates about the feud that’s going on between Apple and Facebook over the past few months. In this post, we will try to walk you through what they are quarreling about, why you should care, and what can you do to keep your campaigns performing well.

What’s been happening

This recent conflict stems a long while back, to the days Apple released their first iPhone. From the get-go, Apple’s native browser enforced more robust privacy measures on the device, to maintain its user’s privacy. These limitations included a stricter capping of cookie duration and other methods that historically made Apple users harder to target, despite being a highly desired audience.

As Apple’s devices grew in popularity, additional measures were added to Apple devices’ App and Web ecosystems. This continued to limit measurement and blocked shady tracking techniques (e.g. fingerprinting and cookie matching).

However, the recent changes that are expected to be introduced in iOS 14.5 and macOS 11 are nothing short of a revolution.

Apple’s new protocols (ATT – App Tracking Transparency, that focus on mobile apps & PCM – Private Click Measurement that focus on websites), though slightly different when applied to Web or Apps, state that there shouldn’t be a direct linkage between a user and the ad click event, blocking the ads platforms (like Facebook) to identify a specific user.

They claim that an advertiser should only know that some user clicked an ad and that some user converted on their site. While this seems relatively trivial, the underlying concept here is that the advertiser will report only on the campaign level metrics, i.e. Campaign A had 100 clicks and five conversions. Any granular reporting beyond that, e.g. which ad set, or specific ad converted, or which user demographic converted, will not be shown.

While the ATT protocol requires that users actively opt-in to be tracked (with limitations described above), the PCM protocol will default on the Safari browser.

This change will impact all advertising platforms, not just Facebook, but they have been loudest about it.

Their response was two-fold: First, they lashed out publicly at Apple, saying they will ruin SMB marketing that got hit during COVID.

Screenshot from Bloomberg.com on Facebook ads against Apple

Second, they introduced their protocol, Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM), similar to Apple’s, while still retaining some critical capabilities required to optimize ad serving, hoping that the industry would adopt it as its standard.

How will it impact you?

While both protocols are still in the works, and it remains unclear which of them will prevail, the general direction of both is quite similar:

  1. Limited event tracking
  2. Limited attribution windows
  3. Delayed campaign reporting (up to 72 hours)
  4. Campaign reporting will be modeled to the ad set/ad group level only
  5. User attribute breakdowns (demographics, interests, etc.) will be deprecated
  6. Remarketing audiences’ sizes will reduce

Let’s break it down:

Limited event reporting

Apple’s protocol, and accordingly, Facebook’s, suggest that advertisers can report only 8 types of conversion events. These include any user interaction on the site, e.g. Purchase, Lead, Add to Cart, etc., unlike today where there is no such limit.

In Apple’s protocol, these events will also be unable to capture event parameters, such as the name and value of the item purchased. This, in practice, will remove the option for ROAS optimization in campaigns.

Limited attribution windows

The campaign data stored by Apple devices (using the browser and device’s storage, not cookies) will be limited to 7 days. This will restrict campaign attribution to a 7-day click window. View-through conversion attribution is still under consideration, but for the time being, Facebook has decided to use statistical modeling to bridge this gap, offering a limited 1-day view-through conversion window.

Delayed campaign reporting

To keep the ad platforms from manipulating the protocols, the reporting will be delayed randomly by 24-48 hours. Additionally, Facebook plans to add 24 hours for data processing due to the heavy statistical modeling happening in the background. This means that campaign reports might lag almost three days and measuring the impact of your ads’ changes will become painfully slow.

Campaign reporting will be modeled to the ad set/ad group level only

As described above, both Apple and Facebook’s protocols report only on campaign level conversions. Since campaigns have in practice multiple levels, i.e. Campaign – Ad group/Ad set – Ad, Facebook will use, again, statistical modeling to extrapolate the data to the ad set level. This will give some limited granularity to the campaign and be very far from the detailed reports we’re used to seeing.

User attribute breakdowns will be deprecated from reporting

With reporting detached from the user, no breakdowns will be available in campaign reporting. So, while you can still target a specific demographic (as that data is known to the ad platform for serving the ad), you will probably only have information on which ad clicked the most and won’t be able to pair that with an actual demographic group. For example, you can target female shoppers of ages 25-45 from California but won’t be able to break down your conversion reports to identify if you’ve received more conversions in Los Angeles than in Sacramento.

Say goodbye to campaigns breakdown.

Remarketing audiences’ size will reduce for Safari users

With the absence of data about user actions taken on your site and app, remarketing audiences are expected to shrink for Safari users. While it’s still unclear whether there will be a mechanism to track users that aren’t originating from campaigns (e.g. Organic traffic), we expect the audience to be smaller for Safari users.

According to Apple, there will be no change to Chrome or In-App browsers (like Facebook’s browser)

What can you do about it?

To be honest, as a campaign manager, all the above sound quite terrible. In a separate post in this series, I’ll touch on the specific campaign-related tactics you can use to overcome some of these challenges.

In this post, I wanted to suggest some general concepts I believe you should adopt.

Follow Facebook’s best practices

While this might sound trivial, these will give you the most value in an immediate way.

Implement Facebook’s Conversion API (server to server tracking). There are plenty of good plugins out there for a code-free implementation of this, and even an in-house development of this feature isn’t too much of a hassle for a decent developer.

I also recommend using their Offline Conversions API which allows you to report on delayed conversions, e.g. a Lead converting after an in-person meeting. The offline conversions are mainly based on PII (Personal Identifiable Information) from your CRM/eCommerce platform like email or phone numbers, and we do not expect them to be impacted by Apple’s changes. Note that you can use them for reporting but not as an optimization event.

Both are recommended best practices regardless of the new protocols, as they improve reporting accuracy.

Another important action is verifying your domain and business. This can be done in your Business Manager admin area under Business settings – Brand safety – Domain. Once your domain has been verified, you can select and prioritize the eight events Facebook will use for optimizing campaigns. These will also be selected automatically by Facebook for your business if you don’t select them yourself.

Diversify spend

With limitations coming to all platforms, now is as good a time as ever to experiment with new ad platforms. If Facebook enforces these strict measures, maybe Pinterest will make up for some of it, and maybe Taboola or Outbrain will be more lucrative channels now.

This too is a recommended practice regardless of the new protocols, but with these limitations, it becomes critical you spread your risk across several platforms.

Measure elsewhere

With campaign reporting limited, we expect web analytics tools to be on the rise. These include the platforms’ built-in solutions, e.g. Shopify’s internal dashboard, along with other 3rd party solutions (relying on your 1st party data, of course).

The flip side is that most of these tools use simpler attribution models, primarily last touch attribution.

To prepare best for this, try analyzing past performance by comparing conversions measured in Facebook Ads versus ones measured in Google Analytics. The reporting in Facebook Ads is likely to be higher, and with sufficient data, you will get an estimate of your “hidden multiplier”, i.e. how many conversions were impacted by Facebook as compared to direct conversions from Facebook. This number will help in giving credit to the ad platform that goes beyond just the direct conversions measured.

Future outlook

This change is yet to happen. While there has been a lot of fussing about it, it hasn’t yet been released, and Apple has reportedly said it would happen in “early spring”. I do believe that there will be some changes to all protocols before this goes live.

One change we can already expect is Facebook’s response to Apple’s Beta release of iOS 14.5 on February 1st. The release featured a surprisingly more relaxed version of the PCM protocol (the privacy protocol for websites), which now offers App to Web tracking and a larger cap of 16 conversion events. We expect Facebook to respond to these changes and relax the limitations on their AEM protocol.

As a result of these protocols, we also expect several major changes in the industry are going forward.

Rise of the Walled Gardens campaigns

What happens on Facebook, well, stays on Facebook. And Facebook has quite a sophisticated set of tools they can offer marketers to engage their users within Facebook and even complete the actual conversion.

Solutions such as Lead Forms and Canvas have been around for a while now. Facebook is now heavily pushing its eCommerce solutions like Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping and WhatsApp Business solution that already started in India. Those solutions will enable a complete checkout flow from within the platform from the impressions level until the purchase.

Similar solutions are being offered by Google, including the recent release of Shop with Google and the expected shopping experience within YouTube, so we can expect them to promote these heavily too.

Keeping the users within the walled gardens gives the ad platforms full visibility to the campaign and conversion data, which can then be used to optimize and report.

Moving away from ROAS

As campaign reporting becomes limited, brands will need to shift their measurement from down funnel metrics such as ROAS. Suppose sophisticated brands were previously moving the discussion to lift measurement (a movement that will continue despite these changes). In that case, they will now also have to consider more “classic” marketing metrics such as Share of Voice and Share of Wallet. This can be a positive outcome, widening the focus from strictly tactical metrics to more strategic ones.

PPChero.com

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Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Platforms Go Offline

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Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Platforms Go Offline

Everything is down. Wednesday afternoon, widespread outages began to affect many of the internet’s most popular services, both social networks and otherwise. As of this writing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pokemon Go, and the McDonald’s mobile application a just a handful of the many services suffering from log-in difficulties. According to DownDetector, there’s no regional basis for the services going offline and reports are coming in from all corners of the country.

Meta—the parent company of Facebook—is only reporting “Major disruptions” with its ad service while Twitter says all of its systems are operational. Despite the difficulties, all other status pages for the aforementioned services suggest everything is operational. Keep scrolling to see what people are saying.

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Wannabe Blackpool councillor suspended by Tories after civil service staff called 'pedos' in Facebook post

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Wannabe Blackpool councillor suspended by Tories after civil service staff called 'pedos' in Facebook post

A prospective Blackpool councillor has been suspended from the Conservative Party following a series of offensive posts on social media that called …

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Republicans, aided by Musk, accuse Big Tech of colluding with Democrats

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Republicans, aided by Musk, accuse Big Tech of colluding with Democrats

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Soon after Elon Musk took over Twitter, he began promoting screenshots of internal company documents that he said exposed “free speech suppression” on the social media platform during the 2020 election. Republicans were thrilled.

“We knew Big Tech was censoring conservatives, but the #TwitterFiles keep showing us it was worse than we thought,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted recently.

On Wednesday, Musk’s “Twitter Files” will take center stage in a Capitol Hill hearing where GOP leaders will try to advance their campaign to turn Twitter’s decision to briefly block sharing a story about the president’s son into evidence of a broad conspiracy. Conservatives have long argued that Silicon Valley favors Democrats by systematically suppressing right-wing viewpoints on social media. These allegations have evolved in nearly a half-decade of warnings, as politicians in Washington and beyond fixate on the industry’s communications with Democratic leaders, seeking to cast the opposing party as against free speech.

The Twitter Files show no evidence of such a plot. Conservative influencers and stories from conservative platforms regularly draw a massive audience on social media. But Wednesday’s hearing, which will feature former Twitter executives as witnesses, is the latest effort to advance an increasingly popular Republican argument.

Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter files’ are an exercise in hypocrisy

As House Republicans throw their political weight behind the narrative that Democrats colluded with social media companies, they have formed a new House panel to probe perceived government abuses against conservatives, including allegations of social media bias. Meanwhile, two Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri have filed a lawsuit alleging that the Biden administration is circumventing the First Amendment to censor social media.

Taken collectively, these actions represent the next phase of a GOP strategy, which contributed to the distrust among some conservatives that seeded “the “big lie,” the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen. The early warnings that liberal employees inside tech companies tilt the playing field in favor of Democrats have ballooned into accusations that government officials actively collude with the platforms to influence public discourse.

Paul M. Barrett, the deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said the increased pressure from Republicans have resulted in tech companies “bending over backward” to accommodate content from right-wing accounts for fear of political reprisal.

“The fact that … people are continuing to bang this drum that there’s anti-conservative bias is really unfortunate. It’s really confusing, and it’s just not true,” Barrett said in an interview.

What the Jan. 6 probe found out about social media, but didn’t report

Top Republican leaders have made alleged tech censorship one of their first priorities in the House, scheduling hearings and demanding reams of documents in a multipronged pressure campaign.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Jordan, in January introduced a bill called the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, which would penalize federal employees if they’re found to be asking social media companies to take down posts. The House Judiciary Committee has formed a special subcommittee focused on the “weaponization of the federal government,” designed in part to examine the interactions between the Biden administration and major tech companies.

Jordan sent letters in December to five large tech companies, demanding that they detail their “collusion with the Biden administration.”

“Big Tech is out to get conservatives, and is increasingly willing to undermine First Amendment values by complying with the Biden administration’s directives that suppress freedom of speech online,” Jordan wrote in the letters, which were sent to the executives of Facebook parent company Meta, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post). The accusations threaten to unravel nearly a decade of investment in people and policies intended to root out violence and falsehoods online — a powerful partisan attack on Silicon Valley, even as President Biden calls for unity to take on Big Tech.

An evolution of a years-long strategy

For more than half a decade, accusations of anti-conservative bias have plagued Silicon Valley, fueled by a high-profile mishap at Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 election. Anonymous former Facebook employees told the tech news website Gizmodo that the social media giant often passed over conservative media outlets when choosing stories to curate for its “trending” news feature.

Though stories with a conservative slant regularly outperform those from moderate or liberal-leaning outlets, tensions escalated under former president Donald Trump. As tech companies scrambled to shore up defenses against misinformation in the wake of Russian influence operations in the 2016 election, they created policy on the fly for Trump’s often false and racist tweets. Under political pressure, Facebook tilted to the right in policies, personnel and public gestures, according to a Post investigation.

How social media ‘censorship’ became a front line in the culture war

Top Republicans and right-wing influencers routinely accuse the companies of secretly tampering with their follower counts or “shadowbanning” their posts, even as their online audiences have grown. For many influencers, promoting how deeply they’ve been suppressed has become a marketing tool, especially after a number of them were invited by Trump to a White House “social media summit” on censorship in 2019. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., that year solicited preorders for his book on Twitter by calling it “the book the leftist elites don’t want you to read.”

Prodded by calls in Congress to overhaul social media laws, Trump signed an executive order that sought to change Section 230, a decades-old legal shield that prevents tech companies from being sued over the posts, photos and videos that people share on their platforms. In 2021, social media companies made the unprecedented decision to ban a sitting president from their services in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump’s ban ignited a new legislative strategy in Republican-led statehouses. Florida and Texas forged ahead with new laws aimed at prohibiting the companies from banning politicians and censoring political views. States and the tech industry have called on the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the laws, after federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings. The Supreme Court recently asked the Biden administration to weigh in on whether states can bar social media companies from removing political speech.

From the early days of his deal to buy Twitter, Musk has signaled that he shares Republican concerns that tech companies are suppressing their views. Before closing the deal, he boosted criticism of Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde, who was involved in politically controversial content moderation decisions, including the decision to ban Trump. Republicans have summoned Gadde to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

Twitter lawyer long weighed safety, free speech. Then Musk called her out.

Since the deal closed, House Republicans have pressed Musk to hand over records related to Twitter’s handling of the New York Post article about Hunter Biden. In December, a group of handpicked journalists tweeted screenshots of internal company documents dubbed the Twitter Files, and GOP policymakers immediately teased congressional action.

“We’re very serious about this. We’re very concerned about this,” Comer said in a December interview on Fox News.

Back on Capitol Hill, Comer described the hearing as the beginning of a “narrow investigation” into “influence-peddling by the Biden administration.” House Republicans have mounted a sprawling effort across multiple congressional committees to scrutinize communications between tech companies and Democratic leaders, blanketing platforms and public officials with demands for documents and internal emails.

“I think Musk should be applauded because he’s been very transparent,” Comer said. “He’s putting stuff out there.”

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say they plan to use the hearing to probe former Twitter leaders on concerns about violence and misinformation.

“Elon Musk has made it clear that he is going to be completely with the right-wing propaganda program,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in an interview with The Post.

Raskin said that the controversy over whether the government alerted Twitter that the Hunter Biden story could be foreign propaganda was a nonissue, and that GOP bills seeking to ban such interactions would only serve to benefit foreign leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think it should be completely within the power of government to alert private media entities about the existence of foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns,” he said. “So that legislation … looks like it’s going to be very good news for Vladimir Putin.”

Jan. 6 Twitter witness: Failure to curb Trump spurred ‘terrifying’ choice

Meanwhile, discovery continues in the Missouri and Louisiana case. Biden administration lawyers have attempted to dismiss the case, arguing that it contains no plausible evidence of coercion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has been skeptical of the states’ arguments, urging a lower court to consider the federal government’s argument that voluminous documents produced during discovery have so far shown no First Amendment violation.

State attorneys general leading the suit said in a recent statement that the litigation is part of a broader strategy to defend constitutional rights.

“This case is about the Biden administration’s blatant disregard for the First Amendment and its collusion with Big Tech social media companies to suppress speech it disagrees with,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said.

Bailey’s office has promoted emails between the White House and Facebook, in which a White House official flags posts related to coronavirus vaccinations that he finds concerning. In one message, the official says that “the top post about vaccines today is tucker Carlson saying they don’t work.” Biden has previously called on social media companies to address coronavirus misinformation.

Barrett, the NYU professor, said political leaders and government officials have been communicating with companies for years, citing Trump’s dinner as president with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Often, such communication is not nefarious, Barrett said, and has the routine intention of getting out information about how to vote or protect public health.

“We don’t want there to be some kind of impenetrable wall between these companies and the government,” Barrett said.

There is a need for Silicon Valley to be more transparent about its policies for interacting with governments and legal enforcers, he added, and congressional hearings could be a venue for politicians from both parties to ask “fair and substantive” questions about companies’ efforts to promote authoritative information.

But Barrett is not expecting that at Wednesday’s hearing, which he said has “all the earmarks of a purely partisan mudslinging exercise.”

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