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Drive and Convert (Ep. 037): Re-Directing Facebook Traffic

Today we're tackling the hot topic of Facebook and how Apple's iOS 14 update has affected its performance. Based on analytics, it appears like the data might be going in a negative direction, and many people are jumping ship to other platforms. But should you? Today Ryan tackles the question of whether you should be re-directing Facebook traffic to other platforms.

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About This Episode:

Today we’re tackling the hot topic of Facebook and how Apple’s iOS 14 update has affected its performance. Based on analytics, it appears like the data might be going in a negative direction, and many people are jumping ship to other platforms. But should you? Today Ryan tackles the question of whether you should be re-directing Facebook traffic to other platforms.

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Episode Transcript:

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, a podcast about helping online brands to build a better e-commerce growth engine with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow.

Jon:
Ryan, this is a topic I’ve been wondering when we were going to tackle, it’s been kind of the topic everybody has been chatting about. I know it changes by the day and we’re all learning a lot, but iOS and Facebook. And so Apple has really changed the game on Facebook for advertising, and many, many, many e-commerce businesses have seen pretty dramatic changes as far as results are going. I know our clients are seeing it. I’m sure you’re much closer to it than we are.
So based on analytics data that I’ve seen though, the results are going really in the wrong direction for these advertisers. And for many of these businesses, they still need traffic and sales. A lot of them are talking about going other places, right? Facebook, YouTube, from Facebook to TikTok, from Facebook to Instagram maybe, what are these little other options that they have out there, right?
So where is the best place to put that ad spend? That is what I would like to chat about today.
Are you ready for this?

Ryan:
Oh man, it is a massive topic. I think when we decided on this, I didn’t actually mentally get my head around how big this topic is, or was going to be. But it’s a painful situation for lots of e-commerce brands and of all sizes. It’s not just picking on small ones or big ones. It’s not great. And to a degree, as an agency that manages Facebook, but also a client of Facebook that spends money, it’s frustrating almost that Facebook wasn’t prepared for this, like how did this come out of left field for Facebook, to like Apple told you what they were doing.
And so for those of you that are living under a rock and don’t know what happened, Apple decided that Facebook was going a little bit beyond what they should be doing and tracking quite a bit of our lives. And there’s been, since Facebook’s app went on the market and there were some of their terms and conditions were a little questionable, there’s been conspiracy theorists all over the place talking about how Facebook listens all the time.
And I remember, as an agency, we even had some people sitting in a room talking about random topics that they would never have any interest in, like I want to talk about fire alarms in my house. And then within six hours, you start getting ads for fire alarms on Facebook. They’re like, “No way.” So it’s probably a good thing generally. I think most people are in agreement that Facebook was probably being a little aggressive. But Apple basically said, “On our devices, you’re limited to your app and we’re going to notify people of what they’re tracking on your space. “
So Facebook lost a lot of the ability to track people and build these audiences that were so… I mean, I’ve said it publicly many times… creepy, but also from a marketing perspective, super awesome. Like Facebook knows everything going on, therefore, they can really target ads. And also for a user, it’s actually nice to see really targeted ads. Like if I go golf, I can now see ads for improving my golf swing or golf [inaudible 00:03:10]. And for me, I’d much prefer to see those on Instagram as I’m scrolling the feed than un-targeted ads about things I have no interest in. But it happened, and a lot of advertisers saw a big change in results. And so I think a lot of companies need to understand a couple of things about Facebook and the numbers that you’re seeing in Facebook when you advertise. And so Facebook had been taking some pretty aggressive credit.
And so I’ll talk to a lot of brands that would say, “Man, I love Facebook. Every dollar I spend, I get $5 in revenue. I’m so profitable. I want to spend more on Facebook. How can we do it?” Then you get into the actual numbers and start seeing, well, that dollar you’re spending on Facebook going to your website, and in analytics we’re only seeing maybe a $1.00, $1.25 in revenue because Facebook, by default, was tracking impression conversions where they were taking a 100% credit if somebody saw an ad as they were scrolling through, which in my mind is, that’s a little much. But it’s there, and so they were trusting the Facebook pixel.
Then the Facebook pixel, right now, you’re going to see probably on average, we’re expecting about 40% of all of those transactions that Facebook was seeing to just go away from the Facebook pixel. You’re just not going to see the data. And so you, as a business owner or marketing team, have to get to the point where you either trust that those eyeballs that were doing really well a month and a half ago, two months ago, are still going to be doing the same level. You just won’t see it in the Facebook ads system.

Jon:
Okay. I was going to ask you to clarify that for me, because I’ve been hearing conflicting information. So the first is that the ads aren’t going to be less effective in general, right? They are going to be a little less effective because you’re not going to have as much tracking happening. But it was going to be more of, “Hey, you’re just going to be missing data.” So is it you’re missing data, or is it kind of the whole Google not provided thing that happened a while back, or is it that the ads are going to be less relevant and they’re not going to have as much tracking, so now your ads won’t convert as highly?

Ryan:
I actually think it’s going to be all of the above in what I’ve seen anyway.

Jon:
Okay.

Ryan:
So for a lot of companies that have been relying on the Facebook pixel to tell them how well they’re doing, they’re going to need to be looking at analytics, which I would argue they should have been doing already and saying, okay, if Facebook is claiming $50,000 of revenue, but your site’s only doing $60,000 and Facebook analytics is only showing 5,000, you might need to consider what the truth is.

Jon:
Yeah, this goes back to the single source of truth.

Ryan:
Exactly. And there’s a lot of companies that have just trusted the Facebook pixel, so this is going to impact that a lot and force them in analytics, which I think is good. My wife’s business, for example, did fairly well on Facebook ads targeting her users, which almost all were women using iPhones. It just wasn’t necessarily who we targeted, but it just happened to be when we look at device segmentation, women on iPhones all over the country. And the only advertising we did on that company was on Facebook, so it was pretty easy to see the impact of the ads before and after. And after we saw a pretty significant decline in results in analytics, Facebook struggled to getting the same audience together when they didn’t have all of this information beyond the Facebook app and what they were browsing on Facebook in the end.
So if you’re targeting a lot of women with iPhones, I think you’re going to see a decrease in results as well. But what we did before was UTM tag our Facebook and Instagram ads, so we can see that traffic in analytics very clearly. A lot of companies don’t do that. I don’t know how many… I mean, there’s very few that I can actually see the UTM parameters on campaigns and sources.

Jon:
It’s one of the first things that our team encounters, is bad data.

Ryan:
Yep. And so there’s a lot of companies with bad data that are not going to be able to go back retroactively and try to figure out what did work and what was happening to try to do it now. So there’s going to be just struggles all over the place. But I guess my advice to most companies is, step one, don’t ever just freak out and do something crazy. Go into data as much as you can and see, okay, what did we have before? What were the results in analytics that we can largely attribute to Facebook? What are they now? Are they drastically different and changing based on the same ad spend, same targeting. If so, you might have to go retest some things in Facebook. It’s not just a, “Let’s take all of our Facebook spend and throw it at Pinterest.” That would be a reaction that would be a terrible idea for almost every company out there.
So it’s be careful and understand that there is no one answer for every company that’s been advertising on Facebook either. It’s going to depend on the price point of your products, the complexity of your items. If you’re selling really complex machines to business owners, then you’re going to probably see different results on Facebook than somebody that’s selling an impulse $10 product, just drastically different things.
Also, competition, if you had a bunch of competitors on Facebook that were advertising to similar audiences, that’s going to impact what you could or should do.
Also, if you’ve been really investing in building a following on Facebook or in Instagram, the impact that’s going to have on how much you could or should be spending to stay in front of them. And so kind of a sub point to this is a lot of frustration influencers have been having in this. And so having some businesses that leverage influencers, we’ve been talking to a lot of them about what they’ve seen and the algorithm specifically in Instagram seems to be doing some very… And it’s not necessarily weird, because Facebook can do it if they want, but it’s just unique in this time period, in that if you have a bad post that gets low interactions, it can penalize future posts much more than it did before.
I think the meme accounts are the ones that I see really doing well right now, because they’re getting a lot of interactions and shares and comments because, I mean, generally that’s what I do on Instagram is I just want to laugh before I go to bed or something. It’s like go scroll through it, laugh at some stupid memes. And evidently, I’m not that weird now. A lot of other people doing that too.

Jon:
No. No. Then I’m weird too if that’s the case.

Ryan:
Yeah. I don’t go there for really anything else. Like I’ve got friends, I don’t need to text… I have text chains that are probably better through my interactions with friends in Instagram.
But then understanding too, as a brand, what were the goals you’re shooting for and what were you trying to accomplish with your spend? If you were just trying to find new users, new eyeballs and get new people associated with your brand, that could still happen, you just might have some of the data. If you were trying to drive very high levels of profit from Facebook and Facebook ads, that may be a little more difficult because you don’t have the answers. If you’re just trying to boost posts to stay relevant and in front of your customers or prospects, then that could still happen very, very easily.
And then the final point before making a decision you had to just put into the consideration bucket, is what else are you doing already for marketing? Are you covering the entire funnel? If you’ve heard me speak or been on any of my webinars over the past few years, you’ve seen that search funnel, that I’ve put out there, where each part of marketing falls.
And now, I’m probably redoing that a little bit to move Facebook up a little bit higher in the funnel for most brands than it was maybe before with all this data that they had. But it’s still a great place to be in front of people. I mean, Facebook is a system. And as a company, they’re not losing users. They’re not losing eyeballs, at least in mass yet. I haven’t seen that, but I think it’s going to be okay. And so don’t make any knee jerk reactions to get away from Facebook. I would still trust that Facebook has a lot of very smart people working for them. And this is an issue they’re going to have to overcome and help sell advertisers on some of the value that they provide again and cause different things that they can put in front of people.
So I’m not going to give up on it, but I think for a lot of companies, it’s going to be pulling back a little.

Jon:
So, where do you recommend folks look to put their money then? I heard you say, “Don’t just move all your money out.” But if folks are seeing that it’s not as effective as it was and they want to move their money, I’m hearing that there’s a bunch of different factors that go into this.

Ryan:
Yep.

Jon:
So, have you thought about YouTube? Have you thought about all these other channels? What do you recommend people start taking a look at? I mean, obviously it’s what are their goals, et cetera, that you just mentioned. But what are your thoughts on YouTube when it comes to these items?

Ryan:
In the past, I had a very different opinion of YouTube and that has been changed over really the last year in seeing massive changes in YouTube consumption. And so I’ll touch on YouTube and we’ll kind of go into some other places to put money because really at the end of the day, there’s a handful maybe on one hand of where you could possibly move advertising dollars.

Jon:
Right. Yeah. That’s where I was kind of going ahead with this, your options unfortunately are fairly limited in digital marketing.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Jon:
Like it opens up a whole wide world. But if you want to reach a mass audience, you have a handful of places that you can go.

Ryan:
Yep. And I think YouTube has got to be up there in the conversation for sure. And YouTube, five years ago, the strategy was eyeballs, we can target the user. Google, like Facebook, has a lot of creepy data. They can build phenomenal audiences. Google has some advantages right now because they also own Android and they’re not going to lock themselves out of their own platform from getting some insights. Now, they also own Chrome. I mean, all of these things work together in Google’s… And Facebook tried to get into the device game just like Amazon did, and it just was difficult. Google found a great way to do it. So Google’s got good, solid data on audiences. Those can be applied on YouTube. The problem we’re seeing now that’s different than five years ago is YouTube on TV, kids with devices that kids five years ago had them, but now it’s even more widespread. I mean, I honestly don’t even know how many devices have YouTube on them in my house. It’s way too many. I mean, it’s almost embarrassing.

Jon:
My four and a half year old, if he could do anything on his iPad, it’s watch YouTube Kids.

Ryan:
Yep. And that Blippi guy, the guy’s a millionaire.

Jon:
Oh.

Ryan:
Blippi… I am so mad at myself that I didn’t do something like that, just go record myself-

Jon:
I could see you dressing up like that.

Ryan:
Oh, man. Kudos. Blippi, if you’re listening, I am so jealous of you.
On all of these devices, your kid probably doesn’t have their own login to Google. It’s probably you or your wife that are logged into Google and it’s your account across… I mean, I probably have 15 devices. It’s terrible.
And then YouTube on TV, generally that’s my login on the TV. Kids are still going to watch YouTube on there versus an iPad, or even a Kindle, or all these other things that are technically tied to my identity with Google. And I was talking to our YouTube guru and he’s like, in his house, he has three kids ages five to eight. They do a lot of YouTube on the TV because all of them want to watch it together. And he’s like, “I get the ads, but it’s my profile.” And he’s like, “And there’ll be an ad that’ll come on.” And he’s like, “For me, I do this quick check, how long is the ad?”? He says, generally, if it’s 30 seconds or less, I’m not going to go find the remote and try to skip it. Like if it’s a two minute ad, “All right, my girls probably don’t want to go watch that, so I’m going to go fumble around, and find it, and skip it.”
So you’re showing ads generally to kids, even though the profile is me, you’ve got a mid forties guy with kids, disposable income, and that’s what you’re targeting. When in reality, the person actually watching the ads is six. And that’s one of the big problems with YouTube.

Jon:
I see.

Ryan:
And Google’s done a phenomenal job about bringing this top of mind. In every earnings call you are going to hear, YouTube is growing. YouTube is going awesome. And it’s causing a huge amount of FOMO with our clients in a logical position. A lot of them were like, “Oh my gosh, what YouTube is…” There’s this belief that because Google seems such a boom in YouTube advertising, that there must be a magic bullet or something all these other business owners have that I don’t. So we, as their agency, are like, “What are you not telling us? What are you holding back from us?” And they’ll be like, “Nothing.”
We do run a lot of YouTube ads, but it’s for smaller businesses looking for… see an ad, and in the next couple of weeks, come back and buy something from me. That’s not happening on YouTube. It’s generally big companies that have been bought into this, like it’s better than buying TV commercials generally, but it’s not much better, I’ll say that. And so Google knows they have to get more money from somewhere and that’s been a big play for them.

Jon:
I see.

Ryan:
And so I think it’s educating business owners to say, look, it’s not as great as it sounds. It’s not a bad place to have money and you can still target channels, and you can still target videos, which can be very good. But you get caught in an area of YouTube that we really haven’t quite figured out as far as the reasons for it. But you get very low views, very low impressions when you select just channels and just videos. You have to bid up a lot higher, which makes people, to a degree, uncomfortable because you’ve got to overcome all of the other Google stuff in play, where there is a belief that Google is giving some benefit to some of those campaigns that are maximizing impressions across the channels, because that takes away some of the need for results.
Whereas, if you’re hyper targeting, Google generally will assume, “Okay, well you’re targeting these because you really are going for results.” And that’s not necessarily what YouTube is set up for. So, for most businesses, I would say some money needs to go to YouTube, but it’s probably not even going to come close to what you were spending on Facebook, as a general rule.

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, the podcast focused on e-commerce growth. Your hosts are Jon MacDonald, founder of The Good, a conversion rate optimization agency that works with e-commerce brands to help convert more of their visitors into buyers, Ryan Garrow of Logical Position, a digital marketing agency offering pay-per-click management, search engine optimization, and website design services to brands of all sizes.
If you find this podcast helpful, please help us out by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and sharing it with a friend or colleague. Thank you.

Jon:
What about best practices, moving forward from here, what should companies be thinking about? What would be the best practices here, if they’ve been impacted by this? They know there’s other options out there, but what do you think brands should be thinking about?

Ryan:
Brands should probably be thinking about test and measure a lot of things on Facebook. So you’re going to have to get probably… And this is not going to be for every company out there… but probably get a little more granular in your account structure within Facebook, to be able to push and pull levers and measure that impact. So making sure that you’re looking at analytics first, analytics data is probably going to be a better source of truth for all businesses right now. And it should have been before, but make it that now. Test some of the ad sets in the audiences. You have audiences that generally were more Android focused. I think those audiences could work a little bit better than maybe the iPhone audiences would have.
And then understand where in the funnel all of your marketing is going. And so if you can visualize the very bottom of the conversion funnel is, people that search for your brand or are in remarketing, those people are going to convert at a much higher rate. That’s how you and I can juice conversion rates, Jon, is all I’m going to do is send brand traffic to the site and conversion rates go up. Isn’t it amazing?
All the way to the extreme of that is, I’m just going to blast a display network and show your ad to everybody. That traffic is going to convert at a very low rate.

Jon:
Right.

Ryan:
And so along that spectrum, you’re going to figure out where Facebook generally fits in. And then if there is ability to spend further down the funnel, you need to be investing there and you should have been doing it already. And so I really liked this for those businesses that are now having to refocus and say, oh, for example, maybe you should have been spending a lot more money on Google shopping to drive people that had the search intent, but you got stuck on Facebook five years ago and it was working well, so you just stuck with it and didn’t deviate. So it’s a good time to just look at your entire marketing stack, and what you are spending money on, or what you could be spending money on, and allocate further down the funnel first and build up from there.

Jon:
So I’m hearing, don’t abandon Facebook altogether, but look at diversification a little bit. Do you think this is the start of the end of Facebook?

Ryan:
No, I think Facebook’s got two million things going and they still have the people stuck in the Facebook ecosystem that they can try… I mean, what is that? Was that chat one or the calls-

Jon:
WhatsApp.

Ryan:
WhatsApp. I mean, that is massive globally. I mean, once you’re on the Instagram algorithm, Instagram still knows what I’m doing inside the app and they can still build profiles around me and still do cool things there, and I’m on an iPhone. So you’ve still got a lot of cool data in Facebook. I think they’re going to spend a lot of time over the next six months, probably taking a piece of the YouTube playbook and talking about eyeballs, and impressions, and awareness, and how do you grow a brand using all of these wonderful things that we can say inside the platform. So Facebook is going to be fine. I have no doubt that when you have that much revenue, you’re going to find a way to keep surviving. And I think they’re young enough and aggressive enough that they’ll be fine.
The other thing I think that this is not going to do is really throw a bunch of money at TikTok, or Pinterest, or Snapchat. They’re going to have the exact same problem as far as iPhone users that Facebook does. It’s not like Facebook’s the only one that got locked down and TikTok still gets to do all the targeting. Still in the same boat, you still can’t do all the tracking and creepy things beyond the app that Google’s now locked you into.

Jon:
Right.

Ryan:
And you have to think about, when you’re looking at those other platforms, does it make sense for my audience? TikTok and Snapchat are skewing younger, so if you’re selling reading glasses to 50 year old women, that’s probably not Snapchat or TikTok, just not going to be your place to play. You’re still going to be on Facebook and Instagram, but maybe you need to start bidding on the term reading glasses and be fashionable around it.

Jon:
Yeah, or go to Bing.

Ryan:
Yeah. If you’re not on Bing, come on, we got to get you on Bing first, like there’s people searching for your products on Bing. I feel sad that there’s not more companies that just use the easy button and get up on Bing. So, for some companies, there’s going to be some real easy buttons. You’re going to discover like holy smokes, I can’t believe I forgot about Bing. I should be spending there and it shouldn’t be an either or conversation in that scenario. It should be an and conversation. If Facebook is still doing well for you, and you’re not on Bing, don’t take away from Facebook to put money on Bing, like why are you not adding money to being as a marketing channel? And you shouldn’t be necessarily moving money.

Jon:
Right.

Ryan:
And I think that’s another point the brands need to be aware of that, the way marketing online works. It’s not a typical P&L line item. And I think I’ve probably mentioned this before, it’s most often, if you’re running direct response ads on shopping, on Google, or text ads on Bing, or even response ads on Facebook or Instagram, generally, you’re getting the revenue from those ads before you even pay for the ad itself. And so it’s not a cash issue for most companies. It’s just how are you garnering the results and how are you playing the marketing game to grow your brand the best?

Jon:
Yes.

Ryan:
And we keep talking about all these different areas to go, but it’s much simpler than a lot of people give it credit to.

Jon:
All right. Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. I hear all the time I talked to folks who are like, “Well, I’m not converting very highly, so I’m going to take some money out of my traffic generation fund and give it to you to optimize. And I’m like, “Well, then your traffic’s going to drop so much, it’s going to take you way longer to optimize because you won’t have the traffic to be able to run A/B tests or do any of that stuff anymore at the levels that are really necessary to accelerate.” So, I hear that quite often.
And I’ve been hearing, as I mentioned at the start of today, from a couple of customers who were saying, “Hey, I’m going to take money out of Facebook. And what’s our higher converting channels so that I can put the money there?” I think you’ve opened my eyes, I haven’t known how to respond. I’m like, “You should probably talk to whoever manages your traffic strategy and see what they say about that.” So I appreciate your insights today.
Was there anything else that I didn’t ask you that you felt like folks should know about this?

Ryan:
As long as people understand there’s just no easy answer right now because there’s a lot in motion, and there is not going to be one spot that just replaces Facebook spend, if that’s your goal. I like the fact that this is happening because it’s causing people to re-look at spends and where are we allocating resources. And we may have just kept going down this path because it was making sense, but we just didn’t look at it for a couple of years. And now we are, we’re like, “Oh, we should have been doing this.” Or, “We need to pivot here.” Or, “We need to move money here.” And if you’re trying to move money to pay for something like CRO, let me tell you, that is not a move money. That is an and conversation, and most marketing is. It’s not an either or. It’s like, “Why wouldn’t you do both, and do all of the above?” If it’s growing a brand, it probably makes sense to do and.

Jon:
If the return on investment is there, then make it happen because it will fuel itself, it’ll pay for itself.

Ryan:
Yeah,.

Jon:
And I think that’s the conversation I usually end up having, so glad to hear we’re aligned there.
Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate your time today educating me on Facebook and the new iOS changes.

Ryan:
Oh, yeah. Thank you, Jon.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to Drive and Convert with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow. To keep up to date with new episodes, you could subscribe at www.driveandconvert.com.

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the Director of Marketing at The Good. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.