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November 14, 2013

Facebook Mobile Ad Tracking: How Useful Is It?

Image courtesy of (arztsamui)/

Facebook may not always be the first to innovate a given technology, but when it does, it is likely to make the biggest splash. Sometimes it wants us all to see the shenanigans, and sometimes it quietly sends out major releases with little to no fanfare.

Advertising features seem to have widest range of discrepancy when it comes to announcing releases; from silence to neon signs, Facebook runs the gamut. It should be no surprise then that earlier this month, Facebook released a new retargeting tool that barely got a shout out from their internal department. The tool gives advertisers and retailers the power to show ads to anyone who has visited their websites and, more importantly (because it’s a completely new feature) mobile apps.

This has a fairly substantial impact on all small business marketers that use Facebook as an advertising platform, so why not sound the alarm? Perhaps because it directly competes with ad tech platforms the site previously green-lit last year.

So what does all this mean to the myriad of marketers who just want to decipher between valuable and invaluable releases? The mystery unravels below.

Facebook’s Brief and Sorted History with Retargeted Ads

Just last year, Facebook released, with much ado, something called Facebook Exchange. This empowered advertisers to retarget their ads based on the behavior of a given user outside of the social network. This is not new to the Web by any means — Facebook was very slow to this party indeed. But it was a welcomed gift to many Facebook advertisers, and if you’re not using the retargeting option, you should absolutely consider the functionality. It’s powerful, and it works by helping you reach your core customer all the more clearly and efficiently.

The difference between Facebook Exchange and the new mobile ad retargeting is more than just a change of platform (Web over mobile and tablets), but a change of power. Facebook Exchange is operated by a few ad tech partners. The new mobile ad targeting is run by Facebook itself. While Facebook says the two features are not in competition with each other, many vehemently disagree. In essence then, Facebook may be cannibalizing business from partners they previous supported carte blanche. That may explain the behind-the-scenes release, and the subsequent desire to not draw too much attention out of the gate.

How Small Businesses Can Benefit

Here’s an example of how powerful ad retargeting can be: If you run an eCommerce site, you can now automatically serve ads for your business to your customers profiles, without even having a mutual ‘like.’ How? The new retargeting feature allows advertisers to juxtapose information like phone numbers and addresses with profile data and, when there’s a match, there’s a retarget opportunity. Businesses can even serve ads on profiles of previous customers who didn’t complete the checkout process. Think about all the things you ponder in your e-mail marketing strategies, then imagine if you could use the same messaging to your customer’s Facebook profiles. Because you can.

The trick with mobile ads is they do not use ‘cookies’ — which are needed to do the tracking described above. As such, the new mobile ad tracking works a bit differently.

First, since it works on phones and tablets, advertisers can now track users who visit their apps or mobile sites, and then in turn can run related ads on Facebook’s mobile app as well, targeting those specific users. Additionally, because of the inability to use cookies functionalities, Facebook is using its own code to connect its users with those found on the related advertiser sites. This is why they’ve decided to own the process themselves, and it makes sense technically.

Whether Facebook’s advertising technology partners think this move creates undue internal competition or not is really irrelevant to the average marketer. Know that while Exchange is likely a better fit for bigger budgets and companies, the new mobile ad tracking is ideal for small businesses.

Couple that with the staggering awareness that mobile is indeed experiencing the highest market growth, and you have an incredibly compelling cause to up your mobile advertising game significantly.

And Facebook insists that the new product isn’t competing with Facebook Exchange. It said it assumes that more sophisticated advertisers who know how to use ad tech will use the Exchange, and that it will offer its own targeting system to smaller buyers who would never use targeting otherwise.

Functionality Details

So how exactly does the new targeting procedure work? It’s actually easier than it sounds. Marketers need only to affix tracking software, like the kind already supplied for direct-response marketers, to respective websites and apps. Once you set up the software and start tracking, you unlock the new features.

Another notable difference between this and Facebook Exchange lies in the potential reach. The mobile tracking allows a much more substantial chance to reach a custom audience, because it supports marketers’ ability to match their customer data (including e-mail addresses) to corresponding Facebook profiles. Exchange ad buy placements are more limited; they only appear on desktop news feeds and the right rail ad space. The new targeting feature, therefore, is more broad and flexible.

Advertisers can also customize their demographic through the usual parameters too, such as age, gender, and marital status. These features aren’t available to Facebook Exchange users.

Do Users Get a Say?

Facebook has announced it will soon offer an opt-out option for those who do not wish to be targeted via website and app visits. This doesn’t include the Facebook Exchange feature, by the way — users have to opt-out of those one at a time (per advertisers.) So marketers should be aware the users will still have the power to deflect a retarget.

Still, given the steady popularity of the social network and the continuous stream of advertising dollars, all in all the recent changes equate to good news for advertisers.

Have you used the Facebook Exchange or mobile ad targeting features yet? What have your experiences been like thus far?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile