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Facebook vs. Apple iOS 14: How to understand this titanic battle and its stakes as a marketer/manager or small business owner

Jeudi 11 Mars 2021

If you're a business owner who uses social media as part of your digital marketing strategy, you've probably heard about the recent Apple iOS changes regarding Facebook ads - namely that iOS 14 will prevent your ads from being as effective as they once were. These aren't the headlines that business owners or advertisers wanted to see, but as always, it's important to understand the situation before reacting. Here's a brief overview of the changes and what it means for your marketing efforts.

Every generation needs a great story about battles between titans: Greece vs. Troy, Sparta vs. Athens, USA vs. USSR, Ivan Lendl vs. John Mc Enroe, Microsoft vs. Apple, Porsche vs. Ferrari, etc., etc., etc... you get the idea.
And, with Apple's latest iOS update and the rollout of Apple's newest policy, AppTrackingTransparency (ATT), we have a new titanic battle before our eyes - the battle of the tech giants: Apple (still them) versus Facebook... with Google in ambush.
This post explains the changes this new policy brings to small and medium-sized businesses that advertise on social media and explains how you, the small business owner, can best prepare to limit the damage, and ideally even come out on top, while the tech giants battle it out.

iOS Who? What's going on?

In short, Apple recently updated its operating system, iOS 14.5 (including iPadOS 14.5, tvOS 14.5), which gives users more control over how and with whom they share their data. 

In what may be the biggest data privacy change to date, Apple is putting control of data collection back in the hands of app users and giving them the ability to "opt out" of sharing their data when using apps like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

While undoubtedly a sign of a larger development to come (will Microsoft follow Android's lead?), this update is just one company's proactive response to what has been years of discussion about privacy issues and, more importantly, the power held by certain technology and social media companies. 

So what's the problem?

While almost everyone agrees that the increased focus on data privacy and digital security is a big step in the right direction, this change, like all changes, has its share of detractors - especially those who want to give companies more opportunities to target their customers and personalize their ads.
Facebook, for example, argues that this change will unfairly harm small and medium-sized businesses at a time when many small businesses are already feeling overwhelming pressure. By removing one of the key tools small businesses have found to survive the pandemic, Facebook believes Apple is forcing the hand of business owners to develop their own business interests.
On the other hand, Apple says that the applications on its App Store should be subject to stricter privacy and security standards, as nothing should be more important than maintaining the trust of their users.
So here is the origin of this battle. On the battlefield, the black and white team represented by iOS 14 and fighting for the privacy of consumers, we have Apple, and opposite, against the blue team, representing the free market and fighting for small business advertisers, Facebook (and other advertising platforms based on applications) ... The choice of colors obviously representing the shades of their logos without looking for a more occult analysis of the meaning of the color of opponents ;-)

What do social media companies do?

In a word: they submit while grumbling.
Most social media platforms understand the relationship between their product and the Apple App Store. Even a company like Facebook, which has a strong international presence and only 15% of its users come from iOS, knows better than to poke the bear.
If it fights back, it exposes itself to retaliation from Apple that could, at worst, damage its business and, at best, negatively affect a large portion of its users.
While companies, such as Twitter, have expressed concerns about the loss of ad revenue due to the update, most social media platforms are making the necessary changes to align with Apple's new policy.
Here's how Twitter is preparing, here's Facebook' s plan, and here's how Google is helping you prepare. We'll continue to update this list as more companies share information and publish their recommendations.

What can small business advertisers expect?

If only we had a magic ball that could definitively answer this question. Unfortunately, the best and most honest answer to give at this time is: only time will tell.
What we can expect is changes in all the applications on our iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. Soon, apps will start asking us via a message whether or not we agree to have our data collected. This is in line with the "data nutrition" labels we started seeing earlier this year, requiring all app developers to present how their app collects and uses their users' data.
It seems fairly intuitive that, when prompted, the average person will choose not to share their information, and the implications of this change will likely be felt most by those who rely on data from these apps for advertising purposes.
What does this mean for a small business that currently uses Facebook or other social media platforms to advertise? Well, it means several things.
First, expect your targeted audiences to shrink, both on Facebook and in its broader audience network. If you're using data collected from Facebook app users to target your ads, such as location, age, or interests, you may need to broaden your focus to ensure the same size audience in the future.
In addition, expect attribution gaps. For example, if a customer discovers your website through an app on their iPhone (which they chose not to track), but later returns to their desktop and converts. It's likely that their first experience with your company will not be tracked or attributed to their purchase.
Second, expect delays in data reporting. Under the new policy, real-time reporting will no longer be supported, and companies could see a delay of up to three days.
Finally, expect limitations on ad creation. When creating new ads for app users, there will be restrictions on purchase options and the ability to bid on certain parameters.
To read a full analysis of how Apple's iOS 14 release could affect your ads and reporting, check out Facebook's Help Center post on the topic.

What does this mean for the future of our SMEs

All of this may seem trivial, and, for the moment, it may well be. But, as noted above, it should be seen as the beginning of a much larger movement away from the way we use user data for advertising.
In the short term, it may be more difficult to target specific customers, track events from mobile or social media users, or accurately attribute conversions. But, assuming broader appeal in the future, this small step could lead to a significant change in the marketplace.
For example, Facebook expects this change to have dramatic effects on its audience network (its primary targeting engine). If that's the case, it's not hard to imagine a future where companies, like Facebook, choose to remove this feature altogether, dramatically reducing parity in the marketplace and empowering large companies with larger budgets who can afford to drench the market with less targeted ads, taking us back to the prehistory of the golden age of TV advertising in the middle of the last century.

What can SME advertisers do to prepare for this big change?

Start auditing your current ad campaigns and identify the ones where detailed targeting is most important. As we begin to lose consumer data, we may need to adjust these campaigns to maintain the same returns as previous years.
To better comply with Apple's policy, companies have also made changes to their internal systems. Research how the companies you advertise with are preparing for these changes. For example, in the future, Facebook will only allow you to track a total of eight conversion events. If you are currently tracking more than that, it would be wise to reduce that number to the conversion events that really matter most.

What you need to do today to limit the damage

Here are some other things to consider:
  • Web site domains may need to be verified. This can be done by placing a special Facebook code on a website. Updates may be required, but this is not a major problem.
  • The choices of conversion events may be limited. However, since we generally focus on a targeted set of conversion events, this should not be an issue for most (if not all) customers.
  • Delayed Reports. Advertisers may experience a slight delay in conversion reports due to changes in the way clicks and purchases are recorded. The solution is quite simple: keep this lag in mind when evaluating ad performance.
  • Custom Audiences. Custom audiences allow advertisers to find existing customers/leads among Facebook users (i.e., by targeting users who have visited a website in the last 180 days). Advertisers may see a decrease in the size of these audiences, which means adjusting targeting strategies.
Remember, this doesn't just impact your business, but all businesses that advertise on Facebook, so you won't be left behind as you adapt to these changes. And, as always, these are issues we can handle on your behalf, allowing you to focus on other things.
Regardless of where you stand in the Apple vs. Facebook debate, if Facebook is right, these changes may hit the small business market harder. As a small business owner or small business marketer, you'll want to make sure your business or customers are prepared for the upcoming changes to the advertising platforms you use. In our agency smartketing.ch / smartketing.eu , we are passionate about helping small and medium sized businesses and freelancers. We stay on top of these changes to identify the best ways to deal with them. In doing so, we can help you plan for these changes and ensure that your campaigns are built to the highest standards of privacy and security, while remaining effective for your business.

But above all, rely on inbound marketing to limit your digital dependence on third-party actors/media!

Our digital agency specializes in inbound marketing - an effective strategy that capitalizes on non-advertising content creation and uses blog posts, social media and other digital channels to attract and engage your target audience. Our team is skilled at using custom personalized content (text, images, videos), ad copy, e-books and other marketing materials to help grow your small business by helping you build your own audiences with or without advertising support.
As with all digital developments, we're taking stock of what this iOS 14 update means for our clients, and how we may need to adjust our strategies to ensure continued results. If you have any questions or would like help marketing your business and getting out of the gate, feel free to contact us via hello@smartketing.ch or schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation online.
Mathieu Janin

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