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What is the Facebook Conversions API

Unlike the times when companies bought up specific advertising spaces in newspapers, on billboards, and eventually on pages of the internet, ads are now tied to the person, not the space. Every user sees targeted ads based on their online activity, as tracked by cookies and other analytics.

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS:

the algorithm is often accurate, meaning you see expertly curated content that might actually help you find what you’re looking for.

BUT HERE’S THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS:

people want their privacy back.

And the people are getting what they want. The privacy laws, browser restrictions, and public sentiment are changing. To accommodate for this shift in digital advertising, Facebook Conversions API provides an alternative access path to much-needed consumer information without data breaches and user distrust.

Learn more about Facebook Conversions API through our guide below:

01   The Problem: the Evolving Ecosystem of Advertising

When legislation changes faster than the technology it governs, there will always be a gap between the old ways of operating and the future we’re creating. These are the kinds of changes companies are currently facing around digital advertising:

Government restrictions – Both the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) exemplify this shift towards protecting users’ privacy and giving them autonomy over their personal data. This threatens the existing world of data sharing and targeting advertisements.

Browser limitations – Internet browsers like Safari, Firefox, and now Chrome have already started blocking or phasing out third-party cookies.2 By 2022, browsers intend to limit the way in which websites share data with their ad service providers and digital analytics teams.

Advertisers face new challenges – The absence of cookie tracking will derail companies in their efforts to provide relevant ads targeted towards the right people and accurately measure their conversion rates.

So, how do companies continue to provide relevant, persuasive advertising content after losing their almost unrestricted access to user data?
Hopefully, in part, with Facebook Conversions API.

02   What Is Facebook Conversions API? And How Is It The Solution?

Conversions API is simply another way of tracking and communicating relevant information about consumer behavior, but with a few small tweaks that better match our new environment.

So, what’s so new and improved about it?

For starters, one of the biggest challenges with digital marketing, in general, is that the web server (which delivers websites to users) and the ad server (which places advertisements on those websites) don’t directly communicate with each other.

Originally, there was no exchange of data. That made it difficult to determine whether or not ads were translating into conversions like purchases, downloads, and sign-ups.

That’s where cookies and pixels came in—and where Conversions API now follows.

Let’s use the differences between these digital tools to better explain the current shift.

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COOKIES & PIXELS

Pixels are short pieces of code placed on websites, which serve tracking cookies. These cookies are then placed on your browser by the web server to store information about your web activity. Cookies have made it easy for advertisers to target the right audience, especially with the rise of social media shopping. Think of it like this: the cookies are plates of food, and the pixels are the waiters that bring them to you.
Much like your SSN or phone number, cookies are individual to you. But in this case, what is your data actually used for?

Well, there are two primary types of cookies (and no, chocolate chip isn’t one of them):

First-party

This type of cookie was placed and is used by the website you’re visiting. Websites can store your login credentials, location, shopping cart, and more to create a positive user experience. It also doesn’t feel like an invasion of privacy because you willingly gave the website your personal information.

Third-party

Alternatively, ad servers and other third parties (hence the name) place cookies to track behavior across a wider range of sites and then target and re-target advertisements. These are more broadly seen as violations of user privacy, since you didn’t want nor explicitly allowed this server to have your information, but now it does.

Facebook pixel, as one example, is an advertising tool powered by third-party cookies. Through this platform, companies can track users that come to their site through Facebook ads.

So let’s break down how a pixel actually works, using the Facebook pixel as a template:

01

Facebook ads direct users to the company’s website.

02

When a user completes an action, like making a purchase or filling out a form, the embedded pixel opens a tunnel of communication by sharing the cookie (the user’s identifier) with the ad server.

03

The server can then match the website’s cookie to the cookies from the advertisements themselves (in this case, Facebook ads) to connect conversions with ad clicks.

04

Companies can then use that information to develop effective ad campaigns, because they have an accurate understanding of the ad’s success rate.

Companies would only have a small piece of the picture if they couldn’t create this visibility across the ad and web servers through pixels.

But the same visibility that helps businesses also violates the privacy of its users.

 

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FACEBOOK CONVERSION API

This emerging Facebook Business Tool lets you share both online and offline events with Facebook’s server, directly from yours. There are some events that the pixel can’t track, but the API can, like:

  • Opening an email from a campaign
  • Making an in-store purchase
  • Calling for more information
  • Attending a real-life event

This creates a holistic picture that would otherwise be incomplete. Having this information can make decisions like ad placement and ad campaign optimization easy.

In terms of user privacy, Facebook API doesn’t rely on pixels and third-party cookies to track website behavior in an invasive way. Because it relies on first-party data, it only records the actions at the end of the funnel—on your site—like making a purchase or signing up for a free trial. This occurs when personal information is willingly provided.

03   Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Facebook Conversions API

Beyond the simple fact that times are changing and advertising strategies have to adapt, Facebook Conversions API has several benefits for before, during, and after the potential phase out of the pixel. These include but are not limited to:

Maintain control of your data – While the pixel automatically shares all events in real-time, the API lets you decide what data you share and when you share it. This is how you share important offline data that wouldn’t otherwise be captured and analyzed.

Apply it to a wide range of use cases – API’s flexibility opens up new possibilities for tracking vital events. Track in-app conversions, email open rates, in-store purchases, deferred conversion reporting, and beyond. While the API is limited in some ways, it can also measure and optimize for use cases that the pixel can’t.

Achieve full-funnel visibility – For now, using Conversions API and the pixel in tandem will give you a holistic view of your entire marketing funnel. You can more easily and effectively personalize ads, customize your intended audience, and optimize the outcomes with this influx of information.

But Facebook’s API doesn’t just bolster your options and conversion rates. It will quickly become an essential feature of your digital marketing strategy.

Here are some of the emerging roadblocks that API will help you navigate around:

ASK APP NOT TRACK OR ALLOW

Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency – Apple’s iOS 14 update now requires users to opt into data tracking when prompted with a pop-up. Initial data suggests that 70% of users will select “Ask App not to Track,” rather than “Allow.”3 As more people opt out, API’s server-to-server connection will become a more reliable source of first-party information as it bypasses the browser altogether.

The rise of ad blockers – If a user has ad blocking enabled on their browser, they could click on your Facebook ad, visit your online store, and add items to their cart without you even knowing. As such, if the same user returned and made a purchase, it wouldn’t connect back to your Facebook ad. With API, the transaction and customer details are sent through your server to Facebook, which then matches that person’s conversion to your original Facebook ad.

Signal loss on Facebook – Some browsers are increasingly unreliable thanks to seven-day cookie expiration and these tracking and ad blocks. API preserves offline conversion metrics, which are unaffected by this signal loss, and provides new data streams that make up for lost ones.

Conversion discrepancies – Between signal loss and ad blocking, there are regular discrepancies between online orders through sites like Shopify and Facebook’s reported purchases. Running Conversions API provides much more accurate information and can fill in the missing gaps in consumer data.

Basically, the cookie is beginning to crumble.
As we replace it with a new snack of choice—Conversions API—what are all the different flavors available?

3 The Next Ad. Everything you need to know about Facebook’s Conversions API.

https://www.thenextad.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-facebooks-conversions-api/

04   Different APIs Offered by Facebook

API, which stands for Application Programming Interface, is simply a software middleman between two separate applications, and they exist in many forms. For example, APIs can integrate the product with a third-party facebook developer to collaborate on applications, games, and more.

Here are the top six most important Facebook APIs to be aware of:

Facebook Graph API is the simplest way for you to transfer data into and out of Facebook. You need a token to interact with Facebook’s Graph API which you can get after you enter your login. Graph API also acts as an intermediary between the rest of Facebook’s APIs. This HTTP-based interface allows you to query data, upload and publish images, posts, and stories, manage ads, and more.

Facebook Live Video API connects the various components of a live stream, including encoders, cameras, plus web and desktop apps, to broadcast, schedule live streams, and connect with audiences through chat, polls, and more.

Facebook Marketing API is a collection of data points from Graph API that enables you to make informed advertising decisions. Create ad templates, automate your process, build dashboards to compare advertising channels, and segment your audience into data-driven groups for targeting purposes.

Facebook Pages API allows you to connect apps to a Facebook Page in order to update content, create and access posts, change settings, and view important insights.

Instagram Graph API allows businesses and creators to use third-party apps to manage their social media presence. Users can publish content, manage comments, see their mentions and related hashtags, and compare metrics against other professional Instagram accounts.

WhatsApp Business API is a customer interface tool that allows businesses to create a professional profile and connect with customers over direct messaging from all across the world.

With all these APIs and more, managing your digital marketing is almost as difficult as running the business itself. Beyond just the logistics, consumers want genuine content from their favorite brands, not empty words and impersonal posts.

Organic social media is a relatively new movement within digital marketing, but it can make all the difference when coupled with the right ad content, APIs, and professional marketers.

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To that end, here at Power Digital, we specialize in social media content and strategy that is genuine, relevant, and sustainable—that achieves and maintains the kind of results you’re looking for on your Facebook Graph API.

05   How to Use Conversions API & Data Sharing Responsibly

The data you collect and analyze through Conversions API can be revolutionary. It can drive growth, lead you down new advertising paths, and create lasting change. However, this kind of power needs to be coupled with responsible and ethical data sharing best practices.

What do those look like? Here are four places to start:

Understand what data you’re collecting – If you know exactly what data is coming in, you can make responsible choices about who to share it with, how to protect the highly personal information, and how to explain to your customers that sharing their data benefits them, too.

Understand how this data is being used – You can’t, in good conscience, outsource your data management and analytics to a third-party service provider without knowing what they’ll be doing, who else they might be sharing your data with, and how they similarly intend to safeguard your customer’s data privacy.

Only proceed with lawful permission – With the development of European and other privacy laws, you have a relatively high bar to reach when securing valid consent to collect someone’s data with cookies or other trackers. It must be:

  1. Freely given – If the only way to access a site is by accepting cookies, then the user doesn’t have a genuine choice.
  2. Specific and informed – The user understands who receives their data, for what reasons, and that their consent is revocable at any time.
  3. Unambiguous and affirmative – The user must perform a positive action to indicate their willing consent, like checking an “I agree” box. If consent is assumed, rather than explicitly granted, it’s not considered valid.

Be aware of sensitive information – Extra precautions should always be taken when handling data that reveals key facts about the user like race, religion, and sexuality, as well as financial information, medical details, and genetic data. This information should only be collected and shared—securely, of course—when absolutely necessary.

06   How to Set Up Facebook Conversions API

To get started with Conversions API, there are just a few simple steps you need to take:

01

Check that your Facebook pixel is properly set up on your website. You’ll want to use this same pixel for both browser and server events when implementing Conversions API.

02

Create a Business Manager if you don’t already have one. This lets you integrate all of your various marketing channels and campaigns.

03

Secure an access token, either through Facebook’s Events Manager or by using your own app.

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Once you’ve got everything set up, you can start creating, testing, and managing events that you’d like the API to track. From here, plenty of opportunities open up in terms of ad optimization—if you know how to fully capitalize on them.

Unfortunately, many companies miss out because they don’t.

Here at Power Digital, we can advise, facilitate, and integrate Conversions API into your digital marketing strategy, including your social advertisement and the various partner platforms you rely on, like Shopify, WordPress, and WooCommerce.

You have the power to reach new heights. We can help you get there.
That’s the upside of Facebook Conversions API.

Resources

Schema: https://schema.org/
GTmetrix: https://gtmetrix.com/
Keyword Tool: http://keywordtool.io/
Ahrefs: https://ahrefs.com/
SEMrush: https://www.semrush.com/

Sources

Facebook for Business. Accelerate: The Ads Ecosystem Is Evolving. https://www.facebook.com/business/m/signalshealth/accelerate/the-evolving-ads-ecosystem

The Verge. Google to ‘phase out’ third-party cookies in Chrome, but not for two years.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/14/21064698/google-third-party-cookies-chrome-two-years-privacy-safari-firefox

The Next Ad. Everything you need to know about Facebook’s Conversions API. https://www.thenextad.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-facebooks-conversions-api/

Facebook for Developers. Cookie Consent Resource. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/privacy/

Facebook for Developers. Get Started. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/marketing-api/conversions-api/get-started