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Facebook Is Changing Forever — And You Had Better Be Ready!

by Cris Rodriguez

 

As I was thinking of a title for this article, I tried not to be overly dramatic, but I’m standing by my statement that “Facebook is changing forever.” It’s certainly a big deal, but it shouldn’t come as a shocker — with any technology, the one thing you can count on is that nothing is going to stay the same for long.

My goal in writing this is that by the end of the article, you’ll understand what’s taking place, why it’s happening, how it will impact your advertising and, most important, why you need to prepare for this.

As I write this in late March 2021, there are still many unknowns surrounding Apple’s next iOS 14 update for the iPhone and iPad, so much so that even Facebook is unsure of the impact it will have. With that being said, I’ll be transparent about what I’m unsure of, as well. Until the “ATT prompt” goes live, there will be much speculation.

Although Facebook is changing forever and our strategies as marketers will change as well, it’s important to remember what Charles Darwin said many moons ago: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

We made it through a pandemic and a presidential election in 2020; we can get through Zuckerberg and Cook’s little tiff, as well.

 

[War of the Digital Worlds]

Apple and Facebook have been at odds for a decade, and Apple has decided to make the iPhone a battlefield in the war. Back in 2020, Apple announced that it would make privacy-enhancing changes to iOS 14, which will impact how Facebook receives and processes data.

To that end, in the spring of 2021, Apple will introduce the AppTrackingTransparency framework. This will be required by all apps — not just Facebook — and will include a prompt that pops up on your phone, asking if you prefer to “allow tracking” or “ask app not to track.” The expectation is that most people will opt out of tracking, which will have a significant impact on targeting and data gathering for marketers. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said:

“Every day, billions of dollars change hands, and countless decisions are made, on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.”

It’s those scraps of data that we digital marketers need to in order to help small-business owners prosper via online marketing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg stated that these privacy changes will hurt the growth of “millions of businesses around the world.” I agree. Marketers thrive on data. We need it to help us make better decisions. We cannot read our prospects minds, but we can read their actions. And when we have heaps of actions, we can adjust our marketing campaigns toward people who have a higher chance of converting — which ultimately leads to fewer wasted dollars.

I have a phrase that I repeat at least three times a week in my office: “Math is the path.” It means that every decision in our businesses should be based on the data. And with less data, coupled with a curtailed ability to track actions taken online, marketing will become much more difficult.

As advertisers, we have to understand that this is the direction the industry is headed as a whole — more privacy and less tracking. And there’s no way for Facebook to get around this. If the social media company tries, it risks having its app removed from Apple’s App Store.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Not everyone uses an iPhone.” And you’re absolutely right. But the implications will extend beyond iOS users. Because of this update, Facebook is making major structural changes to its Facebook Ads Manager platform. So it truly will affect all of us.

 

[Direct Impact]

Back in 2013, Facebook unveiled the Facebook pixel‚ which got a facelift in 2015 and again in 2017. Simply put, the Facebook pixel is a piece of JavaScript code that’s added to the backend of websites to track visitor activity. It’s ultimately an analytics tool that helps you measure and increase the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns. It does this by reporting and analyzing the actions people take on your site. The pixel then uses this data to assign people to different target groups that you can engage with ads in the future.

You’ve probably experienced the power of the pixel even if you didn’t know it. Have you ever been to a website and then hopped on Facebook — and as you scroll, you see an ad from the same business whose website you were just on? That’s the Facebook pixel hard at work. It has the ability to follow you around the internet.

The Facebook pixel is a digital marketer’s most powerful tool — and it’s about to get hit with a heavy dose of kryptonite. After the update, if a user opts out of tracking, the pixel no longer will be able to follow that user around the web. The entire “retargeting and remarketing” game will take a big hit and, as a result, we’ll have access to less data, smaller audiences and reduced optimization.

At the end of the day, Facebook needs volume to properly optimize your business’ ad campaigns, and with less data being sent, optimization is less likely to be effective.

There are a few more techy changes that will occur — such as attribution, event ranking and aggravated event measurement — and they will have direct and indirect impacts on how we advertise in Facebook Ads Manager. If you want to put on your nerd glasses, check out the next section. Otherwise, skip it and jump to the actions steps listed in [Technique vs. Strategy].

 

Attribution: To account for less data, Facebook is changing the way it reports its attribution. Simply put, attribution is how Facebook links a conversion to a specific ad. Ultimately, the change will mean fewer conversions are reported, which can make it look like your ads aren’t converting as well.

Event Ranking: One of the major changes occurring to Facebook ads is that you’ll be able to optimize only for eight events per domain, and now domain verification will be required to set up events. These event conversions are leveraged when you run conversion objective campaigns.

Aggregated Event Measurement: Apple originally created a “solution” for web tracking after someone opt-outs. The company dubbed it Private Click Measurement. PCM significantly restricts the data that can be shared, so Facebook instead will use its own solution: Aggregated Event Measurement. AEM will apply to iOS 14 opted-out users and will allow cross-domain measurement and app-to-web conversions.

Enough with the tech talk! Let’s get into the action steps you need to take to prepare for the iOS update.

 

[Technique vs. Strategy]

As a third-degree black belt in taekwondo and a first degree in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I’ve been fortunate to learn the importance of not only having great technique, both on the feet and on the ground, but also having a strategy to implement the techniques to allow for a successful sparring round. As my instructor says, “Strategy trumps technique every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

There are many similarities between technique and strategy on the mat and in the digital-marketing game. You can know every single armbar, leg lock, choke, sweep and escape, but if you don’t have a strategy to successfully implement them, it will be difficult to defend yourself on the ground. The most effective mat players are the ones who have both technique and strategy. It’s the same with digital marketing.

Hop on YouTube or Google, and within seconds, you’ll be able to find “free advice” on how to run ads. (The dangerous part of this is you need to know whether the person you’re listening to is actually the real deal). Pretty much anyone can learn the technical button-pushing aspects of launching ads. Facebook even has a free course called The Facebook Blueprint. But the strategy — that takes real digital-world experience.

Now that you understand what’s going on between Facebook and Apple, we’ll dive into what techniques you can implement to prepare your business to overcome these changes. And then we’ll unpack the strategies you should take action on to ensure that your social media marketing game continues to pay off.

 

[Technical To-Do’s]

Step No. 1: Create Your Business Manager

Facebook will require you to have your Business Manager set up if you want to continue running ads. The company has pushed advertisers to do so for the past few years, but with the iOS 14 update, they’re putting their foot down.

Many martial arts school owners who run their own ads (and some uninformed agencies) run their Facebook ads from their personal Facebook Ad Account. Besides the fact that this goes against what Facebook suggests, it also limits certain features that you can leverage such as custom audiences.

Creating a Business Manager is free. It requires only that you provide some basic business information. If you haven’t created yours yet, head to business.facebook.com and follow the prompts.

Step No. 2: Verify Your Domain

This one is a little more difficult. Facebook will require you to verify that your domain is a real domain that you own. There are a couple of ways to do this.

First, go to your Business Manager. Click on Brand Safety and then Domains. You’ll need to add your domain if it’s not already listed.

Now, the techy part: You’ve got to update your DNS records. If you use one of the industry-standard websites (like Market Muscles), they’ll help you through this. If you don’t, you’ll have to either update your DNS records inside your hosting platform or reach out to whomever hosts your site to have it done. It’s a pretty basic copy-and-paste job, but if you’re not familiar with updating DNS records, it can be harder than your black-belt pretest.

Now you must wait for your domain to be verified. This can take up to 72 hours. Next, if you work with an agency or have someone else running your ads, you’ll need to add them as a partner and give them asset access.

If everything you just read sounds like a different language, I get it. Sometimes in our business, the best question isn’t How can I do this? It’s Who can do this for me? If you work with a third party like my Grow Pro Agency, we’ll walk with you step by step to get this done.

Bonus! Step No. 3: Verify Your Business on Facebook

While this isn’t required, I recommend that you verify your business inside your Business Manager. This can be done by heading to Settings. It will require you to upload some information, but it’s worth the effort to have your business verified.

 

[Strategies to Implement]

Once you get the technical button-pushing work done, it’s time to implement some digital-marketing strategies that will help you overcome the reduction in data that will be sent when you run ads. It seems as though actions that occur inside Facebook will still be tracked. The change will affect mostly third-party sites — which is actually great news.

Actions that people take inside Facebook — such as watching your videos, watching your Facebook Lives, engaging with your content and engaging with your events — will still be tracked so you can retarget those people with your ads. Knowing this, there are three steps you can take to ensure that you can continue to grow your audience inside Facebook and build awareness of your school.

Step No. 1: Go All-in on Your Video Marketing

I’ve preached for few years that posting video is essential. It’s the No. 1 type of consumed content online, and sadly it’s the one that most school owners neglect.

With smartphones having the ability to record videos that are near professional quality, all schools should be putting out video content each week. Whenever school owners tell me they’re uncomfortable on camera, I say, “Then you need to start practicing!” If it’s not going to be you, designate someone from your team to start creating video content.

Why is this so important? With the Facebook pixel losing a lot of its power in regard to retargeting, videos posted inside Facebook will not be affected. That means a strategy that remains viable when running Facebook ads involves creating audiences of people who watch a certain percentage of your videos. With the audience you create, you can show those people your ads.

Besides prerecorded videos, Facebook Lives are another great option you have in regard to video marketing. Facebook Lives receive more reach and are one of the best free digital-marketing strategies out there.

In a nutshell, here’s the truth about video content:

No content = no click

No click = no lead

No lead = no sale

If you want to stand out in the public’s increasingly cluttered newsfeed, the key is video content.

Step No. 2: Prioritize Quality and Boost Your Best Posts

They say that content is king. I say that promoted content is queen.

Here’s the thing about taking time to create content: Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform, so it’s not the best content that wins; it’s the best promoted content that wins.

Take a look at the engagement (likes, loves, comments, shares, etc.) of your posts nowadays and compare that to your posts in 2019. Notice anything? More than likely, a few years ago, you had a lot more engagement than you do now. It’s a fact that reach (the number of people who see your posts) has plummeted over the years. The average now is about 5.8 percent of your following.

So imagine investing your time to create a great video that highlights your life-skills program and finding out that it was shown to just 5.8 percent of the people who follow you. That’s pretty disheartening.

Because there are more people on Facebook than ever, more businesses than ever and more advertisers than ever, it becomes a supply-and-demand issue. Facebook can choose which content it puts in front of its users, and because it’s headstrong about putting “community first,” your business posts are relegated to the backburner.

What can you do to combat this? You’ve got to pay to play. Normally, I don’t recommend boosting posts‚ but to get your content in front of your people, you need to start. The key element to understand when boosting posts is that it won’t turn into immediate purchases and signups. The purpose of boosting posts is to increase engagement. Once your posts and your page start getting more engagement, you can retarget these people with ads that feature a call to action. This allows you to fish out of a lake instead of fishing out of a pond.

An additional strategy you can implement is creating events. It’s one of the easier things to do on the platform and is pretty much “fill in the blank.” Anytime you’re having an event in your school, whether it’s a Stranger Danger seminar, a women’s self-defense clinic, a parents night out or a graduation ceremony, create an event. Once you do that, you can create an audience that engages with the event, an audience that says it’s interested.

Example: You have a graduation ceremony coming up and create a Facebook event. Now, little Johnny’s mom decides to share the event because Johnny is testing for his blue belt. All of the mom’s friends see the event, and they like it and comment on it to wish him luck. Because they engaged with your event, you can put them into an audience composed of people you can retarget and show an ad to.

To modify the equations I listed above:

Content = clicks

Clicks = leads

Leads = sales

Step No. 3: Build Your Email List

At the end of the day, your email list is one of the few digital assets you actually own. That’s why you need to consistently build your list of names, phone numbers and email addresses of people in your community who are interested in your academy.

Email is personal and highly targeted, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. With a kick-butt retargeting game plan, email can consistently convert your subscribers into students.

 

[Conclusion]

All these recommended changes might seem overwhelming — which I completely understand. But what’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Here are your one-step-at-a-time action items.

Start with the technical settings:

Step 1 — Create a Facebook Business Manager.

Step 2 — Verify your domain.

Step 3 — Verify your business.

Then implement your content strategy:

Step 1 — Video is essential.

Step 2 — The best promoted content wins.

Step 3 — Always grow your email list.

Remember what I said about the best question in business: Often it’s not How can I do this?; it’s Who can do this for me? If you need help with any of the processes mentioned in this article, I’ll be happy to offer a complimentary one-on-one coaching call through our Connect With a Coach online calendar. Visit maiahub.com for more information.

 

Cris Rodriguez has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a third degree in taekwondo. The co-owner of Gracie PAC MMA, she has 25 years of experience in the martial arts and 18 years of experience as a teacher. Based in Tampa, Florida, Rodriguez has studied internet marketing for eight years and is the founder of Grow Pro Agency, a digital-marketing firm that runs Facebook and Instagram ads for martial arts school owners.

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