The latest software iOS update from Apple (iOS 14) ushered in a whole new set of privacy features. One feature, in particular, is set to have a significant impact on real estate agents and businesses who rely on Facebook advertising to attract potential sellers and buyers.
Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework will limit the information that can be exchanged with third parties like Facebook, which may significantly impact ad creation, ad personalisation and performance reporting. This disruption will affect advertisers using a Facebook pixel, Conversions API, or any other Facebook Business Tools that optimise, target or report on events from your website.
What does this mean for you?
If you have a Facebook pixel installed on your website and you’re running ads on Facebook targeting people who’ve visited your website, Apple will explicitly ask its users if they wanted to be tracked. A simple question, with a potentially serious consequence for advertisers.
By putting this warning front and centre as users open Facebook – rather than in the settings screen of an iPhone or iPad – and given the concern around privacy more broadly among consumers today, it’s predicted that many users will tap “Ask App Not To Track”. With more than 52% of Australian’s using iOS over Android, this represents a significant portion of your market who may opt-out from your advertising.
This update basically means that your retargeting ads on Facebook – the ads that you’re showing to people who have visited your website – will no longer show to users who have opted out via this privacy warning from Apple.
Also (really important), if you are using any social media advertising products from the major portals or third-party software companies, many of these products are designed to target ads to users who’ve visited their site or mobile apps and therefore this Apple iOS update may significantly impact their ability to reach a significant portion of the population. So be careful about signing up to any products like this without asking how they plan to tackle this latest Apple iOS update and what it means for your advertising dollar.
Imagine a user opts not to allow the Facebook or Instagram app to track them. They click a link that your company has shared on Facebook or Instagram. Facebook can’t track that user’s activity on the websites clicked from Facebook so that activity can not be used for ad targeting and conversion tracking.
Facebook warns that this will lead to a more than 60% drop in its Audience Network advertising business and they’ve gone as far as running full-page newspaper ads to advise small businesses on the impact these iOS features could have on them.
While Apple hasn’t responded directly to these newspaper ads, the company did respond to similar Facebook claims. The iPhone maker accused Facebook of a “disregard for user privacy.” Apple is adamant that its iOS 14 privacy policies will be enforced in early 2021, and has previously said it’s “committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them.”
While some might think the full-page newspaper ads is Facebook simply ‘throwing their toys out of the cot’ in an attempt to protect one of their lucrative revenue streams, the Apple privacy changes do certainly pose a potential threat to the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts – especially if you are driving a healthy level of traffic to your website coupled with a retargeting strategy through Facebook/Instagram to generate leads from your website traffic.
Remember that this is mobile and iOS only – at least for the moment. If a user visits your website directly via a desktop or Android device, or they click a link on Facebook via a desktop or Android device taking them to your website, the Facebook pixel will still help advertisers track events that occur on their website and reach people who performed those events with ads.
Two things you can do to prepare for the latest iOS update
1. Verify your Domain in Facebook Business Manager
The first and easiest step is to verify your domain in the Facebook Business Manager. Verifying your business domain is not a new feature but Facebook considers this best practice.
However, Facebook is saying it is important to prioritise this step especially if your domains have multiple businesses or personal ad accounts that own pixels.
Either way, given that Facebook is highlighting this step in preparation of the upcoming iOS 14 Privacy Update, I would highly recommend you do this.
You can verify your domain in the Facebook Business Manager under Brand Safety > Domains.
2. Start collecting more email addresses and mobile numbers – NOW
Custom audience targeting, ads that are shown to people on your database, should already be part of your social media advertising strategy. These Apple iOS changes do not impact your ability to target ads to people on your database using their email address and/or mobile number inside Facebook ads manager. Learn more about this here.
There are a bunch of technical things you could also do to help if you’re using some of Facebook’s more advanced tracking and reporting tools. You can learn more about those things here.
Final Take Away
Many real estate agents and businesses, as well as the major property portals, have seen great results from Facebook advertising over the years but this recent announcement from Apple shows that the only constant thing in tech is change. And when change happens, you better not have all your eggs in one basket.
Retargeting is one of the cheapest forms of lead generation because you’re targeting people who have already visited your website and they know who you are (brand awareness – tick!). Until now, it’s been relatively easy to get an effective retargeting strategy up and running at a very low cost on Facebook and Instagram, either by doing it yourself or purchasing a social media advertising product from a third party like the major property portals. But it appears that’s all about to change with Apple’s latest iOS release.
Don’t neglect a retargeting strategy altogether. If you haven’t already, your retargeting strategy should include using your own CRM data to advertise to people who’ve visited open homes, enquired on the major portals or attended an auction. We collect vast amounts of data in real estate and when it comes to digital marketing and advertising, (your) data is the new oil.