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Facebook’s Edge in Using Identity in Digital Marketing

Published: September 8, 2014

Author: Mark Osborne

Fragmentation of device usage and media consumption means marketers can no longer rely on traditional marketing funnels and communication strategies that hinge on mass messaging. As marketers move to more diverse media channels, how can they target their messaging, measure response, and react to consumer feedback? Although Cookies have been used for tackling this attribution question in the past, User Identity, through platforms like Facebook, offers even greater insights and opportunities.
In this post, we’ll explore why audience identity means more than ever, and why Facebook is uniquely positioned to take advantage.

Complex Connections

Cuddling with multiple devices
Americans are more connected across devices now than ever before. More than 60% of online adults in the US operate at least two devices every day, and almost one quarter of the population uses three devices. Facebook recently reported that more than 40% of online adults start an activity on one device only to finish it on another. This accessibility to information throughout the busy day, means more diverse customer journeys as consumers research company websites, search for reviews, and visit shopping portals at different times and places on multiple devices throughout the day.
In the same report, Facebook cited that although 76% of people use their smartphones on the go, over 80% of people prefer to use their desktop computer at home on dedicated tasks. Marketers must adapt to our customers’ changing preferences.

How the Cookie Has Crumbled

When consumers had fewer devices, measuring impact and pacing messaging was easier. Previously, a person owned a TV at home and a radio in the car, and advertisers could measure exposure to messages through purchased GRPs. One personal computer at home was still fairly easy to track with cookies.
Unfortunately, most cookies only provide useful data when placed on the same device. With consumers using a computer at work (where they shop on lunch and breaks), another computer at home (for dedicated tasks like researching a major purchase), a smart-phone for connecting on the go, and a tablet or other device while watching TV… it becomes very easy to see why cookies no longer work as well in tracking user activity.

Beyond Cookies

The email inbox has been a central communication point for marketers for years, even serving as a way to cookie multiple browsers across devices for the same user. Web browser clients like Google Chrome have also made a push to encourage users to log-in across devices – which accomplishes a similar objective. Unfortunately more and more mobile activity takes place within an application (not within a browser). ComScore reports that the majority of mobile usage, seven out of every eight minutes, occurs within mobile applications that cannot be cookied. With this hurdle, how can brands track consumers between applications? The answer is Identity.

Facebook and Identity

At its core, Facebook is a platform for building and sharing one’s Identity with others. It makes sense then that this platform is the best gateway for marketers looking to leverage Identity in building a cohesive communication strategy.
Increasing numbers of websites and web based apps allow logging in with Facebook, and as more consumers remain logged into Facebook across all their devices, it is easy for Facebook to build a more complete picture of a consumer across devices. In 2012, Inside Facebook reported that over nine million applications and 42 million websites are built with Facebook integration capabilities. Recently visited sites and frequently used apps are already incorporated into Facebook’s targeting algorithm.
As part of this picture, Facebook can measure exposure to different ad messages to the same consumer across devices.

Identity and the Customer Journey

Armed with Identity, marketers can target messaging to the right customer at the right time. One message can be used for creating awareness and engaging the consumer with the brand promise; a different, product oriented call to action can be targeted to only those consumers who engaged with the brand message. Even more targeted, brands can highlight specific product benefits based on what content received the best response in previous communications.
Using Identity, this dialog can take place across devices, when the customer is receptive. There is no need to force a customer into a pre-set “funnel” model based on specific activity on one device. Customers are free to research on one device and buy on another because the marketer can tailor each experience, armed with the knowledge of how the customer behaved during a previous step.

Identity and Media Performance

It is easy to see how this type of targeting can deliver targeted messaging to the right prospect at the right time – regardless of device. Equipped with an understanding of the customers’ response to earlier messages, brands can shape subsequent messaging to be even more persuasive.
For example, a cell phone company can know with certainty that a prospect has seen brand messaging that highlights a specific value proposition – perhaps the freedom that comes from using a new cell phone. The next round of ads could highlight specific product attributes that relate to that same value proposition (the freedom to use the new camera to take photos anywhere, the freedom that comes from faster connection speeds, or the freedom that comes from a new integrated networking application).
Depending on which of these product features the prospect engaged with, a brand could then highlight that same feature in call-to-action ads, driving to a nearby store location to try the feature, or using a pricing promotion to drive traffic directly to an ecommerce site.
With better results come lower costs for brands. There is less waste in oversaturating a market with awareness-focused ads or showing irrelevant product attributes to a prospect who has already engaged with content related to a specific area. Delivering timely and targeted messages to users regardless of device means a better user experience, more conversions, increased revenues and happier customers.

Facebook’s Edge in Putting Identity to Work

Sounds good, right? So how are brands putting Identity to work right now? As Google and other publishers integrate single logins across platforms like browser, search and email, they will continue to develop opportunities to leverage Identity for advertising targeting. Facebook, however, is already able to use this in powerful ways.
Many brands are leveraging Facebook’s robust ad targeting to reach custom audiences as well as specific demographic, behavioral, and interest segments to begin the conversation. Refining custom audiences using Facebook’s pixel allows brands to build evolving segments and move audiences through the evaluation and purchase process, supporting direct response initiatives. Facebook’s diverse ad products (Reach and Frequency Buying, Video Ads, Link Ads, etc.) offer a rich tool-set for different messaging strategies with multiple objectives. Facebook Preferred Marketing Developers like CitizenNet (where I work) assist clients of all sizes to achieve outstanding results on Facebook by leveraging Identity.
Consumers are empowered with near universal connectivity across a wide range of devices. To understand the relationship between consumers and brands, marketers must embrace the concept of Identity and look for ways to move beyond broad funnels based on demographics and craft customized messages for individual consumers. Facebook offers a turn-key solution for taking advantage of Identity data to shape messaging and drive results by advancing customers through the decision process.

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