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Will iOS and cookie privacy updates affect Facebook?

June 30, 2021 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO – MediaRadar @ToddKrizelman

Facebook is a peculiarity, even among its fellow ad-supported media giants. Their ability to collect data from their two billion plus users, and package that data for advertisers, is second to none. Facebook’s business model is inherently more insulated from many market fluctuations that affect other advertising platforms because of Facebook’s network effect. Every new Facebook user adds new data to the system. That gives Facebook even more advertising data to sell to advertisers.

Yes, Apple’s iOS14’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changes, and Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies, now delayed until 2023, will have an impact. However, the amount of user data being collected within Facebook and the value of that data is gold. And that’s even without tracking users across third-party apps and websites.

With Facebook’s vast internal network and collective data, Facebook ads aren’t going away. Instead, Facebook is adopting new privacy standards and will continue to play a significant role in the growth of small and niche businesses. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg stated that as a business, he believes Facebook can manage through the changes. He thinks it may emerge even stronger if it becomes harder for small businesses to navigate data targeting without Facebook. Here at MediaRadar, we decided to take a closer look.

Niche industries and ad targeting

Facebook reported revenue of $26.17 billion for the quarter, which was up 48% compared with a year prior. Facebook attributed the significant increase in revenue to a 30% year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 12% increase in the number of ads delivered.

The biggest spenders, accounting for 7% of ad spend, were entertainment brands, more specifically streaming brands such as HBO Max, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. One could assume, based on these numbers, that ad spend from large companies like these services accounts for Facebook’s success. Instead, what truly sets Facebook apart is how it caters to very niche audiences.

When looking at our  data, of the percentage of retail industries that advertise on Facebook, a startling 62% fits into the “other” category which is made up of hyper-focused retail categories. Mind you, MediaRadar tracks over 7,500 product categories, and over half of them are incredibly specific.

Niches such as leather goods, herbs, telescopes, or cheese shops are not relevant to a majority of users. However, Facebook pinpoints who needs to see these types of advertisements the most. In addition, Facebook targets people with ads from industries that other platforms don’t. And,  since they target users ads from plenty of market subsets, Facebook’s reach and revenue adds up.

Facebook is quite aware of its niche marketing prowess, and takes pride in it. In prepared remarks for the Q1 earnings release, COO Sheryl Sandberg chose to highlight someone who runs a yoga studio, and how Facebook helped her get the word out, as opposed to highlighting a major brand. It shows the value of their marketing strategy, and how appealing to the everyday consumer is what attracts advertisers to the platform.

Similarities to other platforms – and differences

Facebook’s reliance on niche marketing is strengthened by the fact that they are quite similar to other platforms in areas such as retention and campaign length. We found Facebook had a 34% retention rate between 2020 and 2021, similar to the overall industry average. As for campaign length, 44% of campaigns lasted one month or less, while 38% of campaigns lasted from two to four months. 

The advertiser overlap rates between Facebook and other major forms of media is also a reason to point to niche markets as its success. In reviewing the data, we saw there was a 34% rate of overlap between Facebook and major broadcasters such as NBC and Fox, and those numbers are slightly lower when looking at podcasts and Snapchat.

The key stat for Facebook here is that nearly half of their advertisers are exclusive to their site, including nearly 60% of retail advertisers. While advertisers have the same buying patterns as everyone else, Facebook also attracts a lot of brands that aren’t selling on other platforms, and that makes them even more valuable.

What can we learn

Facebook’s success with niche markets provides a valuable lesson for us all: know your audience. No matter how big or how small, it’s important to make sure you market to your customers in ways that your competition cannot. With their vast network effect and their ability to package granular advertising data, Facebook’s dominance will only continue to grow regardless of whether they are able to track users across third-party apps and websites. But of course, they’ll need to ensure that they get privacy buy-in from their users, particularly as policy and user preference around this topic evolve .

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