A CTO’s Perspective – Facebook Custom Audiences

July 12, 2016 | By

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A few months ago, we introduced a new offering: a server-to-server connection with Facebook Custom Audiences. While this seems like a minor update to our already existing integration with Facebook Ads, this is actually quite a game changer. Read on to get you a better feel of why we added this and what you can do with it!

BlueConic is a CDP, meaning you can see our product as kind of a switchboard between all your customer data that resides in your marketing technology systems, from your CRM to your A/B testing tools to your email service provider. One of the most intriguing areas of convergence in customer data of late is advertising. David Raab, the inventor of the term CDP even has invented another name for this: Adtech + Martech = MADTECH.

We all know that one of the major internet ad players is Facebook. And Facebook pushes for further integration with other systems that contain customer data with a technology they called Audiences Management. The idea is to send a signal to Facebook when a known Facebook user visits your websites. This knowledge, combined with the segmentation power of Facebook – for example, ‘only married men between 30 and 40 that are in Boston’ (and side note: wouldn’t you love to be Facebook and have the users’ enter all their data themselves!?) – gives you get a very powerful way to talk to the visitors, even when they’ve left the website, but went to Facebook, where you can ‘retarget’ them.

To actually be able to see which Facebook user has been on your website, Facebook uses a technique called the ‘Facebook pixel.’ You have to place an invisible pixel in the HTML of your website that is retrieved from the Facebook webservers (as opposed to your webserver). That means that if someone visits your website, a signal is automatically sent to Facebook that a particular user has visited the site. You can implement this yourself, but a CDP like BlueConic can insert that pixel too, and on the fly send more data to Facebook, like which segments the visitor is in.

This is really easy to implement and opens up all kinds of use cases, especially retargeting users that were on your website that you want back on your site. It also opens up a new possibility offered by Facebook: Lookalike Audiences, which allows Facebook to see what type of users visit your website, and then can show ads to similar those user attributes to also try to entice them to visit your website.

We implemented the Facebook ad pixel in BlueConic to sync visitors to Facebook, and it worked great, but: What if you want to target Facebook users that have been a customer once, but haven’t visited your website in years?

Or, what if you have great data about a user which is not available in Facebook (for example, which products he/she bought, or if an email campaign has been successful for a specific user) but it IS available in your CRM system or email system?

For this scenario, Facebook introduced a new feature called Custom Audiences. Initially you could upload only a CSV (comma separated value) file, but they’ve since introduced APIs for this too.  Setting this up to connect directly with your CRM is risky and a lot of work. But, a Customer Data Platform that is a switchboard between all systems that contain customer data is the right candidate for the job. So, we went to work and added the new ‘server-to-server’ capability with Facebook.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You create a mapping between Facebook users and profiles in BlueConic (examples include an email address, phone number or Facebook ID, which you get if you let someone log into your website using Facebook Connect).FB custom audiences2
  2. When that mapping is set up, you send BlueConic segment data to the corresponding Facebook Custom Audience. This means that if you have created a segment in BlueConic (for example ‘past customers that became active in the last week’), you will have that same segment (which is called a custom audience in Facebook) and can use this to target specific Facebook users.FB custom audiences1
  3. You can also map specific BlueConic profile properties to Facebook ‘Custom Data’ fields in order to create a custom audience in Facebook so that you can do the segmentation/targeting in Facebook instead of BlueConic if you prefer.

All this synchronization and mapping is done ‘server-to-server’, which means that even if a Facebook user hasn’t been on your website for years (but is for example in your CRM system, in purchased lists, in your email marketing system) it still works.

This is powerful stuff! On top of the already existing pixel integration, you can now use this to design previously impossible use cases. Some of our customers use it to: renew contact with lapsed customers; use lookalike targeting on an audience of old but high value customers; use the data inside your ESP like MailChimp/ExactTarget/Pardot to retarget users on Facebook; and target Facebook users that are in a purchased list. All with setup made easy in BlueConic.

We are really excited about this new capability, and after reading this I hope you are too. Let me know if you have any feedback, praise, suggestions, complaints or if you just want to say hi or want to see it in action!

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