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Social Media Pixels Are The Evolutionary Successor To Lost Cookies

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By Belle Lawrence, Associate Director, social media consultancy, Immediate Future https://immediatefuture.co.uk

With the loss of third party cookies there has been a search for a replacement. Social media pixels are the answer. 

Pixels are short snippets of social media code that can gather valuable information, including information on website visits and what individuals look at. Pixels measure campaign performance, track conversion and automatically create audiences based on who consumers are, what they do and what they buy. This allows for remarketing, but pixels can be used for so much more. 

Targeting through social media pixels can be far more effective than the cookie alternative. Cookies did little to build profitable consumer relationships, and their demise may be one the best things that happens for strategy focused marketers. Here is why.

Social media pixels can successfully achieve many of the key functions of cookies, but – and this is the important bit – pixels can also be used to gain extraordinarily high degrees of understanding of customer behaviour and sentiment to build compelling long term relationships.

In fact, building profitable and sustained connections with buyers is what social media is actually best at. But, at the same time the tactical need for remarketing and other cookie functions can also be met through pixels. Crudely speaking, the result for brands and retailers is a two for one option that can lead to building greatly improved customer relationships. Here are the finer points. 

Cookies need little planning or integration, and are extremely convenient as a shot to nothing sales driver. It is why their end is already causing so much pain. 

Pixels too can also be used to construct remarketing audiences to retarget website visitors, and identify lookalikes from website visits, or from what customers have bought. This meets a lot of the needs of tactical marketing.

But pixels are brilliantly powerful tools. They enable the identification of demographic data – standard criteria such as age, gender and location. Granular understanding is achieved through behaviour and sentiment tracking, choices of TV programming, favourite magazines, attitudes, and specific motivators can be identified and analysed. It is also possible to track conversation content. In fact, software enables recognition of more than 40 million attributes. This is about psychographics, and not demographics. 

For example, pixels enable the extraction of information that tells the optimum time of day to message customers. Something that can be the important difference between a miss timed call to action, or a sale. It is even possible to identify the degree of interest consumers have shown in content. For example, the proportion of a video watched. 

Used to the greatest degree, pixels based engagement approaches one to one marketing to reach optimum buying prospects on their terms, using their language and with the most effective propositions. And once the profile of the prime audience becomes known, it is possible to identify lookalikes. The benefits of talking on the terms of sales prospects goes beyond the obvious. It is going to be considerably more important.

As individuals, consumers took ownership of the media they watch and read through the adoption of on demand and social platforms, and they are increasingly realising their power in commercial relationships. When you deal with powerful people you have to treat them accordingly, and they are more aware and cynical of ads’ that talk at them. The conversation must be on their terms. What enables this is having a large amount of relevant data, and the right delivery method. Social media fulfils this need, and it is going to become more important. It also negates the pressure for constant tactical short term sales fixes. It builds foundations for long term returns.

Winning a new customer has been measured as costing five times more than retaining an existing customer. Increasing buyer retention by 5 per cent is shown to increase profits of between 25 and 95 per cent, and the success rate in selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 per cent higher compared to the rate with brand new prospects.

The other advantage of taking a more strategic view is positive awareness, and brand building. As consumers grow more discriminating and marketing savvy – as they are doing – they become infinitely more ruthlessly in assessment of brands, what they believe, and what they are prepared to view and listen to. Brands have to demonstrate genuine integrity, and a major part of this is the reward that comes from relationship building. 

Pixels are also important in the growing use of social commerce. We are just seeing what will be a very steep upward trend in the use of Facebook and Instagram stores that are relatively cheap and easy to set up. This allows smaller brands, retailers and D2Cs to compete with even the biggest rivals. Bigger rivals that are typically being slow off the mark to adopt social commerce. In this environment the fast are eating the slow, and the informed are defeating the uninformed. The use of data is going to play an increasingly important role in social commerce.     

The cookie replacement dilemma will take a long time to fade. But for some brand owners, the resulting choice of social media pixels as the successor will be the best decision they will make. 

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