Wondering how to make your social media ads work? Confused as to why your Instagram campaigns don’t convert? Have you seen a huge drop off in ad results since last Summer? Are you unsure how to improve sales without taking massive risks? We hear you. The trouble is, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re one of the millions of businesses currently trying to grasp the IoS update and how it’s strangled ad performance. But, fear not, we do have the answers.

However, we’ll be upfront, this isn’t about us waving a magic wand and telling you we can solve your problems. We can, but it takes work, strategic and creative thinking, and commitment – which we can support with. 

What happened after the IoS update? 

Following the constant concern around our online data being sold to countries/businesses, Apple took a stand in an effort to support their users privacy. The IoS 14.5 update came out on April 26th, 2021 to all Apple users – the effects of the update didn’t start to show their true colours until later that spring (when more Apple device users did the update).

The feature of the update that made the biggest impact on social media advertising was the ‘accept tracking’ pop-up. This pop-up would appear on all of your externally downloaded apps that aren’t native to an Apple device. You may have seen this yourself if you are an Apple user, this happened after you had downloaded the update or when you download a new app.

Before the IoS 14.5 update, all apps could track users data freely – similar to how the Cookie system works on Google. This was never seen as an issue by users, up until reports began coming out about data farms and how our data was being sold. Looking at this from a social media advertising standpoint: everything was as good as it could be, the detailed targeting options would be effective, ad platforms could track data from external websites easily (if a pixel was set up) and everything worked well.

Here is where the bad news comes into play…

Post the IoS 14.5 update, users would have to select the ‘allow tracking’ option for their data to be trackable within the app – if they select no then very little of this data would be able to be tracked.

This one addition to Apple devices is what has caused social media advertising to dramatically change – having a significant impact on the way ads work.

Generally speaking, a lot of people probably wouldn’t have an issue with their data being tracked – as we all like our ads to be personalised and we want to see products/services that we would be interested in. However, due to the scaremongering that took place in the media around the selling of personal data, the average user suddenly began to think twice and didn’t want their data to be tracked, meaning they selected no to tracking – which is where the problems lie… 

The impact IoS 14.5 is having

IoS 14.5 might well have been one of the worst things that has ever happened to social media marketing. From a platform perspective, the detailed targeting options have become a shadow of what they once were, with those who had opted in for tracking dropping from 70% to as low as 10% according to The Motley Fool [1]. This means businesses have lost access to a significant amount of their target audiences via social media. 

Pixels which were previously very effective when running social media ad campaigns have become much weaker. Users who opt out of data tracking cannot be tracked out of the platform – this means if you are running a conversion campaign and you send someone to your website who isn’t opted in for tracking, their data is likely to be lost or reported incorrectly into your ad result dashboard. 

Those who are opted in can now be tracked against eight pixel events. A pixel event is an action a user can take on your website, for example: add to cart, initiate checkout, complete lead gen form, page views, and so on. Those who don’t opt-in to having their data tracked can only be tracked through one pixel event (and this isn’t always accurate) – which as you can imagine, has caused a lot of problems when it comes to businesses wanting conversions from their ad campaigns. 

At Prohibition, we noticed right away on the conversion campaigns we were running that the ad results we were achieving seemed to take a hit – it happened almost instantly. We were seeing higher cost-per-results and a drop in the pixel events that we were previously tracking and receiving more data for.

What does this mean for social media ads?

As mentioned, data tracking from external parties is now pretty hard to report on accurately, due to the data from the pixel events not being what they should be. Because of this, it can make your cost-per-results look more expensive than they actually are and effectively make your campaigns look inefficient in achieving the results you set out to achieve.

Not only is there an issue with cost-per-results not being accurate, but on average brands have been seeing an increased cost-per-result for all metrics that they run campaigns for. Essentially making ad campaigns cost more money, for fewer results.

Audiences continue to shrink, with thousands of detailed targeting options being removed from Meta’s targeting list [2] which previously was a great way for a business to reach its target audience directly. If any of the audiences you have built currently use any of these old detailed targeting options then your ads would not run until you removed these from your ad set. 

Overall, the update has made social media ads no where near as effective as they used to be in terms of reaching the desired target audience and driving results.

social media apps

The solution – an integrated approach

The impact of this update has been one of the most significant we are ever likely to see in the world of social media. It has completely changed the way that social media advertising works, which means that the old strategies that were used simply don’t cut it anymore. 

As a result, since the iOS update, social media advertising has lost much of its impact and is no longer something we recommend as an effective  standalone marketing tool. Whilst we can absolutely support with the optimisation and set up of ads to ensure your business is rolling out activity that is as impactful as possible, we wouldn’t recommend this in isolation and would instead advise that businesses look at a more integrated marketing approach to support sales.

This can include content marketing, organic social media strategy, PR, product placement and influencer activity to support social ads – but deliver a wider impact to ensure business success.

If social media advertising is of interest as part of wider integrated activity, there are some strategies we are seeing to prove to be somewhat effective, which are:

  • Keeping as much of your campaigns as you can in-platform. This means that any e-commerce, lead generation forms, and traffic campaigns need to stay within the respected platform that you are advertising on. You don’t need external tracking if the user who sees your ad doesn’t need to click off the app/website they are already on you see.
  • Setting up a pixel on your site. Pixels are now less effective, due to the lower amount of data they are receiving, however, they do still have their uses – pixels can be used to create retargeting campaigns and lookalike campaigns. So, for example if you are promoting an event through Ads Manager and you want to target people who may have clicked on the event on your website – you can do so, providing it is set up correctly.
  • Use UTM tracked links everywhere you possibly can on your site and in your ads. By doing this, you can still somewhat track all of the data that you could pre-IoS 14.5. If you set up an ad campaign and set up a UTM tracked link just from that campaign, then you can clearly see how many clicks you have received from that ad campaign in your Google Analytics – providing you have this set up correctly.

At Prohibition, we work with a range of B2B and B2C brands across all sectors to create engaging social media marketing strategies that allow brands to stay up to date with the latest trends and updates. Get in contact today to find out how we could help you.