Facebook vs Apple and its effect on marketing your event

Godzilla vs Kong is expected to hit theaters in March 2021. In the meantime, we have our own fight escalating between two tech giants that is sure to be just as entertaining as the big screen blockbuster.

Just like the two titans on screen, Apple and Facebook have been feuding for years.  Apple promises to be the protector of your privacy while it extends its reach through its mobile platform while Facebook positions itself as the champion of a free and open internet funded by advertising.  While these two giants are rolling around wrestling, we are here to make sure your business is not one of the buildings getting squashed.

What is this latest skirmish all about?

Back in December 2020 Apple released its latest operating system iOS 14 and iPadOS14 which was primarily focused on privacy.  In this release application developers on the App Store are required to provide additional details on the data they use to track and link to your account.  One of the biggest changes was the implementation of iOS14’s AppTrackingTransparency framework requiring applications to get the user’s permission up front to use that tracking data.  In the past users were opted-IN by default and had to change their privacy settings to Opt-Out, which most users simply did not do.  

Facebook took this move by Apple as a direct attack given their model of using personal data to deliver targeted ads to its users, in exchange for a completely free service.  Facebook expects this change to affect small businesses the hardest, with a decrease of over 60% of website sales from its ads.  

The fight isn’t over yet with Facebook now considering an antitrust lawsuit against Apple alleging it is using its control of the App Store to create an unfair advantage.

How might this impact RunSignup/GiveSignup customers?

We have always believed that leveraging modern social media platforms would allow race directors to more efficiently attract interested candidates to their events.  Given Facebook’s dominance in social media, we have taken great efforts to partner with Facebook and create seamless integrations with their platform.  We released Facebook Custom Audience support back in 2017, and later was the first to offer Facebook Fundraising integration for free to non-profit organizations.

The introduction of greater privacy control by Apple may reduce the pinpoint accuracy of your targeted ads on Facebook. For example if you use custom audiences, Facebook will not be able to identify all the potential matches using Facebook on their iPhones.  You might also experience aggregated results in Facebook Business Manager and may not be able to track events (such as a pageviews or registrations) directly to a user or exact set of users.  Further, if your event uses the RunSignup domain your results may be aggregated across the entire RunSignup domain further reducing its accuracy.

It is not clear when this change will go into effect, but the chatter indicates it will hit in the spring time frame.  From that point forward as more iPhone users adopt iOS14 the impact will grow.  (This does not impact Android users).

RunSignup customers have superhero powers!

For a good portion of the marketing world this is terrible news.  How are you able to track the results of your marketing campaigns and understand your business without these insights?  The good news for RunSignup/GiveSignup customers is that you have RaceInsights included at no charge which is not impacted by any of these changes.  RaceInsights is a purpose built analytics engine that tracks user interactions on our platform and allows you to gain insights about your marketing campaigns and the progress of your race registrations or fundraising efforts all in one place without the reliance on any third party platform (including Facebook).

Tracking Source for all interactions. 

As you see on your dashboard, we track each pageview as well as each transaction in RaceInsights. We also track the source of each click – so if the person visiting your website found it on Google or Facebook or the RunningintheUSA calendar, we track that. You can see the summary in the “Sources” table under the chart shown above.

Note this records the last visited site before they came to your event or donation page. It will allow you to see quickly if your Facebook ad is generating direct clicks as well as transaction conversions. This is different from Facebook – they hold the cookie for 30 days and take credit for any sales where the user may have clicked an ad, but did not sign up then and came back later from say a Google search to sign up.

RaceInsights was made even more powerful in 2019 when source tracking to the individual was added allowing race directors to drill-down and analyze referral sources in detail.

Referral Tracking RunSignup | GiveSignup also offers the ability to create very powerful, individual referral tokens. This blog post for GiveSignup Ticket Events shows how to use this feature to track different ad and email campaigns. Here is an example showing multiple referral code sources – note how it can be used with the Referral Rewards referral tracking from individuals.

In addition to RaceAnalytics and RaceCRM capabilities available today, we continue to invest in technologies that help you gain more insight into your entire supporter ecosystem.  Our 2021 roadmap includes plans to release a powerful Supporter Engagement Platform which will provide a complete 360 view of all your supporters (Athletes, Volunteers, Donors, etc.) across all of your activities (Events, Runs, Fundraising, etc).  All of this will integrate to social media platforms where possible, but will not rely on them to get you the data you need to run your business effectively.

Other recommendations

  1. If you rely completely on Facebook marketing do not panic.  Start to uncover the capabilities of RaceInsights to help measure your ROI and CPA for your marketing efforts.
  2. Use your own custom web domain for your organization.  RunSignup allows you to use your own domain for free.  This means instead of RunSignup.com/MyRace, you can use your own domain MyRace.com to promote a more professional look to your website.  Since the Apple privacy change may force an aggregation of data across an entire domain (in this case across all RunSignup customers), you can improve the accuracy of your aggregated data in Facebook to be just your organization with a custom domain.
  3. You may have received an email from Facebook asking you to take certain actions such as verifying your domain in Facebook Business Manager.  If you do not have your own custom domain name there is no action for you to take since you will not be able to verify the Runsignup.com domain.  If you have your own domain name, follow the instructions in this blog post to perform Facebook ads domain verification.
  4. As Facebook rolls out its changes to comply with Apple’s policies, you may see additional features in Facebook Business Manager that for example allows for the prioritization of events or the setting of dollar ranges for purchases.  We will give further recommendations as we start to see these changes roll out.

This news certainly changes how marketing will be done on Facebook in the future.  We expect the situation to change as Facebook begins to roll-out these changes in the coming months.  Monitor the RunSignup blog for further updates as the situation evolves, we are here to help.  In the meantime, fire up the popcorn machine and enjoy the movie!

Additional Material

Check out RaceInsights Analytics Presentation from Winter Symposium 2020:

Quick video overview of RaceInsights:

Learn more about RaceInsights Source Tracking:

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