Facebook Pixel: How Non-Ecommerce Advertisers Can Unlock the Power of the Pixel

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The Facebook pixel has long been thought of as a rigid, fixed block of code meant for the ecommerce industry. The standard events – add to cart, initiate checkout, and purchase – make it clear what type of advertisers were in mind when the tool was built. And with that, it could easily be believed that the Facebook pixel is only useful if you’re selling something directly from your website. But what if you want to run a sweepstakes? Or drive people to use your web-based app? Even if you aren’t driving product purchases, you can still take advantage of the Facebook pixel’s advanced tools and tricks. The platform is increasingly making it easier for all users – not just ecommerce – to get the most out of their ad spend with the Facebook pixel.

To start, it’s important to understand “standard events.” These can be any user action or page load on your website that has a segment of Facebook’s pixel code on it. It allows Facebook to see what the user is doing, and reports it back to the advertising tools. Standard events are those actions that are relevant and common enough to have been built into Facebook’s system, and they come with a host of features such as optimization, reporting, and the ability to build an audience (or lookalike audience) from users who complete the actions. Facebook continues to expand the list of standard events, which also expands the pixel’s usefulness for non-ecommerce advertisers.

Take, for example, a scenario we recently ran into, with an advertiser who wanted to run a sweepstakes. Not only did we need to find the right audiences to show the ads to, but we also needed to suppress the users who had already signed up for the sweepstakes so that the ad budget was not used to reach them again. Had we assumed the Facebook pixel was only for ecommerce and not used it in this instance, we would have had to rely on cold audiences, would have needed to constantly upload lists of users who had signed up in order to exclude them, and would only have been able to report on link clicks – with no visibility into the actions users were taking after they clicked. Many advertisers would have chosen to run the campaign under those parameters, but we knew it could be more successful if we unlocked the power of the Facebook pixel.

The first step was looking at the user path – from click to sign-up – to figure out what needed to be tracked. We determined that we wanted to track when a user landed on the sweepstakes page, when that user tried to submit an entry, and when the entry was successfully accepted. By adding standard events to these three steps, we were able to gain visibility into what users were doing and where they were dropping off.

While that data was valuable to the brand for future sweepstakes creation, we were also able to use Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool to build different audiences of people who clicked but didn’t fill out the form, partially submitted the form, or fully submitted the form. With these audiences we could prevent users who have already signed up from getting ads, and we could target those users who landed on the page or started the submission but didn’t finish it. Being able to reach these audiences significantly reduced the cost-per-submission, as we were able to directly target those who had already shown tremendous interest in submitting their information for the sweepstakes. Finally, by using lookalike audiences on Facebook, we were able to target users who looked and acted similarly to those who had already submitted the form.

While targeting is incredibly important, it is all for nothing if you can’t tell how effective your posts are for the actual business goal. Standard events helped answer that question by giving us direct, real-time feedback on exactly how many users signed up and from which target groups they came. This immediate feedback was instrumental in helping us run the most efficient campaign, as it allowed us to make budget and ad optimizations in real time. Without the Facebook pixel and standard events, we would have had to optimize on link clicks. While this would have given us some idea of where the budget was being used most efficiently, ultimately it would have shaped the campaign around link clicks – not the ultimate goal of sweepstakes sign-ups. There were several audiences, for example, that had high click-through rates, but not all of them had users signing up for the sweepstakes. Without the data the pixel provided, budgets would have been allocated toward users who were less likely to deliver on the end goal. By leveraging the ecommerce-led pixel tools in a non-traditional way, we were able to increase efficiency and visibility, delivering a campaign that was far more efficient than the advertiser hoped.

There are many ways to use pixels to track specific user behavior. By adding pixel tracking to specific buttons on a web-based tool, another advertiser was able to see how often users took action. More importantly, they could see where users were hitting roadblocks and which sections of the website caused users to drop off. Another, more abstract use of pixels is to assign “price values” to different pages or actions. This allows you to specifically retarget or build lookalike audiences from your most valuable clients and customers, even without users buying products directly from your website. An automotive advertiser might use this type of pixel data, for example, to create unique audience groups based on which customers were looking at entry-level models vs. luxury cars.

While Facebook’s pixel was designed with ecommerce clients in mind, the tools and insights it unlocks are too valuable to be kept to one type of business. With a little creativity and ingenuity, there is a use case that allows every advertiser to benefit from the data provided by the pixel. It can help you find audiences, track weak points in your user journey, and see how your ads are being received in real time. With a deeper understanding of your users, how they move through your website, and how they react to your ads, you can better tailor your website, targeting, and creative to be more efficient and effective.