Facebook Pixel: What is it and How is it Used?
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
What is a Facebook Pixel, how does it work, how do you use it as a company and how do you protect yourself as a consumer? Read all about it in this article.
1. What is the Facebook Pixel?
Facebook has two sides. The consumer side, where you as a user can see content from friends, family and pages. And a business side that companies use to target their content and advertisements to groups of users. That all happens via the Facebook Pixel, a piece of code from Facebook, which you can install on your own site as a company.
This code is then linked to the Facebook advertising account and records which pages are viewed by logged in Facebook users. With this information you can compile segments within which the advertising account of Facebook target group is displayed. Example: Users who have viewed holiday destinations on the advertiser's site, but have not yet booked, will see advertisements for their destination on Facebook.
An advertiser only knows which pages a Facebook user has viewed. Based on this online behavior, conclusions are drawn about the interests of users. You can then show users content that matches these interests. So they don't just have to be advertisements, but can also be articles or event announcements.
2. How to install a Facebook pixel
The Facebook pixel must be placed on all pages of the website that you want to measure within Facebook. Companies can therefore choose not to communicate the online behavior of sensitive pages such as customer portals to Facebook.
Step 1: choose the correct advertisement profile
The first step is to choose the correct advertisement profile that is used to store the pixel data. A common mistake is to use an advertising profile from an advertising agency. When a company says goodbye to that agency, it also says goodbye to its own pixel data.
Step 2: search for the pixel code under event management
Search the menu of the advertising environment for event management or pixels . If you do not see this in the menu then the menu is probably not expanded, select: all tools. In event management or pixels, follow the instructions from Facebook to activate it.
Step 3: place the pixel code on the website (or app)
There are three ways to place the code on the website. Automatically via tag managers such as Google Tag Manager or other tools. Give the Tagmanager access to Facebook and everything is set automatically. Very handy. If you do not use a tag manager, you can manually place the code on the website.
Facebook clearly indicates the best place in the source code. If you have a WordPress site and you do not want to make changes to the HTML code, you can always use Plugins that place this code in the right place. If all that fails, you can email the pixel code with instructions to the website developer.
Step 4: check whether the pixel code works
Within the Facebook advertising environment you go to Pixels via the menu and there you can immediately see if the pixel works. Here you can find some statistics of Facebook users who have been to your website.
There are also different browser extensions that allow you to check whether a pixel is installed on a website. Such as Facebook's Facebook Pixel Helper for the Chrome browser. If you visit pages from your own website, this extension indicates which pixels have been placed. Each pixel has an ID that matches the ID of the pixel in the advertising environment. With this tool you can also see on any other site if Facebook Pixels are being placed.
Step 5: add the Facebook pixel to the cookie notice
If a pixel is placed then companies must state that neatly in the cookie notice of the site. And to give users the option to disable this Facebook pixel.
3. What can you do with a Facebook pixel
If a Facebook Pixel is on a website, Facebook keeps track of the pages that users visit on the website. With this data you can create ad groups and Facebook recognizes users who have previously visited the website. That way you can advertise much more effectively. Most companies use this data for two parts: retargeting and finding new users via look-a-like audiences.
Retargeting can be used to create advertisements that are linked to the behavior on a website. For many users, the advertisements seem to follow them. The most recognizable form of retargeting is when people have viewed products on a website. The same products, or hotel rooms, will then appear on Facebook, with the hope that customers will then proceed with the purchase or booking.
Advertisers can approach this very flat or think very carefully about which website behavior belongs to a need (based on the buyers' or customer journeys). And then show the right advertisement or content to the users based on this need. So if ads are irrelevant or just keep following you, then the retargeting is not used properly.
The pixel data is also used to find a new target audience via Facebook's Look-a-like audiences. This works as follows: first, an advertiser creates a target group in Facebook and thereby chooses the correct website parameters.
Within target groups in Facebook that is the option: custom target group . For example a group of people who visit all pages on a website where / cookbooks / or / destinations / appear in the URL of the page. With this adapted target group you can again create a new target group: the comparable target group. Facebook then looks at the pixel data of all people who have seen a page within the site about cookbooks or destinations and then finds similar people within Facebook.
Facebook uses an algorithm to select these people based on their interest and behavior and add them to the target group. Facebook shows the number of people who meet these target group criteria in the target group environment. This allows you to find new customers who have similarities with existing website visitors in a very efficient way. These look-a-like target groups are often very effective.
Compile target groups
Once the pixel data has been collected by Facebook, different target groups can be created with this. You do this in the 'target group' section of the advertising environment in Facebook. And not under Pixels.
If you use multiple sites, it is advisable to work with a pixel code. You place this on all sites. With target groups you then create different groups based on the URLs of the website. It is all less complex and an additional advantage is that sites can use pixel data from each other.
4. How do companies use the Facebook Pixel?
Health insurers were recently under fire because they had placed Facebook Pixels on their website and had 'transferred' this data to Facebook. It was the start of a big panic among Facebook users in relation to their personal data. But is this panic justified?
Health insurers - and many other companies with an online marketing strategy - do this purely for the purpose of being able to advertise better and more effectively within Facebook via their own data. With pixel data, marketers can find out what the needs and interests of the website visitors are and subsequently approach these target groups within Facebook with advertisements.
Marketers use the back (or commercial side) of Facebook as a powerful targeting mechanism in their online marketing strategy. They have two choices: do they use targeting and retargeting to harass people with uninteresting messages or they help their target audience with content of value. This is content that fits seamlessly with the information needs of customers and is therefore valued by these target groups.
5. What can you do about it as a customer?
Facebook is currently under fire because in the past they used the data of its users too easily. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a number of steps have been taken by Facebook to better protect user data.
It is no longer possible to use customer data purchased by Facebook when compiling target groups. That is data from external data parties. Facebook is also working on a tool: Clear History, with which you as a user gain insight into which user data is passed on to Facebook. You can view, delete and indicate that no data will be transferred in the future.
Another way in which customers can prevent Facebook data from being collected is to indicate this in the cookie report. There you can read which cookies (codes) are used by the website. At many sites you can choose to enable or disable certain cookies. So also the Facebook Pixel.
Another option is to use Apple's Safari browser. Since the end of 2017 these browsers use Intelligent Tracking Prevention and all tracking cookies are disabled after 1 day and deleted after 30 days.
It is also advisable to take a look at what kind of information Google collects about you. Within accounts.google.com you can view and change this information under Personal Info and Privacy. Google also collects a lot of advertising data, but is a lot more transparent about it. In addition, it is also much easier to disable all these tracking options.
If users are concerned about the data that flows to Facebook, it is also advisable to take a good look at their own security and passwords.
6. Content of Value
Many online media consumers do not know how much advertising data is being collected. It is therefore a good thing that Facebook is now under attack and must finally do something about user privacy and the transparency surrounding commercial applications. But as long as it is a free service, the user is the product.
Facebook earns from advertisements through the powerful tool of target segmentation. Something that almost every modern online marketer makes grateful use of. It is up to online professionals and marketers to handle this data well. And above all to not send uninteresting messages to the users. Right now, marketers should spend much more time understanding their customers and showing them the right messages in their customer journeys to help them.