Dependent on the marketing power of social media, small businesses worry about iOS changes


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TORONTO – Like many small business owners, Siuleen Leibl relies on marketing through apps like Facebook and Instagram to reach more customers.

“Social media is huge for our business in terms of advertising just so we can get our identity out there,” said the owner of Milksmith Ice Cream in Winnipeg.

However, some small business owners say effectiveness is now in doubt after Apple’s latest changes to its smartphone software.

Privacy changes introduced last week in Apple’s iOS operating system require user permission before tracking their personal data on apps or websites for advertising purposes.

Anyone who has ever researched a product online and seen ads for that same item follows them from browser to social media to the news app has witnessed tracking in action.

Facebook, owner of Instagram, opposes Apple’s changes and recently warned that small businesses that pay to advertise on social media platforms would lose their ability to effectively target ads.

“Many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads” with the iOS changes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s fourth quarter 2020 earnings conference call.

Back in Winnipeg, Liebl said she used promotional posts on Instagram to target local audiences to spread information about her business.

“This has been critical for us during the pandemic … I feel like if we weren’t able to do it anymore, we wouldn’t have such an audience,” she said.

Although the target audience for Toronto-based Bluefox are potential immigrants from countries like India and Nigeria, where iPhones aren’t as used as in North America, Marketing Director Nikhil Kumar said ‘there could still be an impact on how the startup connects to many iPhones. users.

“As a small business, we try to use data from Facebook to basically grow our audience and increase engagement,” he said.

Kumar said he was concerned that the iOS update would limit this and that the company might not be able to reach people with certain interests on social media, which he uses for most advertising campaigns.

“For example, in our social media ads, we use international education as one of our interests,” he said, adding that the update may prevent Bluefox from reaching its regular audience because people “of course” will opt out.

“If that data is missing, the ads won’t have that impact.”

Raymond Tong in Vancouver has similar concerns about the future of advertising campaigns for Callia Flowers, where he works as a marketing manager.

The online flower delivery business uses social media ads to acquire new customers, which Tong says has been a high priority for them this year.

“It’s about reaching as many Canadians as possible, not only to build awareness of our brand, but also to really tap into Facebook’s algorithms to figure out who are the best people we should be reaching,” he said. -he adds.

Identity and privacy expert Andre Boysen called Apple’s privacy feature a “real catalyst” for consumers to control their data.

“You can decide whether or not you want to share it,” said Boysen, senior researcher at the Center for International Governance Innovation and responsible for SecureKey’s identity.

In a video published last Monday, Apple said that “some apps have more trackers than needed.”

“They collect thousands of pieces of information about you to create a digital profile that they sell to others. These third parties use your profile to target you with advertisements, and they may also use it to predict and influence your behaviors and decisions, ”the company said.

Facebook Canada said it has more than 10 million active advertisers on its services – most of which it says are small and medium-sized businesses. Almost 98% of the social network’s total revenue in 2020 came from advertising.

“Facebook has always made money on data about you and me without telling us,” Boysen said.

The new privacy feature doesn’t mean that people will no longer see ads on their iPhones, but that apps will no longer be able to use personal data to send targeted ads, Boysen said.

“In the old days, before we had this ability to do very specific, targeted advertising, we all saw the same ads when we watched TV,” he said.

Social media ads have been central to Callia’s paid media strategy and changes to ad campaigns on these apps may make them less effective than before, Tong said.

“So we are increasingly leveraging our first party data to combat this,” he said.

The “hit rate” or effectiveness of ads will likely decrease because businesses won’t know exactly who sees their ads, Boysen admitted.

“But at the end of the day, what small businesses are going to do and what small businesses have always done is innovate,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 4, 2021.

This article was produced with financial assistance from the Facebook Stock Exchange and The Canadian Press.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press

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