A Few FAQs about Atlas

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Okay, folks. It’s been more than a week since our last blog post. We admittedly already failed miserably at the not-so-lofty goal of publishing weekly posts. But we’re workin’ on it, people! As Ira Glass regularly implores, STAY WITH US.

And on that note, who’s ready for a super wonky, highly nerdy blog post?

One topic we read about, discuss, and debate often is Facebook’s continued evolution of their product offerings, both in advertising and page administration. We know this may not be the most entertaining topic to some loyal blog readers, but we’re receiving requests every day to share our opinions on such topics. So, this post is the first in many that will begin to sprinkle in more Facebook-focused content on our site, in between travel updates and photos of our Madison-area outdoor explorations. Fear not, those will continue!

As you’ve likely read about over the past couple weeks, Facebook recently launched a revised, revamped version of the Atlas advertising network it had purchased from Microsoft about a year and a half ago. We’ve already received many client questions about Atlas, what it is, how it works, and if it is indeed a super scary, super invasive Gattaca-style tool to track our every move. We wanted to toss out a few FAQs in effort to clear up misconceptions and shed some social media light on the topic.

What exactly IS Atlas? 

When Microsoft originally developed the product, Atlas served mostly as an online display advertising platform. Atlas expanded into social media just before Facebook acquired the network. The main value proposition of Facebook’s long-awaited, much-discussed Atlas revamp is a sharp focus on what the social networking giant is calling “people-based marketing,” as well as specifically prioritizing mobile.

Okaaaay, so what is “people-based marketing” and why is it something Facebook wants to invest in?

The vast majority of online consumers–about 70% according to Facebook’s public studies–see an online ad on one device and convert (buy, sign up, or take another “conversion” action) on another device. A consumer may see a Facebook ad on their iPhone, but then ultimately purchase the product on their desktop computer. This complex and cloudy path-to-purchase confuses businesses and marketers alike, making it difficult to understand where exactly to spend advertising dollars. As one of our clients recently noted, “We have so many site pixels, online channels, and ads in so many different places that I’m confused about what’s actually working the best.”

Facebook is attempting to solve this ongoing issue with its new version of Atlas. The updated platform will remove web cookies and instead utilize, among other tools, Facebook itself as the main connection tracking point for all conversions that take place online. Facebook is uniquely positioned to measure conversions this way because most consumers are constantly logged into Facebook on their devices, thus allowing the social network to closely track what consumers are doing on each device.

Hmm, I’m intrigued. But how is this type of online tracking new? Why is it a big deal?

If a consumer is on his/her mobile device, browsing websites, playing online game apps, or checking social networks such as Instagram, a marketer will now be able to understand where the consumer’s final click was before he/she made an online purchase and what other ads were served to that individual throughout their online experience.

So for the first time, we are going to be looking at an entirely different social tracking map of an online user. Facebook could be the first online channel to truly understand the complexities of various social tools, and how social plays into multi-channel attribution. As online marketers, we’ve confidently known that we drive both online and in-store sales and conversions, but now we can 100% prove it through a deeper, more integrated system.

Can any online activity be private ? How will Atlas positively or negatively impact my online experience?

It’s important to know that Facebook is not tracking your online history, then selling your name and email address to other organizations. Your online history is only tracked via a Facebook identifier number, known as your FB UID (Facebook unique id) and Facebook uses that information on their proprietary platform only. Furthermore, it is Facebook’s hope that Atlas will actually provide users with an improved online experience because it’s one more step of eliminating irrelevant online “noise” by providing more relevant information and targeted advertisements that you would most likely find interesting as you travel throughout the desktop and mobile web. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly given the ongoing confusion surrounding this revamp, the roll out of Atlas is currently only for a select number of agencies and is not available to all online marketers. It’s unclear how soon Atlas will be available to all social marketers, big and small. Perhaps within the next six months, but Facebook has not confirmed the public release date.

I still have questions! Where can I read more about Atlas? 

More information and helpful articles about Atlas can be found here:

http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/28/facebook-atlas-relaunch/

http://digiday.com/platforms/facebook-atlas-relaunch/

http://www.adexchanger.com/platforms/with-atlas-relaunch-facebook-advances-new-cross-device-id-based-on-logged-in-users/

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