Social Media Advertising: What The Heck Even Happened This Year? (and what you can do about it to start 2022)

There have been lots of changes to social advertising this year, which means there’s LOTS of misinformation floating around the web. Unfortunately, when updates happen, it creates new business opportunities for shady marketers to prey on fear and confuse business owners, making things more challenging than they need to be. Our goal today is to slice through the misinformation, bust some myths and provide actionable, resource-efficient next steps for where to focus your social advertising efforts as you cross into 2022.

What Happened to Social Media Advertising in 2021

To put it simply, the biggest shakeup of 2021 was the rollout of App Tracking Transparency (ATT for short), a new feature from Apple as a part of iOS 14.5, that requires applications and websites to ask users for permission to track activity across other companies’ apps and websites.

Apple iOS 14.5 Update: App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Framework

What the rollout of this new framework means, which went live around the end of April 2021, is that third party apps, like Facebook, can’t track user behavior anymore using pixels, if a user opts out. The alarming part is that as many as 95% of users ARE opting out when prompted. For advertisers, this immediately affects available reporting data, which in turn limits any chance at real-time campaign optimization. Monitoring day-to-day results is no longer possible because that data simply does not exist like we were able to see before. As a result, advertisers are decreasing budgets while, simultaneously, ad prices are increasing.

The bottom line is that Facebook is and will continue to serve restricted, aggregated and delayed data.

What’s Impacted Most by ATT

The three main areas impacted by the ATT framework are changes to:

  1. Attribution models
  2. Audience sizes
  3. Reporting of data

With attribution model changes, it means we are no longer able to drill down with the specificity we are used to in identifying which creative / audience / ad copy / headline variable is the one most responsible for an ad’s success or failure. With regards to audience size, they are shrinking because the pool of users Facebook is using to attribute data and activity to is so much smaller, making identifying users that match a specific demographic much more difficult. This all amounts to reporting data that is much less robust and helpful, on its own, than it used to be, pre-iOS 14.5

Common Misconceptions (WRONG) about ATT

There’s a few narratives out there that have gotten some traction in the wake of these changes. Here’s the truth about what’s really going on.

  • Myth: Facebook is increasing ad costs because they are hit by Apple’s change.
  • Reality: Costs are up because of lower audience sizes, targeting inefficiency and lack of data on Facebook’s side. It is costing more for Facebook to serve up information with less available data.
  • Myth: Platforms will disappear 😱
  • Reality: Platforms will change, but will not go away entirely. Media buying will certainly look different over the next few years, but we don’t want to turn our back to the ways that will drive business growth and decision making in the future.
  • Myth: Facebook is rebranding to fight negative PR.
  • Reality: While Facebook has certainly had its share of scandals and frankly, warranted negative publicity over the past few years, what we see happening are the strategic business growing pains of Facebook wanting to enter the Augmented Reality (AR) market and focus on the endless opportunities for product placement in the new Metaverse.

Where To Focus Your Social Advertising Efforts in 2022: Recommendations to Drop Your Pulse Rate

The consequence of all the advertising changes from 2021 can be boiled down to the following:

  1. There is a lack in tracking ability
  2. Optimization is hard
  3. Discrepancies between 20-30% litter Facebook Business Manager
  4. Reporting has changed

What this means is that we have to find little tweaks to our advertising strategies that account for this new reporting reality.

Recommendations for Social Media Advertising Strategies in Q1 2022

Here’s what you can do to navigate the wave of advertising changes heading into 2022.

  1. Start collecting first party data. Investing in your own first party data is the single biggest recommendation we can give. Bolstering up your email collection, your SMS collection for text-based campaigns and maintaining a CRM that’s well organized will allow you to build an actionable library of contacts and sales data that can be your “source of truth” when it comes to data and reporting. This extends to brick and mortar shops, too!
  2. Utilize other platforms. In the face of all these changes, Facebook is still the most powerful demand generating tool out there. However! TikTok has knowingly entered that battle for platform supremacy by angling specifically for a younger demographic. Simply knowing that it’s not “Facebook or bust” allows you to step back and think strategically about the platform that might offer the most leveraged next investment based on your audience and customer data to try out other platforms.
  3. Focus on your owned properties. The way we say it to clients is to “get your own house in order” and that’s exactly what we mean here, too. Focusing on conversion rate optimization (CRO) can be the missing piece of the puzzle if your ads have been struggling to convert lately. It can be easy to blame the sexy culprit (iOS + Business Manager), but what else might be going on with your site and the experience your customer has after interacting with an ad?
  4. Establish benchmarks for acquisition so you know what to expect. You can’t change what you don’t measure. Our encouragement here is to focus on the fundamentals, get serious about your messaging and benchmark the results so you have something to measure progress.

After reading all this, we hope your pulse is a little lower, your understanding of apocalyptic advertising events is a little higher and you feel prepared and empowered to start your 2022 advertising planning on the best foot possible.

In your corner,


KW Content is a global content and social media marketing agency that develops and launches content and social media programs for purpose-driven brands. Strong Brand Social is our favorite place to hang out! That’s where we provide the absolute best (and most accessible) social media marketing education that empowers small brands to develop their own high-performing marketing programs that are guaranteed to drive growth. Teaching from our proven agency methodologies, we simplify the process and demystify the art of social media marketing to offer focus, efficiency, and measurable results to small business owners, brand directors, and social media marketers. [Learn more.]

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