A beginner’s guide to Facebook PixelOriginally published: August 2018
Wouldn’t it be great if you could directly target your dream supporters — those who frequently visit your website to sign up for fundraising events or to donate?
With Facebook Pixel, you can.
Many charities use Facebook to connect with supporters — 93 percent of nongovernmental organizations worldwide have a Facebook page, according to the 2018 Global NGO Technology Report — but few are yet to take advantage of Facebook Pixel.
Updated in 2018, Pixel enables charities to invest strategically in Facebook advertising by linking their website data to their Facebook page. This enables Facebook to improve the targeting of your ad audiences, track the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and drive more traffic to your charity website.
For example: a visitor to your webpage about gifts in wills might leave your site to check their Facebook account, abandoning a transaction or sign-up form as a result. Facebook Pixel enables you to re-engage this person by showing them adverts from your charity for the page they visited — increasing the likelihood of them returning and completing the transaction.
Still confused? Read on for a simple introduction to Facebook’s most powerful advertising tool.
What is Facebook Pixel?
The Pixel is a ‘code’ that you put on your website to send information back to Facebook. This information can vary: from profiles of website visitors, to the action taken by them as a result of your Facebook advertising campaign. This means you can create much more sophisticated campaigns — which are more likely to achieve your targets.
To use Facebook Pixel, you need to use Facebook’s Ad Manager platform — a free tool that helps you to create and measure your campaigns.
Then, you need to create and add the code to your website. But don’t panic: you don’t need to be a website developer to do this. Facebook provides you with your own unique Pixel code and offers step by step guidance on adding their Pixel to your website.
Why should my charity use it?
Every penny counts in charity marketing, and Facebook Pixel makes sure everything you spend on Facebook advertising goes further.
By having the Pixel on your website, you can avoid throwing cash away because you're targeting the wrong people. For example, you can choose to exclude those who have already visited a particular webpage. You can also link your advertising spend directly to your call to action pages, for example sending people to a ‘donate’ page on your website or to the registration page for a fundraising event.
International humanitarian charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) successfully used Facebook Pixel to execute a five-day fundraising campaign. Using highly emotive video content, the charity invested in Facebook advertising to increase the reach and frequency of people seeing the video, and donating to the cause as a result.
How did this work? Using the Pixel, relevant audiences were targeted with a conversion campaign that invited those who had viewed the video, but not yet taken action, to make a donation. People who had already donated were excluded, so that MSF could be sure to only spend advertising budget on those who were open to making a donation. The charity also created a 'lookalike audience' so that their Facebook advert was seen by an audience who shared the characteristics of their website visitors who had donated high amounts in the past.
The campaign raised enough money for MSF to vaccinate 680,000 children, and helped the charity reach a new, younger audience.
Issues to consider
There are a few potential drawbacks of Facebook Pixel.
First, the technical aspect is easy once you know how, but installing code on your website for the first time and getting to grips with the different functions of Facebook Pixel takes time. The Facebook Pixel Help Centre provides plenty of guidance to get you started.
Second, with Facebook facing scrutiny recently over its use of users’ data and subsequently incurring data breach fines from the UK’s information commissioner, there is a potential reputational risk for a charity using the social media giant’s advertising services. This is a topic for debate, and it's worth considering what's right for your charity: does using Facebook Pixel fit within your governance policies? Is the reputational risk outweighed by the return on investment?
Do remember that Facebook users are in control of what they see (though some people may not realize it). They can choose to hide your adverts from their timeline, or disable the social media giant from tracking their website activity entirely.
Your Facebook analytics will provide you with information about how many people choose to ‘hide’ your advert. Coupled with qualitative feedback from supporters, this data can help your charity understand the type of Facebook ad content that will connect, rather than turn off, potential supporters.
What about GDPR and other data protection laws?
If you're targeting audiences in the European Union, using website data to create more effective Facebook advertising campaigns needs to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Equivalent data protection legislation may apply in other regions of the world.
Facebook offers GDPR guidance on how they see the ‘data controller’ and ‘data processing’ responsibilities being shared between themselves and your charity. These responsibilities apply to your charity if you are using a range of Facebook’s services, including measurements and analytics — not just Facebook Pixel.
The majority of Facebook’s services require the social media giant to be the ‘data controller’, for example when targeting audiences on your behalf. Facebook users will have consented for their data to be shared in this way when they sign up to use the platform.
Consult a GDPR legal expert if you are unsure.
For more information, see the free guidance offered by the Facebook Pixel Help Centre.