5 Steps to Becoming Independent of Ad Platforms

It’s no secret that the landscape of digital advertising is changing and its future feels uncertain. Over the last 10 years, improvements in our ability to track user data has led to a heavy reliance on that data. Now, with the new push for privacy, platforms like Facebook and Google have to work differently. With iOS 14 in full effect, regulation and more, our approach to digital advertising must be adjusted in order to succeed.

But here’s an important reminder: change is nothing new. Advertising has been evolving and shifting for all of its history. Change is not problematic. What’s problematic is becoming reliant on a particular platform for results and not preparing for the cyclical nature of the landscape.

So, how do you get to the point where your marketing produces results no matter what happens to the platforms you use?

Are you really marketing?

If you recall the days before the internet, advertisers still thrived with ads across newspapers, radio, TV, billboards, etc. Targeting and tracking ranged from limited to nonexistent, but they still generated massive revenue. With that in mind, it’s clearly not the platform that creates results. It’s always been about the message first and using the platform to amplify that message second.

However, ecommerce companies typically rely on “smart” platforms like Facebook and Instagram for the majority of their new purchases. So when their return on ad spend (ROAS) goes down, they’re in big trouble. And that decrease in ROAS is inevitable with our decreased ability to track user data and customer actions. But never fear— we’ve preached for a while now that ROAS is not the best metric to measure success. There’s a better way to approach marketing and advertising, which we’ll get into below.

Where is marketing for ecommerce headed?

If you’re stuck on the platform-dependent train, it’s time for a new way of thinking about your marketing. This is actually critical if you don’t want to end up with 90% of your traffic taken away one day because you never broke your reliance on Facebook for acquiring sales.

The goal is to be platform-agnostic, generating marketing messages that resonate no matter what the platform or targeting. It’s essentially moving from tactic-based marketing to principle-based marketing. You must learn how to use a strong message across multiple channels. That’s not as overwhelming as you think, especially if you go back to the fundamentals of marketing rather than hyper-focusing on each platform’s algorithm.

In this post we’ll explain why it actually doesn’t matter that major advertising platforms are changing, why there are positives to these changes, and how you can take advantage of it to become a marketer who wins no matter what.

Why are platform changes a good thing?

Marketers have advertised for years across changing platforms, and prior to the last 5-7 years, with very little data. The ability to track user interests and actions and even purchase attribution never made a difference. Why? Because it was the marketing message that did the work.

It’s time to get back to that place. It is more difficult. It requires more creativity and effort. But that’s actually a benefit of these platform changes. If advertising gets harder, it will help reduce your competition. The best marketers— the marketers who have great products, messaging, and offers— will rise to the top, while the platform hackers will fall to the wayside.

Another benefit is that Facebook won’t be able to be quite as powerful as it has been, which makes room for other platforms to rise up. We preach marketing channel diversification constantly. The more places you can advertise the more stable (and thriving) your sales funnel will be.

Why doesn’t targeting matter as much as marketers think?

As we mentioned above, back in the days of traditional advertising, we obviously didn’t have the advanced targeting that we’ve grown accustomed to on Facebook and Google. In those times, the messaging did the targeting. Advertising messages were crafted to resonate only with the ideal customer (the target audience). That way, the right people will respond and others will carry on. Relying on your message to find your audience is still possible in the digital space today. You just have to be willing to write, test, and then write some more.

Are you too dependent on marketing platform algorithms for results?

Here is the litmus test for determining whether you’re too dependent on one marketing platform: When changes happen, is your first reaction to figure out that change and adjust all your campaigns accordingly? Deep dive into podcasts, articles, and training to figure out how to hack the system and keep treading water?

Sure, being knowledgeable on platform changes and adjusting accordingly is important. But that frenzy should not be your focus. If it is, you may be stuck trying to play the same game better. In reality, you need to be playing a different game altogether.

5 Steps to Move from Platform Reliant to Platform Independent

If you’re currently depending on one or two advertising platforms to acquire sales, this next section is for you. Let’s look at five steps to remove that reliance on Facebook’s algorithm (or any other platform) to win customers and instead become a business that can do marketing on any platform.

1. Believe your “favorite” platform doesn’t matter.

It’s time to step outside of the world you’ve lived in for the last 10 years. Facebook and all of its algorithm changes don’t matter as much as you think. In fact, you can actually harness those changes and experience the benefits we’ve discussed earlier: less competition among advertisers and more platforms for you to explore.

2. Determine if you’re truly marketing or just manipulating the platform.

Are you actually marketing on your platform of choice? Are you thinking about your customer, testing messaging and creative to see what resonates, and trying different offers to see what converts? Or are you tinkering with campaign settings, objectives, interest-targeting, and ad placements? Facebook has made it easy for most people to play the platform manipulation game. Most have come to rely on the platform to find people and do the selling for you as long as you can hack the system based on the latest tips and tricks.

You should be excelling on all fronts, so spending time learning the platform and what’s working is not a bad thing at all. But if that’s how you rely on getting sales, you’re playing the manipulation game. You need to be in the marketing game. It will be a better use of your time to work on understanding your customers and testing a variety of messages and offers to see what resonates.

3. Start marketing for real.

If you want to start marketing for real, here’s a simple path to follow:

  1. Understand your customer. If you have not built out your customer avatars, check out our free customer avatar template.
  2. Create marketing assets that resonate with your customers. To do this, you need to refine your message, your ads, and your offer.
  3. Consider removing some of your detailed targeting on the ad platform, or test ad sets with broad targeting vs. specific targeting. We have seen instances where brands remove all targeting and let their messaging do the work, and they perform just as well as campaigns with detailed targeting. Since targeting will only become more limited as customer privacy increases, It’s worthwhile to go ahead and invest in finding success with little targeting. *Note: If your product appeals to a very specific demographic such as one gender or a specific age range, it is okay to hold onto some basic targeting that helps you reach those people.
  4. Diversify your channels. Start spreading your advertising dollars across multiple channels rather than investing everything into Facebook. You may be hesitant, but it’s important to remember that advertising on other channels will be easier than you think if you’re relying on your message to do the work, rather than relying on the algorithm.

4. Learn how to track independently of the platform

As we all know, privacy changes that came with iOS 14 allow users to opt out of data tracking. This severely limits Facebook’s ability to watch user activity, interests, and actions, therefore making attribution blurry for marketers. How will we know what messaging is working and what is not? How will we know which platforms are acquiring purchases?

There is a way to connect those dots on your own instead of looking at Facebook’s limited data and then comparing it to Google Analytics. We talk all about this in our recent post How to Measure Advertising in a Private World, so be sure to check that out!

5. Own Your Data

As a business, your greatest asset is your customer list, the relationships you build with those customers, and your ability to sell to them. Many ecommerce businesses go without really focusing on this asset.

We’re heading into a new era where you will need to be able to connect with your customer in unique ways without relying on data from other platforms. This means you need an effective CRM that will house the data most valuable to your business and allow you to market based on that information.

Klaviyo is one of the best tools for ecommerce businesses looking to do this. We strongly recommend integrating your ecommerce store with Klaviyo and organizing the data that flows from the store. Once that is in place, you can launch email and SMS marketing uniquely tailored for different customers’ needs and interests.

Ready to Become Platform Independent?

Moving from platform-reliant to being able to own your marketing destiny is a smart move for any business. It may seem like a challenge, but that is because most marketers have been lulled into this current state. The marketing muscles have gotten weak because they have been so focused on finding ways to make algorithms work for them instead of making their message the priority. Those who don’t evolve from this will see decline, but those who take the five steps discussed here will be able to rise above platform challenges and changes and thrive in any marketing landscape.


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