Facebook: 1.15 billion people log in using at least two devices or browsers every 3 months
Facebook is finally putting a number on how many people use multiple devices and browsers to demonstrate the cookie’s inability to measure those movements.
Facebook has finally put a number on how many people are flitting around from different devices and browsers in an effort to demonstrate how futile the web’s tracking mechanism of choice, the cookie, is at connecting those dots.
Facebook has found that 1.15 billion people around the world have logged in to Facebook using at least two different devices or browsers over a 90-day period.
Facebook wants to make a big deal about this stat because it thinks it will make marketers take the cookie problem more seriously. Maybe marketers fully understand that a cookie can’t follow people from one device or one browser to another and are therefore incapable of recognizing that someone who saw an ad on their smartphone is actually the same person who bought the advertised product on their desktop.
Maybe marketers are well aware that Facebook is trying to replace the cookie with the Facebook login as the dominant digital ad tracking and measurement mechanism, which is why it bought Microsoft’s Atlas ad server and opened up its own ad network. Facebook has been very loud about all of this. But Facebook thinks numbers speak louder, perhaps loudly enough to get those advertisers to use Atlas to measure their ads.
“The challenge we’ve found is getting clients to sit there and embrace [Atlas as a measurement tool]. They always ask questions like ‘How does this work? How big is it?’ We’re operating from a place where conceptually everyone understands that cross-environment matters, but there hasn’t been any data to back that up,” said Facebook’s head of Atlas, Erik Johnson.
Any stat with the word “billion” attached is significant by definition. But it’s kinda weird that Facebook went with a stat that spans 90 days. This is the same company that gets 1.09 billion people to log in to its social network using at least one device every day. This is the same company that gets 614 million people to log in using at least one desktop computer and one mobile device every month. This is the same company that gets 1.10 billion people to log in every month from the US, Canada and Europe — markets where people are more likely to have regular access to multiple environments, even if they’re only a browser on their home computer and a different browser on their work/school/library computer. And this is the same company that has prodded advertisers about how many people were switching between different devices over the course of a single day. Two years ago, it even paid a market research agency to look into that behavior and got a lot of attention when the study revealed that more than 60 percent of adults in the US who use the internet use at least two devices every day.
So what’s up with the three-month window?
Facebook decided to go with a three-month period because it wanted to pick the longest period of time Atlas’s system can serve and measure impressions so that marketers can get a comprehensive look at the volume of cross-device and cross-browser logins, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
Put another way: Facebook wanted the biggest number. There’s a “wow” factor with any figure that stretches to 10 digits. But when it stretches over three months, it may not pack as much of a punch as a nine-digit figure that covers one month. A tighter window might do a better job of emphasizing the regularity with which people are switching across different devices or browsers. It would assert more of an established behavior and be less prone to inconsistent exceptions. On the other hand, the bigger window highlights Facebook’s ability to cover those exceptions.
“We’re trying to cast the widest net possible because we’re trying to capture everything,” said Johnson.
Maybe someone has a smartphone and a laptop that they use every day, but maybe they also have a tablet that they use once every few months — if only to justify the fact that they bought it because tablets were supposed to be the next big thing. A marketer wouldn’t want to miss out on that once-a-quarter activity because maybe that was when that person saw the ad that first turned them on to a specific car model they bought a few months later. Same thing if someone’s randomly using a friend’s computer to check Facebook and browse the web because they don’t have their own computer handy, their phone’s dead and they need it.
“I’ve had plenty of pushback prior to this statistic where people have said, ‘The total number doesn’t matter. I need to know for a fact that you’re capturing those people across the different devices.’ That’s what they care about,” said Johnson.
The billion-big total number and the coverage it represents isn’t the only stat Facebook wants to use to “hey girl” any advertisers who may not be taking the cookie problem that seriously.
Facebook paid research firm Forrester to survey marketing and advertising employees in the US and the UK about the cross-device and cross-browser issue. Of those 252 people who responded to the online survey — roughly a third of whom were already using some tool to connect ads across multiple devices — 84 percent said, “Yeah, having a cross-device strategy is important.” But 54 percent said they’re not confident that they’re able to show the right ad on the right device, and 61 percent said they’re not confident that they can measure when someone saw an ad on one device, then converted on another. In other words, the Facebook-commissioned survey backed up Facebook’s claim that tracking and measuring people across devices is important to advertisers, but being able to do so isn’t considered that viable right now.
Coincidentally, Facebook is announcing the cross-device/cross-browser stat and cross-device survey in tandem with some case studies of advertisers that were able to measure cross-device conversions because they used Facebook’s Atlas measurement tool. Okay, not a coincidence. Facebook wants advertisers to use its measurement tool to track the performance of their ads — which could convince brands to buy more of those ads through Facebook, not someone else who could offer similar measurement like Google or Verizon/AOL — and now it has more evidence to press its case.
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