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Cookies Are Expiring, But One-to-One Experiences Don’t Have To

Apr 13, 2022 | Audience Intelligence, B2C, Social Audience Retargeting

Originally posted on Street Fight


Marketers are at a crossroads. On one side, customers expect optimized, 1:1 experiences. On the other side? A steep and expanding set of data privacy regulations that makes personalization challenging.

And if that isn’t enough of a headache, the foundation of web personalization for more than a decade, third-party cookies, are going away. Google has gone public about their demise, and the industry is investing massively in alternative solutions. 

Marketers are shifting to cookieless identity graphs

Cookieless data is not novel and can come from a variety of sources such as first- and third-party purchase data, approved geo-location sharing, and opt-in panels, but with the expiration of third-party cookies in the not too distant future, marketers are looking to additional data sources to better understand their audience’s behaviors, motivations, and sentiments. 

Likewise, the industry is shifting its foundation to cookieless identity graphs (or ID graphs) as well as data sets that are connected by first-party data or personal identifiable information (PII). Leading martech companies such as The Trade Desk and Liveramp are pushing the industry forward with solutions such as UID 2.0 and RampID

One cookieless data solution also seeing rapid growth is social audience data. This type of identity graph stitches together information gathered from the public web via social profiles, analyzing self-declared sentiments from across these channels that can then be tied back to identity graphs, to be used in measurement, research, and personalization. 

How third-party cookies and social audience insights differ

Social data, or social audience insights, make a cookieless world a lot less ominous by providing a more transparent way for marketers to connect with their audiences. Here are three key differences between third-party cookies and social audience insights.

Difference #1: tracking web browsing vs. publicly declared insights

While privacy considerations are the primary reason third party cookies are being phased out, from a marketing perspective the insights gleaned can be questionable and hard to qualify. 

The tracking that third-party cookies allow for is somewhat useful but flawed and relies on anonymous Universal IDs. Alternatively, social audience insights are a compilation of a user’s public behavioral activity and online relationships across their social channels. They’re a declaration of who a person is — their interests, passions, media preferences, and more. Any social profiles marked private are completely off limits.

Difference #2: Broadcast advertising vs. personalized messaging

Arguably the biggest use case for third-party cookies is programmatic advertising. But the novelty of targeted ads wore off long ago. Ad retargeting based on cookies will still exist, but at a smaller scale, relying on first-party cookies (e.g. through website logins) versus anonymous third-party cookies.

With the expiration of third-party cookies, social audience insights offer a lifeline to targeted advertising allowing you to target based on self-declared interests — your audiences’ favorite TV shows, movies, music, podcasts, YouTube channels, and so on. This allows for more resonant messaging.

Difference #3: Siloed vs. integrated audience insights

The tech giants largely control third-party cookie data and what to do with it. So, while marketers benefit by having their targeted ads reach their intended audience, there are no real tangible insights to help drive strategy. 

Social audience insights differ because marketers have access to the insights and can integrate them with their own customer data to understand who their customers are and how they can create stronger connections.

Restoring the faith in marketing data

Phasing out third-party cookies is the right thing to do and will force marketers to make smarter choices around data sources. The low-hanging fruit (third-party cookies, single channel social listening, etc.) won’t cut it anymore. The future of marketing will have an emphasis on respect for customer data and privacy, which is a good thing for both marketers and consumers.  

It’s time to put the person back into personalization and truly understand the individuals you’re trying to reach behind the screen. 

Michael Hussey is the founder and head of product at StatSocial.

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