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Do You Hate the New Instagram Update? You’re Not Alone

Why Has Instagram Made All of These Changes?

The short answer is: TikTok. Earlier this year, Meta (formally Facebook) announced that users are spending less time on its platforms and that they expect revenue growth to slow. This caused Meta’s stocks to drop 26%, resulting in a loss of  $232 billion. Meta chief, Mark Zuckerberg, said on the company’s call with investors in February, “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”


TikTok has done a great job engaging younger audiences with short-form videos and increasing their time spent on the app. This has been made possible with TikTok’s unique algorithm, which learns how each individual uses the platform and feeds them content accordingly. The more time you spend on the app, the more the app will understand which videos to show you. Cue the Instagram changes. At a high level, both platforms are serving video content to users based on their behaviors. So why is Instagram drawing backlash from users for taking a page from TikTok’s playbook? It’s all about the value proposition each offers for users. TikTok was designed as a video-centric platform, so recommending exclusively video content based on user behavior is consistent with what users expect from the platform. By contrast, Instagram started as a photo sharing platform allowing users to connect with friends and family through sharing images. By not just introducing video, but prioritizing video (including video from accounts users don’t follow) over photos from accounts users follow, Instagram’s changes undermine the value proposition for many of their users.

What Does This Mean for Paid Media?

While the changes to Instagram have been on the organic side of the platform, they could have a chilling effect on users that impacts paid advertising on the platform. If users decide to leave Instagram over the changes the platform is making, this could dramatically decrease the reach of advertisers. Additionally, if advertisers want to be effective on Instagram, they would need to modify their ad content to keep up with the changes Instagram is making. Video has proven to be a priority for Instagram, specifically videos made to fit into Reels, so advertisers would need to make ads tailored to Reels if they want to remain effective. Not only would videos need to be reformatted for a vertical  9:16 ratio but they would need to capture attention quickly which might mean using trending audio, a trending dance, or a trending challenge.


Lastly, if Instagram does in fact become more and more like TikTok, advertisers may need to shift their advertising strategy within Instagram. Users have been drawn to TikTok because they can sit on the app and scroll for hours while being entertained by video. While TikTok successfully launched ads in early 2019, the ads have shown to be great for brand awareness. A study by MediaScience® showed that TikTok ads drive strong brand recall and positive sentiment across various view durations. Brand awareness is great, but Instagram has done a  great job at driving direct conversions. If Instagram continues down this path to be similar to TikTok, ads on Instagram may not perform as well as they used to in the past in terms of CVR or ROAS. This is most likely because users are not as likely to click on an ad and make a purchase while they’re being entertained by videos, similar to YouTube, another platform great for awareness, but not as great for direct conversions.

What Should Advertisers Do?

Instagram is still an important platform to advertise on so advertisers must be prepared to adapt if they want their media dollars to be impactful on this channel. Instagram is a well-established, highly effective platform that reaches 1 billion users monthly, whereas TikTok reaches 689 million monthly users by comparison, and 72% of Instagram users cite that they have purchased a product they’ve seen on Instagram. Being able to leverage Instagram alongside TikTok is the key to success. This will help ensure a wide reach among advertisers’ target audiences and exposure on a platform with proven results.


To continue success on Instagram advertisers need to stay up to date with the changes that Instagram is making and the overall trends with social media channels. This is a great time to start creating videos specifically for Instagram Reels and testing them in Reels-only campaigns. While Instagram has delayed some of the rollouts they had planned due to the backlash, it isn’t likely that they will stop pushing Reels. Advertisers need to get ahead of the curve and shift their strategy to align with Instagram’s shifting strategy. It’s in the best interest of advertisers to align their social media ad content with Instagram’s ambition to push Reels as they try to stay competitive with TikTok. Pro Tip: most trends find their way on both platforms.
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What’s the Big Deal with Consumer Data Privacy?

Data has become the fuel that fires successful business strategy. From achieving a 360-degree view of your customer to drive a stronger customer experience to moving beyond measuring marketing program performance to predicting consumer behavior in response to marketing stimuli, a strong data strategy makes it possible. As powerful as the relationship between organizations and their data can be, this has become secondary to the relationship between consumers and their personal data.

 

In the last few years, concerns about consumer data privacy have dominated conversations about how data is collected and used by businesses. With Europe leading the United States in terms of the stringency of consumer data privacy legislation around the collection and use of consumer data, US-based companies, marketers, advertising partners, and data brokers have been watching from a relative distance as those serving global audiences have grappled with the impact of European data privacy laws and, in some cases, suffered from fines and even bans for missing the mark. 

 

For those serving the US market, Google’s 2020 announcement that they would phase out support for third party cookies signaled that broad reaching changes to consumer data privacy were coming stateside. Two years later, marketers and publishers have found ways to navigate a world where consumers have significantly more control over their data. With Google announcing that they will no longer collect data in Universal Analytics properties starting July 1, 2023—a move that will provide a more holistic view of the consumer journey while also adapting to new consumer data privacy legislation—many companies are scrambling to plan for that change to avoid potential data loss. With Google Analytics serving as the primary web analytics platform for an estimated 86% of websites, the impact is far-reaching.

 

So what should companies be doing, both in the near term and the long term, to set themselves up for success in an increasingly data privacy-focused world? We’ve got recommendations to help you make the right moves now to protect data integrity and continuity in the face of forced migration away from Universal Analytics and to evolve your data privacy strategy for the long run. But long-term success requires a big picture view of where the world is headed when it comes to consumer data privacy. That begins with understanding how we got here in the first place.

The Evolution of Consumer Data Privacy Legislation

In 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights put a legislative stake in the ground on privacy, stating that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” With the invention of the Internet and the proliferation of global technologies that completely changed what “correspondence” could look like, the European Union had to adapt and they implemented the European Data Protection Directive in 1995, which set minimum standards for consumer data privacy and security.

 

In 2012, the European Commission introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the primary aim of giving individuals control over their personal data and to simplify regulations within the EU. The GDPR became enforceable in 2018 and established a model for many national data privacy laws in countries such as Chile, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Argentina, and Kenya. As of today, the United States government has no single consumer data privacy law similar to the GDPR. Instead, the U.S. takes a ‘sectoral’ approach, which relies on a combination of legislation, regulation, and self-regulation rather than government regulation alone.

 

While the GDPR was taking shape in Europe, the state of California introduced the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This state statute enhances consumer data privacy rights and consumer protection for California residents. When the CCPA passed in 2018, many companies and industry groups came out in favor of passing a federal consumer data privacy law. Now, California has gone a step further, introducing the California Privacy Right Act (AKA CA Prop 24). The CPRA imposes new requirements for businesses to protect personal information, including minimizing data collection, limiting data retention and protecting data security.

Why is Data Privacy and Security Strategy Important to Google?

As companies serving European audiences have begun adapting to more stringent consumer data privacy regulations, the degree to which US-based data platforms comply with those regulations hasn’t been cut and dry, with contradictions in policy complicating the issue. For example, a 2020 judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield, a legal framework designed to allow enterprises in both the US and the EU to exchange personal data for commercial use. Because the US surveillance laws like the CLOUD Act require data disclosure from US-based companies when requested by the government, the EU-US Privacy Shield was ruled to provide inadequate protection to comply with GDPR requirements. This left a lot of companies and data platforms, Google being the largest, scrambling to address compliance gaps. That’s where GA4 comes in.

 

For the majority of US-based companies, migration to GA4, the fourth iteration of Google Analytics released by the company in 2020, is a likely part of the near-term strategy for complying with consumer data privacy legislation. Google released additional privacy controls in April of 2022 to further shore up the platform’s compliance with GDPR. Then they upped the ante for all companies using Google Analytics, whether they serve international audiences or not, by announcing that data collection via Universal Analytics, the predecessor to GA4, would stop July 1, 2023. While migration to GA4 or some other data platform is a pressing concern for most digital marketers and technology teams (and if you’re in that boat, we can help you with your GA4 migration), this is also an opportunity for both to come together to craft long-term, big-picture strategies focused on the very human emotion behind these technical shifts in data handling: the desire for trust.

What Does Consumer Data Privacy Mean for Your Data Strategy?

Experience defines how people feel about your brand and your business. Trust is built when brands and businesses consistently create experiences that deliver value to the people who interact with them while making them feel safe. Rather than focusing on the short-term proposition of choosing a new data platform, companies will be better served by focusing on long-term strategies for capturing, storing, and utilizing first-party data. Not only will this better equip marketers to navigate consumer data privacy regulations restricting third-party tracking capabilities, but it will create more valuable experiences for consumers, earning their trust and increasing the likelihood that they’ll willingly share their data based on the expectation of receiving value from that exchange. Here are some big-picture considerations for your long-term strategy for data privacy:

Prioritizing Data Ownership

Companies whose data privacy strategies prioritize data ownership will be better positioned to succeed as access to second- and third-party data becomes more limited. Customer databases and CRMs can be treasure troves of first-party data companies already have access to and can begin leveraging. Creating and gating high-value content or using other incentive-based strategies can be an effective way to convert zero-party data while offering consumers something of value. Investment in your data insights infrastructures is also critical for enabling a strategy for data privacy that also makes the most effective use of owned data to inform marketing strategy and drive performance..

Investing in Deep Knowledge of the Customer

Intimate knowledge of the customer has always been a foundational part of an effective marketing strategy. As shifts in the consumer data privacy landscape are leading the targeting capabilities available on third-party marketing platforms to become less precise, depth of knowledge of the customer will increasingly become a competitive advantage. The companies that know their customers best, from knowing and documenting their demographic and socioemotional characteristics in persona profiles to understanding how they verbalize their needs and pain points through search, to mapping their thoughts and behaviors throughout the customer journey, will be able to mitigate the impact that ongoing changes in the consumer data privacy landscape might have on their business.

Resisting Overreliance on Low-funnel Tactics

When it comes to marketing strategy in general and paid media strategy in particular, many companies are over-indexed in low-funnel investment. Given their proximity to the point of conversion, it’s easier for companies to draw a direct line from investment in these tactics to tangible returns. The truth is, that’s always been short lived in its effectiveness. Without investing in activity that feeds the funnel by introducing unaware audiences to your brand, the volume of those who make it to the bottom will dwindle over time. As new consumer data privacy regulations change the way success is defined and performance is measured, building the kinds of consumer relationships that drive long-term growth will take on renewed importance. Implementing full-funnel marketing strategies with content that attracts and engages customers throughout the customer journey rather than an overreliance on low-funnel paid media tactics will help companies maximize audience reach and create momentum throughout the funnel.

Moving Beyond a One-size-fits-all Customer Experience

According to a BCG and Google joint survey on consumer privacy and preferences, consumers are interested in the benefits that come from marketers’ ability to deliver a data-informed experience, like personalized content and increased content relevance. But consumer willingness to provide the data needed to create those benefits vary greatly by segment based on the kind of data being sought and consumers’ perceptions about how it will be used. Rewards programs, loyalty points, discounts, VIP programs, and content gating can help companies create the kind of value that consumers want to see in exchange for their data. But the research indicates that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t be effective. Companies that invest in understanding their audiences, segmenting them effectively, and creating segment-specific experiences will be better equipped to create value and inspire trust among their customers.

What Is Your Strategy for Data Privacy, Now and in the Future?

The kinds of monumental shifts we’re seeing driven by an evolving consumer data privacy regulation landscape present an opportunity for forward-thinking brands to advance businesses. While ensuring you have an effective, compliant data platform implemented in time to avoid data loss as Google sunsets Universal Analytics is a critical immediate move, this is a great time to explore your overall strategy for data privacy and measurement along the journey of your customers or users. And if you aren’t clear on the current or ideal journey to drive acquisition, engagement, and loyalty, now is the time to prioritize that discovery work. All to say, this is an opportunity not just to migrate today, but to position your company to advance and transform for tomorrow. If you’re looking for immediate GA4 migration support or you’re interested in transforming your CX to be more consumer-centric and first-party data-driven, contact us today.

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GA4 Implementation Strategies and Solutions: 5 Key Questions to Prepare You for Migration

Many companies rely on Google Analytics to support their data strategies. In fact, with an estimated 86% of websites using Google Analytics as their primary web analytics platform, Google is squarely the market leader in the web analytics space. The current version of Google Analytics (GA), officially called Universal Analytics (UA), was launched in 2012. Since then it has seen many updates and evolutions, but Google is officially deprecating the tool in 2023, and GA4 will be the only analytics platform available from Google. This is not just Google officially ending support for UA, but disabling data collection through the platform altogether, leaving any organization using UA without an active analytics platform. While Google Analytics is just one component of the data strategy framework (this article lays out broader data privacy considerations and insights relevant to data strategy), it’s a critical one. The deprecation of Universal Analytics will have tactical and strategic impacts for companies that rely on the platform and now is the time to ensure you have the support you need for a successful GA4 implementation.

 

The standard implementations of Universal Analytics will stop receiving new data on July 1, 2023 and the premium Google Analytics 360 implementations of UA will stop receiving new data on October 1, 2023. This may seem far in the future, but avoiding data gaps through this transition requires parallel implementation of GA4 alongside UA before data collection through the latter stops. Companies using Universal Analytics that delay their GA4 implementation could experience significant negative impact to their data strategy, such as the loss of YOY reporting during the time between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023 in which data was not being collected in GA4.

 

Beyond the need to ensure data continuity, migrating to GA4 can unlock some new features and capabilities not previously available in Universal Analytics. But because there are quite a few differences between the new and legacy platforms, the sooner brands familiarize themselves with GA4, the more prepared they’ll be to make the most of what it can do. If you’re preparing to make the move to GA4, here are answers to 5 big questions that will help you make a smooth transition and set your data strategy up for success.

1. GA4 vs. Universal Analytics: What’s the Difference?

GA4 is designed to reflect the changes in consumer behavior that have happened over the past decade. Consumers are using multiple devices constantly, and data collection methodologies need to allow for collection of data from multiple devices. Additionally, with ongoing changes to data privacy regulations, new approaches will be needed to define and measure success. Here are some of the advantages that GA4 offers when it comes to data collection and analysis:

New Features in GA4

Improved cross-device tracking

Universal Analytics was mostly constrained to using device ID to identify users, with user ID functionality limited to only a few reports. GA4 uses a combination of device ID, user ID, and Google signals to identify users across devices, allowing for more accurate digital analytics and customer journey analysis during an ever changing cross-device, cookie-less landscape.

Enhanced machine learning and automation

In response to the growing concerns around data privacy, GA4 will utilize enhanced machine learning and automation to help compensate for the absence of signals advertisers have historically relied on. Additionally, these enhancements will help advertisers predict future behavior of their consumers so that advertisers can better forecast metrics like purchase probability and predicted revenue. 

Advanced exploration reports

Another big difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is how reporting is done. UA has many standard reports, but lacks flexibility when it comes to customized reporting. GA4 has fewer standard reports, but the reporting suite has enabled much greater ability to build custom reports. For example, the current UA reports are limited to two dimensions (e.g. Page and Channel), but GA4 reporting allows for as many dimensions as needed. With the greater ability to add segments, dimensions, and metrics, users can perform deeper analysis, such as looking at conversion funnels or cohort analysis. These custom reports will also minimize the need for GA data export and the use of external data processing programs to run pivots or perform other analysis.

BigQuery export

Previously only available for 360 customers, BigQuery export functionality is available to all GA4 properties. This allows you to download and store raw GA4 data so you can join and enrich your GA data with other marketing/CRM/business data, report in your visualization tool of choice, and take advantage of many other advanced analysis opportunities.

2. What happens to the data I have collected through Universal Analytics

Once the deprecation happens, the data in Universal Analytics will become read only for at least six months. Google has not officially published an exact end date for data access at the time of this article’s writing. However, the data will be available to export into a database tool such as BigQuery. Creating a data backup is a recommended step as it will enable data harmonization with new data collected through GA4 as well as other data sources.

3. When is the Best Time for GA4 Migration?

The time to plan your GA4 implementation is now. GA4 is currently available and while more features are planned for the future, many are already available for use. Additionally, there are aspects to all GA4 implementations that were previously only available to users of Universal Analytics 360, Google’s premium analytics platform. Getting experience with these new features will help current users of the free UA platform explore the full range of possibilities of GA4.

 

That said, setting up GA4 is not as simple as flipping a switch. There is a learning curve to the implementation that will require an appropriate investment of time. Once the initial implementation is complete, QA will be required to see how data aligns with what is currently being gathered. The sooner your GA4 implementation is completed, the more time you’ll have for that QA. Once that QA is complete, any commonly used reports or data visualizations will need to be updated.

 

For a more granular view of the steps you need to take to successfully migrate, check out our GA4 Implementation Checklist below.

4. How Do I Prepare for GA4 Implementation?

From a broader perspective, this is an opportunity to evaluate what conversions are being tracked and whether they align with the current state of your business. A thorough audit of your current Google Analytics implementation, discussions with key stakeholders, and review of existing reports will enable a clean implementation of GA4 that will provide the exact data and insights needed. All of this work will take time, and the sooner implementation occurs, the longer the period of adjustment and refinement will be.

Whether you’re tackling GA4 implementation on your own or request support from Tallwave, there are a few key steps that will help you prepare for and execute a smooth transition to GA4:

  • Audit Your Current Google Analytics Implementation: Conducting a thorough assessment of your existing Google Analytics implementation and Google Tag Manager configurations will help you prepare a mapping strategy to transition your existing UA tags to an improved GA4 setup.
  • Build Your Tracking Implementation: Creating a comprehensive implementation guide that documents in detail the UA-to-GA4 mapping strategy and key configurations for GA4 will help ensure that your new GA4 property is configured properly, including setting up key property settings (Google Ads linking, Google Signals enablement, attribution settings, etc), Google Tag Manager configuration, and event and conversion tracking.
  • Conduct a Thorough QA: Carefully validating your new GA4 implementation against your existing UA implementation will allow you to quickly identify and resolve any major discrepancies and uncover any unanticipated differences based on GA4’s revised event-based data model.

Need GA4 Solutions? Tallwave Has Answers

While change is never easy, it is in this case necessary. The good news is that there’s still time to take the necessary steps to make this a smooth transition. Use this time to reflect on what data you need to make the best decisions for the success of your digital marketing. GA4 has many features ready and in the pipeline that will provide much deeper insights and understanding of what is driving success. With proper planning (and the right partner) this can be a net positive change. If you need support for your GA4 implementation, contact us today.

Want the GA4 Implementation Checklist? Download our full insights.

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