ON August 22, 2020

Is Facebook Using Your Website to Profit from Helping Your Competitors?!

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You're Suspect Facebook!

As a technology consultant, I try to pay attention to things that happen to me on a daily basis which may help my clients.

For a while, I've had a suspicion that Facebook was using some of my client's trust in an unacceptable way.

I had this feeling that Facebook was using my client's websites as a mechanism for categorizing visitors and subsequently using that information gained directly on my client's websites in order to advertise to their competitors.

Clients Using Facebook Tracking Pixel

My clients often use Facebook's tracking "Pixel" on their website so that visitors can be "re-marketed" to in the visitor's Facebook feed.

Simply stated, a Facebook user visits a business's website. When that visitor later goes to check their Facebook feed, due to tracking, the business can pay Facebook to remind the visitor on Facebook's platform about what the business can do for the person.

What I've noticed at times, however, was that I personally would visit a business's website and when I later went to my own Facebook app, I would start seeing ads for that business's competitors.

I never really paid close enough attention to make sure that maybe I didn't do something within Facebook before, during or after visiting that business's website that would extraneously give Facebook the knowledge that I was looking for a particular product.

A Specific Example of Facebook's Potential Traffic Jacking

But today, I had a very concrete example that makes me fairly certain that Facebook is using your business' website traffic to allow your competitors to gain access to your valuable potential customers!

It all starts with the situation that I can't currently get a decently priced steak from Amazon Fresh Food delivery. For some reason, they are charging around $30/lb for a good Ribeye Steak, which is absolutely INSANE!

Take a look at these insane Prices!

Amazon's Insane Steak Prices

Granted, I can get decently priced steaks at my local grocery store ($9/lb), but we are in the time of COVID and I don't want to go to the store.

Today, I happened to come across a pamphlet that came with some frozen steaks we were sent as a Christmas present. I had tucked it away in a drawer and just saw it.

Omaha Steaks Advertising Pamphlet

Wanting to see what their prices were like these days, I popped open a browser and went DIRECTLY to their website: www.OmahaSteaks.com

About five minutes into searching for Ribeye steaks ONLY on their website, my phone dinged with a message that someone had tagged me in a post on Facebook.

So I opened up Facebook to view the post. And right along with that post I saw this ad for a competing product.

Facebook feed advertisement of competitor's product.

It should be noted that I have not searched for or discussed steaks anywhere for over a few weeks. I have not seen any steak-type ads in my feed ever before.

So I am fairly certain that Facebook used it knowledge and access from me directly visiting one company's website to classify me as a person looking to purchase steaks and therefore ultimately offer me up as fresh advertising "meat" to the competitors of the site I visited.

Selling Your Customers to Your Competitors

If I'm correct in my analysis, what I find wrong with this situation is that it is quite expensive for a company to acquire traffic to its own website. It usually takes a lot of marketing in various forms to get visitors to your website. This task is expensive. Therefore there is a lot of value to acquiring this potential customer directly on your website. And that value, in my opinion, is owned by the company.

Realize I'm not discussing a situation Facebook is using any of their own direct assets to classify the customer. If I had posted on Facebook that I like steak, then I find it perfectly congruent for Facebook to sell advertising space to steak companies targeting me. In that situation, I used Facebook's direct asset to classify me.

The instance I'm discussing is Facebook using its access to a company's website to gain knowledge about a person and then ultimately using that knowledge to sell ads to the company's competitor. The company embedded Facebook's tracking code on its own website with the hopes of being able to later follow up with more advertising to that customer. Facebook makes money off of that company for those ads. It's a fair exchange.

But for Facebook to go and double-dip on that customer's information and sell ads to the company's competitor just seems very wrong to me.

Ramifications

I'm still processing the ramifications of this information, but one thing I do know is that I have a client that has paused his Facebook ads, so I am definitely going to need to remove the Pixel code from his website as I'm fairly certain its just hurting him by allowing his competitors to gain an advantage through Facebook.

Conclusion

In this article, I discussed a direct experience that I believe indicates that Facebook could be using its access to your company's highly valuable customers in order to increase their own profits by selling ad space where your competitors can target your customers.

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