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Thanks Facebook, but we’ll take it from here

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Laurence Cresswell, Paid Media Product Manager at Summit Media, challenges the notion that Facebook is the ‘one stop shop’ to success in paid social – based off the findings of the company’s recent ‘Voice of the Customer’ survey.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a Facebook rep recommend increasing budget in a dynamic product ad to improve performance, I wouldn’t have to work for a living.

I get it, their job is to get clients to spend more money on Facebook and increasing DPA spend is normally a good way of rinsing a few extra pennies out of customers at the bottom of the funnel. My fear comes when clients start taking the word according to Facebook as gospel.

A private meeting here, a tour of Facebook London there, and suddenly brands start to lose sight of the bigger picture – they start to believe the Facebook preachers when they say the only option for success is to spend more money on Facebook. 

It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of controversy about performance metrics on Facebook. Yet brands are happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds for a Facebook lift study.

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Since when did we allow students to mark their own homework? Top marks all round, Facebook take the win and your paid social manager gets a standing ovation as they enter the office. There is no denying the power of Facebook as a marketing tool, with great access to highly engaged audiences.

But as soon as a marketer trusts blindly the tool they are using, they themselves become the tool.

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Juddering to a halt

Even if a brand uses third-party measurement and attribution to get a clearer idea of the impact Facebook has on their business, they still run the risk of juddering to a halt at the mere suggestion of expanding beyond the Facebook ecosystem. The myth that “if a customer isn’t on Facebook, they’re on Instagram” is an easy win for marketers too lazy to think about how potential customers use social media. 

Summit’s recent Voice of the Customer Survey looked at social media users in the UK as they went through a purchase journey. 70% of participants regularly used Facebook, 67% used Instagram – but a Facebook user was more likely to use YouTube than Instagram, and an Instagram user was only 6% more likely to use Facebook than Snapchat or TikTok. Social media users aren’t betrothed to just one platform – in fact, on average they use 3.8 different platforms regularly. 

An Analytics Partners study is often quoted when discussing multichannel marketing, and for good reason. It highlights that the highest ROI comes from having a combined approach and that there is a need to move away from channel strategies back to marketing strategies.

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The same logic can be applied in the social ecosystem. If you use Facebook alone, you run the risk of only reaching 59% of users under the age of 34 (according to the Voice of the Customer Survey), and this missed opportunity can become even wider when brands consider their audience make-up.

The need to go beyond just Facebook is clear. Segmenting why a shopper might use each platform further reinforces the point.

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Facebook and Instagram were the social platforms 42% of customers used to complete a purchase but, 47% more participants used Pinterest to get inspiration before a purchase than Facebook, despite a much smaller regular userbase.  21% more participants used YouTube to research a product they were considering buying than Instagram – increasing to 48% when you look at Facebook vs. YouTube – and users who already had TikTok were just as likely to make a purchase from that platform as users with Instagram or Facebook were to purchase directly from them.

We as marketers have a duty to think beyond just one channel, but this is often easier said than done. Directly comparing social platforms is hard, and requires a deep understanding of how customers use social, but it is also unique to each retailer.

WHSmiths do not have the same social challenges as Game, yet they both sell Xboxes online. Facebook ‘wins’ any direct comparison if marketers focus on scale and use Facebook’s own measurement metrics. As soon as you take a step back, consider your audience and your business objectives, you can go beyond cobbling together a quick Facebook campaign because you saw a competitor’s ad, or setting every objective as sales because “revenue is all that matters”.

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While Facebook might drive the most social sales for a retailer, wider-encompassing metrics such as store visits, cost per new customer acquisition and share of voice are brilliant in holding Facebook to account against other social platforms. 

So why is Facebook still the first social port of call for many retailers? It often comes down to ease and scale. It is too easy to run a Facebook campaign, the platform is master of convenience – from the little boost button under a page post to Budget Optimiser, the ad platform has been made to cut time.

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There’s also no denying a large number of potential customers are on Facebook, so reaching an engaged audience on Facebook can sometimes feel like shooting fish in a barrel. But the easiest option is not always the best. 

As marketers trying to support our clients, we need to go back to putting the customer at the heart of planning. Budget fluidity should not be reliant on the contracts you have with certain platforms or the kickbacks you get. A fancy dinner should not be all it costs for you to look the other way as platforms like Facebook lie to your clients and you should never take an advertising platforms word on the performance of a campaign.

No more repeating last year’s plan, no more ad sets without audiences, and no more using Facebook just because it’s the easy option.

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Summit is hosting a webinar later this month titled ‘Are you too social distanced from your customers?’ Learn more here.

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Updates to Section 7 of the Developer Policies – Facebook Gaming Policies

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We have updated Section 7 of the Developer Policies effective immediately. No change is required from the developers’ end, only awareness about these changes.

As part of our continuous focus on improving developers’ experience, we have made some updates to the Section 7 of the Developer Policies which covers all Facebook Gaming Products, such as Web Games on Facebook.com, Instant Games and Cloud Games. As part of this update we have removed outdated policies, and streamlined the language and structure of Section 7 to better reflect the existing state of our Facebook Gaming Products. We have also reorganized some policies under the Quality Guidelines. These updates do not introduce any product change, nor do they include any new requirements for developers.

Please review the updated Section 7 to familiarize yourself with the updated content structure.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Creating Apps with App Use Cases

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With the goal of making Meta’s app creation process easier for developers to create and customize their apps, we are announcing the rollout of an updated process using App Use Cases instead of the former product-focused process. App Use Cases will enable developers to quickly create apps by selecting the use case that best represents their reason for creating an app.

Currently, the product-focused app creation process requires developers to select an app type and individually request permission to API endpoints. After listening to feedback from developers saying this process was, at times, confusing and difficult to navigate, we’re updating our approach that’s based on App Use Cases. With App Use Cases, user permissions and features will be bundled with each use case so developers can now confidently select the right data access for their needs. This change sets developers up for success to create their app and navigate app review, ensuring they only get the exact data access they need to accomplish their goals.

Starting today Facebook Login will be the first use case to become available to developers. This will be the first of many use cases that will be built into the app creation process that will roll out continually in 2023. For more information please reference our Facebook Login documentation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Understanding Authorization Tokens and Access for the WhatsApp Business Platform

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The WhatsApp Business Platform makes it easy to send WhatsApp messages to your customers and automate replies. Here, we’ll explore authentication using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta.

We’ll start with generating and using a temporary access token and then replace it with a permanent access token. This tutorial assumes you’re building a server-side application and won’t need additional steps to keep your WhatsApp application secrets securely stored.

Managing Access and Authorization Tokens

First, let’s review how to manage authorization tokens and safely access the API.

Prerequisites

Start by making sure you have a developer account on Meta for Developers. You’ll also need WhatsApp installed on a mobile device to send test messages to.

Creating an App

Before you can authenticate, you’ll need an application to authenticate you.

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Once you’re signed in, you see the Meta for Developers App Dashboard. Click Create App to get started.

Next, you’ll need to choose an app type. Choose Business.

After that, enter a display name for your application. If you have a business account to link to your app, select it. If not, don’t worry. The Meta for Developers platform creates a test business account you can use to experiment with the API. When done, click Create App.

Then, you’ll need to add products to your app. Scroll down until you see WhatsApp and click the Set up button:

Finally, choose an existing Meta Business Account or ask the platform to create a new one and click Continue:

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And with that, your app is created and ready to use. You’re automatically directed to the app’s dashboard.

Note that you have a temporary access token. For security reasons, the token expires in less than 24 hours. However, you can use it for now to test accessing the API. Later, we’ll cover how to generate a permanent access token that your server applications can use. Also, note your app’s phone number ID because you’ll need it soon.

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Click the dropdown under the To field, and then click Manage phone number list.

In the popup that appears, enter the phone number of a WhatsApp account to send test messages to.

Then, scroll further down the dashboard page and you’ll see an example curl call that looks similar to this:

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curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Note that the Meta for Developers platform inserts your app’s phone number ID and access token instead of the and placeholders shown above. If you have curl installed, paste the command into your terminal and run it. You should receive a “hello world” message in WhatsApp on your test device.

If you’d prefer, you can convert the curl request into an HTTP request in your programming language by simply creating a POST request that sets the Authorization and Content-Type headers as shown above, including the JSON payload in the request body.

Since this post is about authentication, let’s focus on that. Notice that you’ve included your app’s access token in the Authorization header. For any request to the API, you must set the Authorization header to Bearer .

Remember that you must use your token instead of the placeholder. Using bearer tokens will be familiar if you’ve worked with JWT or OAuth2 tokens before. If you’ve never seen one before, a bearer token is essentially a random secret string that you, as the bearer of the token, can present to an API to prove you’re allowed to access it.

Failure to include this header causes the API to return a 401 Unauthorized response code.

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Creating a Permanent Access Token

Knowing that you need to use a bearer token in the Authorization header of an HTTP request is helpful, but it’s not enough. The only access token you’ve seen so far is temporary. Chances are that you want your app to access the API for more than 24 hours, so you need to generate a longer-lasting access token.

Fortunately, the Meta for Developers platform makes this easy. All you need to do is add a System User to your business account to obtain an access token you can use to continue accessing the API. To create a system user, do the following:

  • Go to Business Settings.

  • Select the business account your app is associated with.
  • Below Users, click System Users.
  • Click Add.
  • Name the system user, choose Admin as the user role, and click Create System User.
  • Select the whatsapp_business_messaging permission.
  • Click Generate New Token.
  • Copy and save your token.

Your access token is a random string of letters and numbers. Now, try re-running the earlier request using the token you just created instead of the temporary one:

curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Your test device should receive a second hello message sent via the API.

Best Practices for Managing Access Tokens

It’s important to remember that you should never embed an App Access Token in a mobile or desktop application. These tokens are only for use in server-side applications that communicate with the API. Safeguard them the same way you would any other application secrets, like your database credentials, as anyone with your token has access to the API as your business.

If your application runs on a cloud services provider like AWS, Azure, GCP, or others, those platforms have tools to securely store app secrets. Alternatively there are freely-available secret stores like Vault or Conjur. While any of these options may work for you, it’s important to evaluate your options and choose what works best for your setup. At the very least, consider storing access tokens in environment variables and not in a database or a file where they’re easy to find during a data breach.

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Conclusion

In this post, you learned how to create a Meta for Developers app that leverages the WhatsApp Business Platform. You now know how the Cloud API’s bearer access tokens work, how to send an access token using an HTTP authorization header, and what happens if you send an invalid access token. You also understand the importance of keeping your access tokens safe since an access token allows an application to access a business’ WhatsApp messaging capabilities.

Why not try using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta if you’re considering building an app for your business to manage WhatsApp messaging? Now that you know how to obtain and use access tokens, you can use them to access any endpoint in the API.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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