I joke that when I find a cool new tool, it is my hammer – and everything is a nail. Cliche – yes. But, that’s how I’m feeling about Facebook offline conversions these days.

With Facebook advertising, better signals = better optimization = more business impact for your money. For businesses that do not transact online, optimization is best achieved by helping Facebook identify what people engaged in your most valuable business actions while “offline”.

For example, in the automobile industry, high value business actions are buying a car, or getting a vehicle serviced, while visiting a dealership. Until automotive digital retailing matures (I’m not holding my breath) – completing a car purchase transaction still requires physically visiting a dealership.

People-based marketing makes it possible

Facebook’s people-based marketing makes offline conversion attribution not only possible, but relatively straight forward. You must be logged in to your account to use Facebook. Given the personal nature of the service, you won’t have more than one Facebook account, and you won’t allow others to use your account (the results could be “socially tragic”) – like when a parent lets a child watch YouTube videos from their mobile phone. Facebook always knows who you are when you are using their service, without probabilistic guessing, on all devices, from any network.

If I can provide contact information for my customers in an offline event set, with certainty Facebook knows what ads they showed to my customers if matched to a Facebook account, and they can report if those ads were served to people that engaged in related valuable offline business actions. This should be possible with all social platforms that allow advertising, but Facebook is the only social platform actually making it happen.

Contrast Facebook’s people-based tracking with that of platforms that present ads to users that are not ubiquitously authenticated (logged in) to a single service. The more an ad platform leans upon cookie-based tracking, the more they must lean upon “modeled conversions” (i.e., probabilistic guessing). Facebook claims such “cookie-based reporting distorts campaign results and wastes ad dollars” – including:

  • Inaccurate results: 58% overstatement of reach.
  • Media waste: 135% understatement of frequency.
  • Offtarget delivery: 51% accuracy for broad age and gender targeting.
  • Over-respresentation: 3 unique cookies per person.

Getting offline activity into Facebook

So how do we let Facebook know about the people that engaged in your most valuable business actions offline? By creating an offline event set (turn on auto-tracking if you want all ads in your Facebook account to be tracked relative to related offline events), and populating it with offline event data. You’ll want to give people or partners warranted permission to interact with your offline event set via your business manager account.

Next – start populating your offline event set with data. You can upload offline event data manually. Alternatively, you can use the offline conversions API, or a partner integration. Note you can use any or all of these options at any time to push event data into a given offline event set. And, when you upload offline event data, a deduplication process detects and skips duplicates of events you already uploaded and matched in the last seven days. Be sure to upload events within 62 days of the related offline action.

Zapier Facebook Offline Conversions Integrations allow for a robust, secure, flexible and cost effective means of sending offline events into a Facebook offline event set.

Zapier uses the Facebook Marketing API to send offline event set data. Per Facebook offline conversions developer documentation​, Zapier is required to hash data before sending it to Facebook (“Only SHA256 is supported and we do not accept unhashed data”). As such, Facebook does not receive personally identifiable information, but rather hashed data.

The alternative to using a data intermediary like Zapier to send offline events to ​Facebook​ is to send directly to the ​Facebook Marketing API from your systems. To do so you would need to ​develop and get approved a Facebook app​, in addition to developing a script solution to send the data ​directly to the ​Facebook Marketing API, which is a time & resource intensive endeavor.

Facebook server-side API is different

You can also use the server-side API to get data offline activity into Facebook, but these events are associated with a Facebook pixel and are processed like pixel events. As such, server-side events are integrated into Facebook measurement, reporting, and optimization in the same way as browser pixel events. These events should be related to a seven day conversion window at most, and should be sent within one hour of related offline action occurring. This option is not ubiquitously available to Facebook advertisers.

Putting offline events sets to work in Facebook

  1. Attribution reporting with Facebook offline event sets.
  2. Can I use Facebook offline event sets as conversion objectives?
  3. Creating custom audiences with Facebook offline event sets.
Facebook offline conversions and event sets