What is the Facebook pixel?

And why your website needs one

The Facebook pixel is a snippet of code added to your website which tracks users as they interact with your website.

Why would you want to do this?

So you can advertise to them in the future (and track how they respond to your ads). 

But you’re an adventurer. You don’t want to advertise. You want to share your inspiration! 

You’re not here to spend your own money. You don’t have any money to spare. You’re here to learn how to access other people’s money. 

Not so fast…..

A product to sell does you no good if your target market doesn’t know it exists

in the future you will have something to sell

It may be obvious product

  • A book 
  • A film 

It may be less obvious

  • You are directing people to your crowdfunder
  • You are telling people about your email list   [See our post on Why you Need an Email List]

Either way, a ‘product’ does you no good if your target market doesn’t know it exists. 

How do you let people know about your product?

Organic reach

  •  You promote it on your website. (Which is one of 1.24 billion websites in the world, as of August 2017.)
  • You promote it on your social media feeds. (Let’s just take Facebook - there are now 293,000 status updates posted per minute , and the decline of organic reach, thanks to the changing algorithm,  means as few as 2% of  your Page fans may get to see your post.)  
  • You let your email list know.

And…… now what?

There is a limit to how often you can badger friends, family and die-hard fans to buy. Eventually they will discreetly mute you on social media and you won’t even know that you’ve lost them. 

to amplify your reach, you will need to advertise

At this moment in history, Facebook is an astonishing advertising platform for solopreneurs - that is anyone with a niche offering to a small audience and not much money to spare.

Facebook lets you run ad campaigns for small budgets to highly targeted groups of people, and then track your results in great detail. (Although it’s also fair to say that it can be confusing and overwhelming to use.)

However, before you start throwing money at advertising, you need to understand what kind of targeting Facebook will allow you to do. 

If you want to know how Facebook thinks of you as an advertising target go to your Facebook ads preferences page. Here you can see what information you are allowing Facebook to harvest about you (you can change your settings for added privacy) and how they categorise you.

Facebook does now provide a simple explanation of “why you see the ads you see.

However, Facebook does not share all the details of their data collection or their ad targeting algorithms. This Washington Post piece teased out 98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you. (If you are in the USA. Elsewhere in the world less data is available on Facebook for ad targeting.) 


This detailed data collection and targeting benefits you as an advertiser 

If you create a Facebook ad, you can define the audience by

  • Age-group (minimum age 13)
  • Location (living there and/or travelling through, visited recently)
  • Sex
  • Demographics (education level, relationship status, job title, life events, etc)
  • Broad interest groups
  • Behaviours (from what phone they use to what their travel patterns are)
  • Various Facebook-defined subcategories (There are more subcategories for US users.)

So as an adventurer, you could target your book advert at:
women, 18-30, in UK and Ireland, who have expressed an interest in adventure and outdoor activities

However, this kind of niching isn’t as helpful for an adventure offering. If you are selling baby products, then being able to target women with children under two within 20 miles of your store could be very helpful. But adventure is more amorphous. 

And what you mean by adventure may be rather different from the broad term as defined by Facebook. 

What you CAN’T do is try to appropriate someone else’s audience. 

You can’t target all the people who have liked the Say Yes More Facebook Page. Or all the members of the Women Adventurers Facebook group.  

you can start to build data about your own audience

That is not just the people who have liked your Facebook page. Or who have signed up to your email list (you can upload your email list to Facebook). 

It can include every logged-in Facebook user who has ever visited your website. Tracked thanks to the Facebook pixel. 

This is your ‘warm’ audience.

It is not a cold pitch to people who have never heard of you. 

It is not yet another pitch to your family and friends. 

It is a pitch to people who have interacted with you in the past. They are good candidates for a reminder of who you are, and the news that you now have a product on offer - your book, your film, your crowdfunder. 

How can you know if a website has the Facebook pixel installed?

Download the Facebook Pixel Helper extension for Chrome, and watch it light up on websites with the Facebook pixel. It is also useful for checking that the pixel on your website is working properly. 

How do you install the Facebook pixel?

Go into Ads Manager. (If you have ever boosted a post or run an ad, you have a Facebook advertising account connected to your regular profile. To open one look for Create > Ad at the bottom of the left-hand column on Facebook on desktop, or find it under the blocks of dots icon at bottom right on Facebook on mobile.)

Click on Adverts Manger (top left) and find Pixels under the  Measure & Report column. 

You can create one pixel per ad account, but you can use the pixel on more than one website (Facebook tracks each URL separately).  

Generate and install your pixel as per the detailed website provider instructions. It is very easy to do. No coding skills required. 

To check your pixel status, go to Facebook Ads Manager and select Pixels. If the status is Active, your pixel has been installed correctly. It may take up to 20 minutes for your pixel status to change.

What will the Facebook pixel do for you?

From the moment the pixel starts working, Facebook is keeping a record of all your website trackable visitors. 

At the simplest level, you can do two things with this ever-growing list. 

1. You can serve up ads to these people on Facebook and/or Instagram.
(Note that you can’t target one or a few individuals within this group. You can customise at the level of time periods, for example people who visited you website in the last 180 days, but not in the last 30. Or people who visited a particular page of your website.)

2. Facebook can create a ‘look-alike audience’ which matches the characteristics of your website visitors. 
This gives you a highly customised cold audience that you can now pitch with your product. (You first need to build up enough of these visitors to provide a meaningful data set.)

You can also do a whole lot of more sophisticated things. The pixel will allow you to track the behaviours that result from your ad campaigns. It will allow you to re-target - such as offer your book again to the buyer who put it in the sales cart, but didn’t complete the purchase. But that’s a subject for another blog post. 

The bottom line

You may never use the data Facebook is collecting on your behalf. Advertising may not be your thing. But you can’t recreate this data. 

You cannot publish your book and then decide you want Facebook to figure out who visited your website in the last six months so you can target them with ads. 

You should install the Facebook pixel and start collecting this data today, so that you have options in the future. 

Useful articles with more information on the Pixel 

Bear in mind the date the article was published. Facebooks changes things up frequently.