From Snapchat to TikTok, there have always been businesses who have tried to dethrone Facebook as the one true king of social media, and for better or for worse, Facebook still stands tall. Every time a new player starts trending up, even the media is quick to call it a Facebook killer, but Facebook has not just survived, it is actually thriving.
And this growth is being fuelled on both ends. Despite consistent claims that younger population is moving away from Facebook, both Facebook’s userbase and MAU doesn’t seem to be declining, so it is maintaining its position as a preferred destination for a bulk of the end users. At the same, Facebook continues to be the preferred mode of advertising for brands, with Facebook retaining its lead as the number one social media platform for driving conversions.
The growth becomes even more noteworthy given the sheer number of users who have been turning away from the platform in recent years. Some users do not use the platform because they don’t agree with the brand’s ideologies and methodologies, while other users (like me) don’t use it personally simply because they don’t see much value in it. Your twitter feed, much like mine, would constantly feature tweets from people who swear to have been off the platform for at least a few years now. And yet, Facebook shows no signs of slowing down.
In the wake of all this, I thought it would be prudent put aside my personal feelings and in general, negative connotations, and talk about Facebook ads. After all, many early stage startups consider it the best advertising channel to acquire customers, even ahead of Google Adwords.
Let us look at a few basic, yet extremely crucial, things you should keep in mind when you are creating a Facebook campaign, and how they will improve your conversion rates, getting you more customers for your marketing spend.
#1. Always remember, intent is the key
It doesn’t matter which topic we have talked about on this blog, we have always started with a little bit of planning ahead. Knowing what goals are we chasing and what business objectives they help us meet is crucial to executing our plans well. So, naturally we will start there.
You need to have a clear sense of what you want people to do when they come across your ad. What is the one action you want them to take. Are you simply looking to drive traffic (I would strongly advise against this), looking to grow your newsletter subscriber base, looking for free trial activations, or are you looking to drive conversions to cold hard cash?
Different kinds of conversion fit differently on the customers’ journey, as such the conversion rates you will see will differ, the motivation, urgency and reluctancy would differ, and the value of each conversion to your business would differ greatly as well. So it makes sense to have clear demarcation of your goals and have conversion events/categories set up for each unique conversion goal.
#2. Plan ahead. From start to finish.
Your ad delivery starts from the customer seeing your ad in their newsfeed (and other places such as stories etc.), and ends at the landing page they are directed to on clicking the ad. So, always think of them together. Your landing page is an extension of your ad and you campaign, so when you are thinking of ads, you have to think beyond just the creative, copy and targeting of the actual ad itself.
If you have come across articles and guides on conversion rates optimization in past, you may have noticed that there is quite some focus on having a great landing page. For good reason. Your landing page plays a significant role in improving the conversion of your ads. So, spend some time on getting it right.
Right from having well targeted content that is aligned with your ad’s audience selection, to keeping it free from distractions, to designing a userflow that guides them into taking a very specific action, and finally ensuring continuity from your ad to your landing page - it all plays a role in determining how good or bad your landing pages will ultimately perform.
We have talked about this before. You wouldn’t want your ad to be about Nike Airmax shoes, and yet the landing page to be about all the products you sell. It not only increases the chance of a bounce, it results in an extremely bad user experience.
Similarly, if your business has a mobile app, you would often be suggested to optimise your ad delivery for app installs and direct ad clicks to the app store. Personally, I would recommend against it. You should always direct the users to a landing page and make a compelling sales pitch there. Unless the user has heard of you before, you would find him reluctant to go for installing an app the first time. But, if your landing page is compelling enough, it can help you successfully drive app installs.
While theoretically, even your app store page is like a landing page (it has product images/screenshots, it lists down the benefits of the app, has descriptive information about the app, and even has social proof, it is targeted to a broader audience. On the other hand, your best performing ads would always be targeted, so to ensure better conversions, your landing pages need to be targeted as well (and in continuity with the message conveyed in the ad). This is why it is never a good idea to straightaway direct the user to your app store listing hoping to drive app installs. The ad -> landing page -> app store listing will always yield better results, both in terms of conversion rates as well as cost per install.
#3. What works for me, may not work for you.
Just because a brand is in the same space as you are, do not try to replicate their ad strategy. Learn from them, sure. But never blindly replicate them. If for no other reason, then for the simple reason of not replicating their mistakes.
Running well performing ads requires quite a fair bit of fine tuning, adjustments and tweaks, and just because a brand has been running a campaign doesn’t mean the campaign is performing well. So, instead of replicating someone else’s process, discover your own.
#4. Your consumers are different from each other. Recognise that difference. Appreciate it, respect it. But do it wisely.
While every customer of yours may be unique in their own way, it obviously doesn’t make sense to have a countless stream of ads to target the different audience types you have. That would be untenable, not to mention extremely expensive. Instead of trying to think of the individuality of customers, or clustering them up based on their defining attributes, focus on the behavioural aspects.
Take our product, for example. If we were to run Facebook ads, we would be trying to identify different kinds of consumers we can be reaching out to. So, we would look at it from the perspective of how our customer would be using our product. How a content creator would be deriving value from Benne Analytics would differ from the way a SaaS founder would be using it. And that helps us establish a baseline, as well as come up with the right messaging for the ads that these individual customer types would be exposed to.
It would be an ongoing process though. If our content creator ads are bringing in good volumes, then we know we are hitting the right market. At that stage, we would start dissecting it further to break this segment up in smaller pieces - with individualistic traits of their own. For example, how a content creator selling a swipe file or an ebook would be getting most value out of our product, would differ from how someone running a podcast will. Our ads will keep on getting more and more targeted to speak directly to the consumers, communicating a message that specifically speaks to them using ideas from their workflow.
#5. Take your time creating multiple ad formats, and options.
There are a lot of different variables at play when you are running an ad. The more segregated your ad execution is, the better are the odds of you discovering the perfect combo that works for an audience type.
It could be a x ad format, working on a y placement, for a z audience set. If you are using the same ad formats and ad designs across all placements and for all audience sets, you will never get to identify your best performing assets.
This segmentation is true everywhere, even in the choice of visuals and the ad copy. While it is always a good idea to have bold, eye-catching visuals with least text overlay as possible, backed by a crisp, concise and impactful ad copy, it is recommended to have a few different variations to test out. This will help you identify what messaging resonates the most with your target audience.
#6. Your ads generate invaluable data for your business.
I was watching a clip from some TV series yesterday. Fictional, sure, but there was an interesting example I came through. In the series, at some point, the CIA covertly aligned themselves with a group of doctors to administer vaccines in Afghan provinces. This helped them get blood samples, which led them to DNA, which ultimately helped them map out the terrorists in an impressive fashion. (Talk about playing the long game.)
When you are running paid ads, you are doing something similar. Most people believe ads are about results/conversions/revenue that they bring to your business. Actually, they are not. Ads are about the data your ads generate. The conversions are just a happy and welcome by-product.
When you are running an ad campaign, if you are analyzing the data, you are constantly improving your understanding of your ideal audience and how to communicate to them the best way possible. You are improving your understanding of the aspects of your product that matter the most to them, and the aspects they care little about. All of this becomes invaluable when you are setting up your future ads.
If the data from your current ads is not fuelling your decision making process for your future ads, then you would be making the same mistakes over and over again, keeping your conversion rates right where they have been (and in many cases, witness them tumbling over as well). But if you are surgically applying learnings from your ad performance data, you will continuously witness your conversion rates improving and your CPC declining.
#7. When it comes to audience selection, be ruthless.
If I have to prioritise factors that contribute to improving your ads, it would be in this exact order (most crucial at top):
Selecting the right audience
Having a targeted landing page (free of clutter, distractions and generalizations)
The actual ad
The beauty of online advertising is in its ability to target a select group of customers based on defined parameters. If you are not doing that, then you are missing the fundamental premise of advertising online.
We looked at how we can segment our audiences based on their behavioral traits in #4. Now, we need to figure out the right set of parameters that help us target those segments. This is the most complicated, and time consuming part of the process, but also the one that will generate exponential results.
Having ads targeted to specific customer types empowers you with the ability to speak to them in a manner that makes the most impact to them, and only them. So its imperative you do it well. You can use a bunch of different tools like Facebook ad planner and audience manager to get a better sense of the combination that helps you target your customer segments.
#8. Set up the right UTM parameters to analyze the data in your analytics dashboards.
Whether you are using Benne Analytics or Google Analytics, having the right set of UTM parameters in your landing page destinations will help you get an exact idea of how your ads are performing after they were clicked on at. Use a combination of setting up the right UTM parameters to setting up Goal measurements, and you will get an exact idea of the performance of your paid ads from your analytics dashboard in minutes.
Ads are expensive, and with time, as more and more brands compete for the same limited number of consumers out there, the ads will continue to become more and more expensive. It becomes crucial for any business, and especially imperative for an early stage business, bootstrapped business or an independent content creator, to ensure that their ads are optimised to bring the most value for the buck. Take the time out to plan it well, and put in the work needed to execute it well. Your business deserves it.
Running Facebook ads is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. If done well, it can be extremely rewarding, and despite how expensive ads have gotten, Facebook continues to be a much cheaper option to acquire extremely targeted customers. With these few simple checks you can make sure you are getting the most out of your ad campaigns, and if you have any questions, you know I’m always around for you.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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