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Facebook Ads get smarter: Embrace change and get more for your money

One of the biggest reasons people struggle with Facebook Ads is that the platform is constantly changing. After building hundreds of campaigns over the past few years, I’ve seen many frequent changes to Facebook Ads Manager, and agree that if you learned the system a year or more ago, if you login today it might feel like a totally different thing!

Some of the changes are cosmetic, and others are new features – combined, they can make you feel more confused than ever. But overall, the changes are improvements as Facebook integrated the what was once known as Power Editor, into Ads Manager which is the place we go to build our campaigns today.

Facebook Business Manager

So what on earth is Facebook Business Manager, and is it the same thing? Yes and no. You can still use Ads Manager without setting up FBM, but setting up FBM gives you the power and flexibility you need to grow your business. Think of FBM as a independent portal that you can control (and share) all of your business assets (including your Facebook page and Instagram account) with other people (staff, agencies and experts like me) using their business email address and not their personal Facebook account. You still need to verify your identity with a personal account, but it doesn’t require you to be Facebook friends with the people you choose to work with.

Setting up FBM takes only about 5 minutes and opens up a whole new world of features. You’ll need to create a new business Ad Account (different to your personal Ad Account if you use one of those) and that means starting fresh with your Campaigns, Audiences and Facebook Pixel. Do all this before you start using Ads Manager so you don’t need to do it later and not have access to all your precious data.

Using FBM with a Business Ad Account gives your more features which at the end of the day help you to get more targeted, and thats what you want. You can generate custom audience segments based on your own data and behaviour of your audience. By using the Facebook Pixel on your website we can start to understand not just how many people are going onto your site, but what they do when they get there. Do they sign up for more info? Do they buy something? Or do they just get lost and never return? Understanding those kind of interactions is vital to help you succeed at Facebook advertising.

How Facebook is getting Smarter

All the time we spend online is generating a staggering amount of data, and it’s growing. I’m told that 90% of all data generated since the beginning of time has been captured in the last 18 months, and that Facebook has collected over 1,000,000 data points on every one of its users.

Facebook is so much more than just a website we use on our computers, they also own the top 4 mobile apps in the market: Facebook App, Instagram, Facebook Messenger App and a few other things including the number one messaging app in Europe, WhatsApp. So, pretty much everyone is on Facebook, even those who think they are not are probably feeding Facebook’s data pool right now.

If you are worried that Facebook is spying on you, you might be right, except that you probably gave them your permission already without even realising. The machine is learning, it knows what we like, what we write, what catches our eye and even what we say in private messages. With the rise of Smart Home devices and dominance of Smart Phones, it’s possible it even analyses what we talk about, that the App is listening and learning from what we say, the tone of our voice, what get’s us excited and what gets us upset.

Keep calm! Before you throw your phone on the floor and smash it, take a deep breath and remember that as individuals we are not that interesting. Your data is encrypted and even Facebook employees can’t pull up the records of a single person.

The value of all this data isn’t to spy on individuals, it’s when you look at this data across large groups of people that you see patterns and trends emerge, and that is valuable – not just in terms of improving your online experience and delivering more relevant content to you, but as a business owner it helps you more effectively target new customers.

Unlike Apple who make money by selling us their hardware, Facebook is a data company, who make money from the information they have collected. One of the biggest things Facebook has to tell small businesses owners like yourself is that you are not taking full advantage of the data that is already there to target your audience. They want to to use their special tools, and for it to be successful for you, and this comes at a cost.

Smart Audience Targeting

Before you start building your Facebook Ads campaign, I would encourage you research and setup your Audiences within FBM. You can build your Audience on-the-fly in Ads Manager, but if you take the time to do this before you build your campaign, you’ll find the whole process a lot quicker and less daunting. It will also give you a stack of segments to play with and test out, so you can work out which ones are going to get you the best acquisitions at the lowest price.

A good Facebook Campaign is structured like a Sales Funnel, so setup your Audiences with consideration for the following segments:

1. Prospecting – the largest audience where we look for New Leads for their first touch. You could target by Demographic, Behaviour or Interest, people who like similar pages to your own, or Lookalikes (people who share the same qualities as your customers, but are not them). At this stage we just want to get their attention.

2. Retargeting – this is the middle sized audience, and where we warm up our New Leads by educating them and trying to turn them into customers. Retargeting is where we show repeated and varied messages to people who have engaged with you before, they could be website visitors, Facebook or Instagram engagers, or people who have watched your Facebook Videos or expressed interest in one of your Facebook Events.

3. Conversions – the smallest group, these are the people who have purchased from you. You can create this segment by uploading your customer email list to Facebook Audiences, or by tracking website activity with the Pixel (did they visit the Transaction Success page, for example). There are a few uses for this audience depending on your business. Some businesses might offer a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, and others might need to target their customers to subscribe or buy again. You would also talk to your existing customers in a different way to your potential new customers. As such, you might also want to use this segment to filter out your existing customers from any Prospecting or Retargeting messages you are putting out there. Don’t forget that your active customers can also become your best ambassadors.

Structure of a Campaign in Ads Manager

Every campaign has 3 levels within Facebook Ads Manager:

1. Campaign – this is where you set your objective and as such will influence the format of the ad you run. You might be seeking engagement, page likes, views of your video, clicks through to your website, or conversions (actual sales, requires the pixel to measure). Remember the Sales Funnel and how you are going to feed your retargeting (warm up those leads).

2. Ad Set – contains your target audience, budget, timing, placements etc.

3. Ad – this is where the ad itself goes, your message or offering eg picture or video, text, title and link. Don’t forget a strong call-to-action if you want those warm leads to turn into customers – tell them what they need to do next, and what you will do for them as a result.

In its simplest form, your campaign could be one Ad (message), under one Ad Set (targeting), under one Campaign (objective). However, the real power of Facebook Ads Manager comes in the ability to nest multiple Ad Sets and even more Ads under the one Campaign.

You still have one objective, but you can try different targeting options, and run multiple sets of creative and Facebook will automatically optimise these to favour the best performing targets and creative, over time. Trust the machine, because it’s super smart with all that data, and Facebook wants to deliver you the best results for your money.

Facebook recently added Budget Optimisation at the Campaign level, so instead of setting a budget for every Ad Set, you can now set one amount for the entire Campaign and Facebook will distribute the money to the best performing ads.

Facebook also added Interest Expansion at the Ad Set level, so instead of doing all the hard work of researching the interest/demographic/behaviour groups for your specific audience, you can just include a couple of the most important, and by turning on Interest Expansion, you tell the machine to go after people who may not necessarily be in this group, but could improve your results. This feature isn’t available with all ad formats, and it works best with a conversion campaign linked to a pixel because Facebook now understands who are those valuable, online shoppers amongst us! It’s worth testing, because it may also not work for you, depending on what your product or offering is.

I would would usually run a test campaign for one week before making any judgements on its success, feel free to check in on it sooner that this, but don’t make any judgements right away as you haven’t given Facebook enough time to do its thing. So don’t think just because one Ad Set or Ad worked best after 24 hours, that this will be the end result. You need to wait at least 3 days, even up to 5 or 7, if you can afford to keep your ads running that long.

I see a lot of training coming out of the USA where they talk about $5/day per Ad Set as a suitable budget for the testing phase. That’s probably fine in the States, but $5 doesn’t go very far in Australia, you’ll get there, but it will take you longer. So I’d recommend starting with $10 or even $20/day in Australia if you can afford it, you’ll get results to review quicker. Just don’t start too high, because Facebook is happy to take your money during the learning phase. Start low and then increase slowly once you get momentum and can drill down on the Ads and Ad Sets that perform the best.

New Formats and Mobile Placements

I have so much more to tell you, but I’ll save that for my Training Program or another blog soon! One really cool thing I do want to share with you right now is new Ad Formats and Mobile Placements, because these kind of ads are quite specific and as they’re still relatively new, and as not many people are onto it yet, they are absolutely nailing it in terms of performance.

As a general rule, I usually just select Automatic Placements at the Ad Set level. This tells Facebook to fit my Ad in wherever it can: in the News Feed, on Phones/Tablets or Laptops/Desktops, on Instagram and in other places on the internet too. This tends to work fine, except that some of the newer mobile ad formats are quite specific, and if your creative doesn’t fit the specs, it wont be shown.

So I recently started creating Ads that were purely designed to appear in-between Facebook and Instagram Stories, and the results might surprise you! Those of you who know me well, know that I’m a keen Snapchatter, and I was super annoyed when Facebook imitated the Stories format on Instagram and eventually Facebook and Messenger. Now the dust has settled, it’s clear they did this for good reason, because the format has really taken off, and now more people can enjoy creating and watching Stories on their preferred social network.

You can place short Ads in-between Stories which are predominantly a mobile-only format. You’ll need to format your Ad correctly for it to show in these placements. Because the format is quite specific, less people are creating Ads this way, and that represents a big advertising opportunity! Not only are Facebook auctioning off that Ad Space cheaper than the traditional spots, they’re also rewarding you with extra placements of your ads if you format them in the right way.

I recently saw a $1 CPM on a campaign using this format, better than a cheeseburger, that’s $1 for 1000 sets of eyeballs! Although costs are rising, Facebook has typically returned a $5 CPM on a campaign optimised for maximum impressions (wide audience) and a $10-$15 CPM on something more targeted.

You can use either a still image or a short video, and it should be in the vertical orientation. Think about the way people hold their mobile phone in the usual way, photos and video taken on your phone in portrait-style are perfect. If using an image or placing supers on your video, remember the Facebook Ads rule of no more than 20% logo or text on your image or video thumbnail still applies. Videos must be no longer than 15sec, and don’t forget to say “Swipe Up” in your call-to-action. In Stories, people swipe up on their mobile if something interests them, in the same way they’d click on an ad on their computer.

Here’s a screenshot of the Placements you need to select manually for these kind of ads. Choosing the correct Placements at the Ad Set level is critical to get your correctly formatted Ad to display in-between Facebook and Instagram Stories.

See the little “Learn more” button on the Ad preview? That’s the call-to-action (usually a URL to your website or landing page). You swipe up on your mobile to get there, that’s why it’s a good idea to mention that in your 15sec video.

Another mobile ad format that was launched a while ago is Facebook Canvas and Collections. These haven’t really taken off, although they are super cool, and offer a full-screen interactive experience on mobile. Think of a Carousel on steroids, great for showing off your products and services. It’s worth having a play around with these formats as well, to see if Facebook is favouring them in the same way.

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