Facebook ads don’t work. In my job, I hear that comment pretty often. It pains me, actually, because it is both true and false. Boosting a post or making a simple ad targeted by demographics, behaviours and interests is pretty easy to do and that’s the way many businesses approach their Facebook advertising. With those conditions, I’m one of the first to admit that your ads may be a hit or a big miss. In most cases you will get the reach but not the conversions – not the return on investment that you so eagerly expected.
This apparent simplicity is what gives Facebook advertising the poor rap. Many business owners and marketing consultants believe the way to advertise on Facebook is just to create a simple ad, set up a payment method and off you go… But there is really much more to it than that.
The central pillar of Facebook advertising is a sophisticated technology platform and the business and agencies who are seeing conversions and return on investment from their Facebook advertising are the ones who have some understanding of the technology platform. There’s a lot to it but in this post I’ll cover the targeting and tracking capabilities of the technology.
What are the options for targeting?
Targeting people who are interested in what we have to offer
Facebook’s technology allows us to target people who have demonstrated that they are interested in what we have to say or what we sell. Using the Facebook Pixel – a piece of code that is placed on your website – it’s possible to track people who visit your website, specific pages of your website or specific content. Using pixel event tracking and custom conversions, it’s possible to track people who take specific actions on your website – click a button to download a brochure, for example. We now have an audience that we know is interested in what we sell and advertising to this audience is going to provide quite different results to advertising to a general audience based on interests and behaviours.
Building an audience of ideal prospects
An ideal prospect is someone who is most likely to buy from you. They’re different from the audience that we are tracking in the step above – those are prospects. Our ideal prospects haven’t yet visited our website, so they are not prospects yet but they share the characteristics of people whose website visits we are tracking. Facebook calls this a “lookalike audience”. Using Facebook advertising technology, it is relatively simple to build an audience of people who ‘look like’ the people who have demonstrated they are interested in what you sell or indeed, your actual customers.
Optimising your Facebook advertising for specific outcomes
Let’s say our Facebook advertising objective is conversions – an ideal and appropriate purpose for our advertising budget. Facebook’s technology will analyse the data it has of people who have converted on the ad and show the ad to people with similar characteristics – those who are more likely to convert. Ads set up in this way provide a greater ROI, however for this to work, Facebook has to know what a conversion is. Once again we come back to the Facebook pixel. By using the pixel to track conversions, we define for Facebook what a conversion is for our website and our business. The more data the better the outcome of course, so as conversions increase, so builds the conversion optimisation.
Understanding that some businesses will have low conversion data, Facebook introduced an optimisation for Landing Page views. The process is the same. Gather data on people who view a landing page and your ad will be shown to others who are more likely to view the landing page. Once there is enough data on people who viewed the landing page AND converted, Facebook will automatically switch to optimising your ad for conversions.
It’s possible to know over a period of 28 days, how many people saw or interacted with your ad and later went on to purchase the product or service. It’s then possible to use that conversion data to create new lookalike audiences (looks like people who interacted with my ad and then went on to purchase in a 28 day period). The audiences we can build with this data are going to be even more valuable to your business.
You can see that just advertising on Facebook and using Facebook’s advertising technology to advertise on Facebook are quite different. So, when people say to me that Facebook ads don’t work, the comment prompts the question: are you using the technology that Facebook provides to advertisers or are you just doing advertising?
Next class starts Jan 30.