You know the feeling when you plan for the best, taking time to prepare thoroughly, and as you start implementing the plan you see that it… Just. Won’t. Work.
So you ditch the initial plan and start to twitch the small details to grasp what helps to improve the situation. After all, people are counting on you.
I’m going to be honest and talk about all the (embarrassing rookie) mistakes that I made in my first Facebook ad campaign and show you how I finally turned these around to our advantage.
Are you ready to find out?
This is exactly what happened when I released my first Facebook campaign for our company, Scoro, a SaaS solution that helps businesses manage their data in a more efficient and structured way.
We had prepared the images, translated texts to multiple languages (we planned on targeting four separate markets), and had the budgets set to meet benchmarks. But as we released the ad campaign, it didn’t work. At all.
But then one day as if by magic, it finally took off. Alright… It wasn’t exactly by magic but by small hacks and tactics we applied to rescue the sinking campaign ship.
Mistakes were made
What is your first step when you have to handle a marketing task you’ve never really done before?
If you’re like me, you head to blogs for helpful insight and expert advice. AdEspresso blog has been an invaluable source in this regard. I’d also like to thank Neil Patel and Kane Jamison for sharing their know-how. Kudos for that.
But here’s a little fact that went unseen. (And something tells me you’re likely to make the same mistake)
The thing is, a blog article on optimizing and hacking Facebook ads can be your best friend and worst enemy when it comes to initiating you first campaign. Sure there’s some valuable insight (especially the stuff found on AdEspresso blog and e-books), but some hacks are rather meant for optimizing, not starting an ad campaign.
In the beginning, our motto was something like “Use the best practices” rather than “Whatever works”. I collected the very best tips and hacks from expert resources and tried to combine all of these into my first Facebook campaign.
As Scoro is a SaaS company, we chose cost-per-conversion budgeting method to get more trial sign-ups. We targeted friends of people who already liked Scoro’s Facebook page. And we decided to show the ads only at specific times per day, when people were at work.
All of these decisions were wrong.
If you look at this graph you can see why we were initially caught off guard – our ad campaigns simply didn’t work.
They were like little eaglets unable to take off from the nest, struggling to learn to fly. There were a few take-off attempts that all failed.
This was the story of our Facebook ad experience before April 15 when we finally made the decision to drop the initial A/B testing plan and just try anything that would work.
When the spike finally happened
The decision to test multiple new approaches at once has its perks and downsides. We didn’t acquire as wide knowledge about how big an impact several factors had on our ad campaign’s take-off. (I also wish I had read more about A/B testing before starting the campaign)
But applying all these rapid changes worked, and when you’re implementing your very first Facebook ad campaign, this is pretty much what matters.
I bet you’re already dying to hear what were the actions that helped to get our ad campaigns working.
Alright, I’ll get right to it.
We’ll follow through six hacks (or tactics, if you wish) that I wish I had known before initiating my first Facebook ad campaign. I hope you’ll find something to tweak and improve about your own ad campaigns as well.
1. Find the right ad visuals
As we started our Facebook ad campaign, we had prepared several images. It’s a common practice to use people in your ads as they help the audience to build a connection with the product.
So that’s what we aimed for – an ad that would show people using our product.
This is how one of our first ads looked:
If you had no experience in Facebook advertising, it would seem like a perfectly good image with happy people and a clear call-to action.
The problem with this image, is that it does not differentiate from other stuff on people’s newsfeeds. It doesn’t have any eye-catching colors or one point where to focus the eyes. Easier said now than in the beginning of our ad campaign.
According to this article, a good Facebook ad image:
- Uses images showing emotions
- Uses contrasting colors to grab attention
- Includes your value proposition
- Features a funny or unexpected image
- Uses headshots
After browsing AdEspresso’s Facebook ads gallery, I realized that we need to create an image with a higher contrast.
Have a close look at these successful ad examples – each of these displays a high contrast of colors (and is easily noticeable in Facebook’s newsfeed).
After some tweaking and testing, we came up with these two ad visuals.
Notice how integrations’ icons add color and life to the ad, while the white background helps to create a huge contrast between the ads and other posts in people’s Facebook newsfeeds.
After we released our Facebook ads with high-contrast images, our click-through rates made a quick hike.
Here’s the rule number one: Create ad visuals that catch the eye and attract attention even after a tiresome workday.
The next time you need new ads, don’t be stingy with color, and try to differentiate your ad image and messages from all others.
However good an image can be, only tweaking the ad visuals wouldn’t have helped us if it hadn’t been for another tactic.
2. Test, test, and test your audiences
We all like to think that we know our perfect audience. But as you start to create a Facebook ad campaign, you’ll soon get overwhelmed with all the different possibilities of framing your audiences.
First of all, you have the choice between Custom, Saved and Lookalike audiences (click on the links for a thorough guide on each). As you pick either one of them, you’ll be introduced to another set of different options.
The mistake we initially made was not testing enough options. When we finally started testing both Saved and Lookalike audiences we came across this Golden Rule: One size does not fit all.
For some countries and markets, Saved audiences worked the best while for some campaigns we used Lookalike audiences that performed really well.
I hope you’ll remember this piece of advice the next time you create a new Facebook ad campaign: Keep testing different audiences until you find the most interested people that wish to engage with your brand.
Moreover, testing various audiences might help you reduce your CPR as you’ll end up targeting a more specific group of people.
We’ve now covered the stories of our ad images and audiences. Bear with me as we’re going to discuss targeting and budgets up next.
3. Do not target based on your goals
This title is counterintuitive to everything I had learned about Facebook ads. Until I found out it works like hell.
When creating a Facebook ad campaign, marketers usually want to achieve some kind of conversion – a trial signup, purchase, download, etc. So it is only natural to set the ad optimization and pricing to Conversions (after all, even Facebook recommends it).
This is when we all greatly overestimate Facebook’s ability to instantly know which customers really convert when being showed the ad. We learned it the hard way, starting right off with ads optimized for Conversions, only to lose money and realize it didn’t work.
So here’s my advice to anyone who’s creating their first Facebook ad campaign:
As you start a new campaign, set the Optimization for Ad Delivery goals to Link-Clicks-to-Website as Facebook needs a wide set of data before it can say which customers convert. What Facebook immediately knows is who’s more likely to click on your ads. And these clicks are exactly what you need for further optimization in later phases.
While our fresh ad campaigns were optimized for Conversions (trial signups), we had nearly no results and fewer ad impressions as Facebook evaluated the ads to be less relevant. After changing the pricing model to be optimized for Link Clicks, we saw a huge spike in both our ad impressions and conversions.
Here’s the takeaway: at the beginning of a new ad campaign, opt for Cost-Per-Mile or Clicks-To-Website pricing goals and let Facebook learn about your audience’s preferences before changing the Optimization & Pricing method to Cost-Per-Conversions.
Here’s a super helpful resource about Facebook ad pricing by AdEspresso. Go for it!
And here’s another tip: If you create a Facebook ad campaign for an ebook, infographic or other highly engaging content, Cost-Per-Mile pricing is often cheaper than paying for website clicks.
This ad by The New York Times is a perfect example of clickbait that people can’t resist clicking on.
4. Hack your ad budgets
If you’re a small company, you want to get something out of every buck in your advertising budget.
While there’s still a long-long way to go to optimize our ads bidding, we learned a fair share of lessons during the recent ad campaign that I’d be glad to share with you.
In the beginning of the campaign, we allocated the exact planned monthly budget to each ad set. We tested both Daily and Lifetime budgets and ended up with these two findings:
- Use Lifetime budgets that cross your planned budget – you need about 10 000 impressions to evaluate which ads work and which don’t. So you want Facebook to use more resources at the beginning of the campaign. For example, use a $2000 budget instead of the planned $800, just to get things rolling.
- Facebook rarely uses the total daily budget – unless your ads are highly relevant to your targeted audience, Facebook shows the ads less often than you’d like. So increase your initial budget and expand the audience size for more people see your ads
We also tested custom schedules to only show our ads at specific times every day. In some cases, the lowest cost-per-results showed late at night while other campaigns worked better in the morning.
To see which time at day performs the best for your ads, go to an ad set and Break down the results by Ad Account Time Zone. After you’ve learned what times per day deliver the lowest cost-per-result, tweak your ad schedule accordingly.
5. Not all channels perform equally well
As you create new ad sets, you come across a choice: which ad placement to use?
Here’s my advice: decide based on your product and website framework.
We decided to show our ads on desktop and on mobile devices, including the Audience Network (partner mobile apps and mobile websites that are part of Facebook’s Audience Network). We opted out of Instagram ads and desktop right column as we targeted enterprise users and considered the desktop right column ads to be too small to get noticed.
I’m glad that we measured the performance of mobile vs desktop ads right from the beginning.
So what did we learn?
While mobile ads were seen by more people and resulted in more website clicks, their cost-per-conversion was twice as high. As we saw this happening quite early in our campaign, we were able to adjust the budgets and rule out less efficient ad placements.
Remember: Measure the performance of various advertising channels by cost-per-conversion, not cost-per-mile or cost-per-clicks.
If you’re unsure which ad placement is best for your campaign, use all of them for a while, and see which one returns the lowest cost-per-result.
6. Embrace the teamwork
Another contributing factor to running a successful Facebook ad campaign (and saving the sinking ship) was our team. It’s not only the marketing team that has the power to affect the ad performance.
After our own team members started liking our ads, the posts received a higher engagement rate among other audiences as well.
There’s no selling point as powerful as social proof. Asking your own team members to give the ads a boost is a great way to increase your credibility and lower the cost-per-result.
More than anything, teamwork helped to improve ad quality and tweak the messages used. Our salespeople were able to share advice for multilingual ad texts as they saw the native-language ads in newsfeeds. Hadn’t some team members liked the ads, we might have never considered asking the entire team to boost our campaign.
To avoid our initial mistake, be wiser and don’t let hundreds of dollars go to waste – ask your team members to give your ads an uplift with a share or a like.
Alright, folks. It’s been quite a journey. And there’s still a long-long way to go to improve and optimize our ads even further.
What we plan to do next:
We’re going to test AdEspresso to optimize our ad management process and get a clear overview of what’s working and what’s not. We’ll be surely testing new ad images to combat the ad fatigue and trying out several messages to see which one appeals the most to our audiences.
Managing Facebook ad campaigns is like an infinite road to perfection – there’s always something you can twist and tweak to attract even more people at a lower cost.
If you have further suggestions that you think could benefit a beginner Facebook advertiser, make sure to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your advice!
Karola Karlson runs the digital marketing engine at Scoro, the most customizable business management platform on earth. When not reading or figuring out new marketing hacks, she’s applying all her ideas and creativity to copywriting and blogging.
For more, connect to Karola on Twitter @KarolaKarlson