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5 Lessons Learned From Running 2,652 Facebook Ad Campaigns

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My team and I were busy last year with Facebook. We created and managed 2,652 Facebook ad campaigns in 2014, each with an an average of one to 12 ad sets and with one to eight ads in each set.

If we took the extreme low side of those averages, that’s nearly 8,000 ad sets and more than 23,000 ads.

As a Facebook ad agency that handles campaigns for clients in multiple markets, we have ample opportunity to test a lot of different ways to get the best results on the Facebook ad platform. Suffice to say, we learned lots of lessons on what to do and not do. 

Here are the five most important lessons we learned from all those campaigns, ad sets and ads.

1. Install website custom audiences as soon as possible.

One of the most important additions to the Facebook ad platform this past year was website custom audiences.

By placing a little snippet of code on every page of your website, website custom audiences allow you to reach people who have recently visited your site from Facebook. It’s a highly intelligent form of retargeting using Facebook user IDs instead of pixels.

By placing this snippet of code on every page of your website, you can create a “silent list” of people who have expressed interest in your products and services by visiting your website. Since 175 million-plus people log in to Facebook each day, that means wherever they’re on the Internet, they can be “captured” by you.

As a marketer, you can then deliver those people highly relevant content (as well as ads to buy your stuff) based upon their unique interests. 

What’s even better is, because this kind of retargeting is “people based retargeting” and instead of “pixel-based retargeting,” it can track the behaviors of your would-be customers cross-device, whether it’s phone, tablet or laptop. If a visitor to your website from a Facebook ad does not opt in, purchase, download or register for whatever you are trying to promote, you can then retarget them through website custom audiences with a slightly different message to prompt them to come back.

This is highly effective. In most cases, people need multiple touches in order to complete a specific action. Website custom audiences allow you to do just that.

It’s a total game changer.

Related: 10 Quick Steps to Creating a Facebook Ad Campaign

2. Leverage look-alike audiences for maximum conversions.

With website custom audiences, as well as other audiences, Facebook can create all kinds of additional audiences that are ideally suited for your products and services.

The mysterious Facebook algorithm is so powerful that any action on Facebook can be measured and tracked, then used as targeting for you, the business owner. Look-alike audiences allow you to reach people who are similar to your current customers for whatever your objective is: be it fan acquisition, branding, engagement or off-Facebook purchases and lead capture.

They can be created from a number of different custom audiences including:

  • Your email list.
  • Website custom audiences.
  • Fans.
  • Conversion pixel fires.

One of our favorite look-alike audiences right now are audiences created from a conversion pixel.

Let’s say you are running a lead generation campaign for your business, gathering email addresses in exchange for a lead magnet. You set up your ad in Facebook, have a landing page on your website which offers an excellent lead magnet and you have placed on your "thank you'' page a Facebook conversion pixel that will fire after each email opt in.

Once you have acquired 100 conversions for that particular pixel, you can then create a look-alike audience based upon that conversion pixel. You can create an audience of people who, according to Facebook’s algorithm, “look like” the people who have already opted in for your lead magnet.

That is powerful.

This new audience can then be used as a target for a new set of ads.

Typically, a look-alike audience is created in the order of 2 million-plus people, far too large of an audience to be a target of its own.

However, if you combine a broad Facebook interest such as ”coaching” or “football” or “working out” – whatever the most general interest is for your business, this produces highly targeted and highly converting audiences for your ads.

3. Get down with website conversion optimized bidding.

Nobody really knows what’s going on behind the curtain in the Facebook ad platform, but I will tell you it’s way more powerful than Oz.

Facebook has accumulated a treasure trove of user behaviors from its 1.3 billion active monthly users. This is the kind of user behavior you can leverage to grow your business.

One of the more powerful features of Facebook ads we started to leverage this year is what’s known as website conversion optimized bidding. It used to be known as “optimized CPM for actions” but late in 2014, Facebook made this feature far more user-friendly.

This one change has resulted in tremendous ROI gains for our clients and us.

In online advertising there’re basically three types of bidding:

  • CPC: Cost per click -- you pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
  • CPM: Cost per thousand impressions -- you pay every time someone sees your ad (don’t mistake the “M” for millions –- it's the Roman numeral for thousand).
  • CPA: Cost per action -- you pay every time someone takes an action

Website conversion optimized bidding is a combination of CPM as well as CPA bidding, but mostly CPA.

In using optimized bidding for conversions, the Facebook algorithm works to show your ad to the audience that is most likely to convert on your action, whether it’s a lead capture through an opt-in page, an app install or whatever your conversion goal is.

For most of our clients, they want leads that can then convert into sales. This makes optimized splitting for conversions a highly effective strategy in achieving those objectives.

The key to successful optimize bidding for conversions is to allow Facebook to "get to know" your audience and who they are on Facebook.

Depending on the type of client, optimized bidding for conversions sometimes takes some ramp-up time for it to be most effective. In other cases, it’s effective almost immediately.

One way we’ve learned to get Facebook to "get to know” our ideal audience is to start every campaign using CPC bidding. This directs Facebook to give you the most clicks which, if you have a good converting offer, will translate into leads.

Once Facebook sees 25 to 30 conversions, you can then switch your ads from CBC bidding to optimize bidding for conversions. The shorter the time period in which that this occurs, the better.

Many Facebook experts recommend this “get to know you” phase to occur in 24 hours or less, but we’ve seen it work for that period of time as well as over an entire week.

It’s something that you’ll simply have to test.

For many clients, this type of optimized bidding has reduced lead costs as much as 80 percent. It’s that powerful.

Related: Giving Advertisers a Way to Bypass Facebook Click Fraud

4. Make your lead magnet ultra specific.

A “lead magnet” is an ultra-specific solution for an ultra-specific market that’s offered in exchange for an opt-in. This opt in is usually an email address.

A lead magnet could be an e-book, a checklist, a free trial, a quiz or a special report.

Many people mistake a lead magnet for being something like “subscribe to our newsletter.” Sadly, this is not a lead magnet.

If you’re looking to be super-successful on Facebook, you need to start by offering an ultra-specific solution to an ultra specific market. The more specific, the better. If you’re a business coach, you maybe tempted to offer a lead magnet that teaches your audience “how to become a better coach.”

Although this is a nice try, it’s not nearly specific enough. A good lead magnet has to speak to a very specific desire for your market.

So the best questions for you to ask yourself are: ”What is the one thing my market wants most? What is the one thing my market was to avoid the most?”

In most cases, the first question is a better one for Facebook. It is far more compliant with their terms of service.

So using our coaching example, a good lead back may be something like this:

“How to explode your coaching business 425% in 2015 by using a little-known email marketing tactic.”

In changing a lead magnet from something general to something ultra specific, we’ve seen seen client cost per leads decrease 30 percent up to 85 percent, simply by making the lead magnet ultra specific.

The goal of the lead magnet is to take them down the path towards the ultimate goal, to purchase your product or service.

Although products and services can be sold directly on Facebook, it’s often times far easier to get the lead on Facebook and then sell them into your program after the fact.

But if the lead magnet is ultra specific, your cost per acquisition of a potential customer will be far less, and your advertising ROI far greater.

Related: Apps to Help You Start Selling on Facebook -- Now

5. Market research is everything and easier than you think.

Whenever I talk to anybody about Facebook ads, the most popular questions I hear are all on the ad side: what color should I use in my creative, how do I write my ad copy, what’s the best way to do ad bidding, etc.

Those are all the wrong questions because none of those things matter if you’re putting the wrong message in front of the wrong audience!

Enter: the importance of targeting on Facebook.

True, there are hundreds of different sources for research when starting your first Facebook ad campaign. Sure, you can always use a Google search to do your market research (we do this too), but Facebook’s homegrown research tools are really where it’s at. The best market research tools are contained within Facebook itself.

After all, it make sense to target interests that Facebook itself thinks are most closely aligned to your ideal customer.

In particular, Audience Insights, a new feature rolled out in mid 2014, was a game changer. In your ads manager, Audience Insights Is located about half way down the left side column. All you need to do is enter a word that best describes your market. In our coaching example, simply enter the keyword phrase “coaching” into the “Interests” tab and let Facebook do its magic.

Then scroll along the top of the “New Audience” tab and Facebook will serve you dozens of categories that are similar to your root interest. Each one of these categories can then become its own ad set.

Scroll down even further to the “Page Likes” section, click on “Affinity” and Facebook will tell you exactly which Facebook Pages have an affinity (in descending order) to your primary interest.

Either alone or in a group of interests, these can then become new ad set interests that you can target.

And Facebook give it all to you…for free.

Facebook is a hugely powerful platform with over one fifth of the world’s population as active users each month. With the right tools and the right strategy, even the most novice marketer can generate leads and sales from the ad platform. But the most important thing is to start and get your feet wet.

Don’t worry that you will make mistakes when you first start. You can avoid many of these mistakes by learning form these lessons we learned running the traffic we ran in the past year.

This article was written in collaboration with Ralph Burns, Agency Manager and Managing Partner at Dominate Web Media, an online learning center and digital marketing agency specializing in helping businesses scale their marketing using Facebook advertising and other online media channels. 

Related: Is Facebook Really a Failure to Marketers?