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Marketing | Aug 13
Jessica Malnik on April 28, 2020 (last modified on May 4, 2020) • 18 minute read
One of the biggest things that trip up new Facebook advertisers is the difference between ad format and ad objective.
The ad format is the type of ad you are running. For example, this could be an image or a video ad.
Whereas, the ad objective is the goal of your ad campaign. This might be lead generation or video views.
In this post, we’re going to specifically look at which ad formats work best at different stages of the customer journey, including:
Facebook has six primary ad formats, including:
While it can be tempting to start creating any ads and experimenting with different ad formats, it is important to nail down your ad objective first.
Nick Montagu of alphawhale says, “Facebook Ad formats themselves aren’t as important as the objectives and the bidding strategy that you use. So anybody trying to get the best awareness, traffic, or conversion should start with clear objectives and a subsequent bidding strategy.”
Kelley Swart of Found Search Marketing adds, “No matter the objective, you should try and incorporate video as it tends to get preferential treatment in the Facebook Ad Auction. Typically anything under 15 seconds works best on paid social. Carousel ads may do a little better for retail companies to showcase products, but they might see better success if they can include video in at least one of the assets. It’s all about creating ‘thumb-stopping’ creative.”
Editor’s Note: This Facebook Ads Performance dashboard gives you a holistic view of your ad campaigns, including ad engagement, click activity, and money spent.
“If you’re trying to drive awareness you really need to focus on getting as many of your target demographic as possible to see your ads,” says Morgan Taylor of Let Me Bank.
“Your most important metric is your unique views, though that is primarily driven through your likes and shares. A good ad could have a very low CPM, but if it goes viral and the shares start piling up, especially from pages with a large audience, your overall audience awareness can spiral far beyond your initial ad spend. Of course, you can never count on an ad going viral.”
Darrin Giglio of North American Investigations adds, “Shares are what makes content go viral. One person shares a post that hundreds of people see and some of them redistribute it to hundreds of more people. It spreads like wildfire and the next thing you know a few thousand people are liking your Facebook page.”
For most advertisers, the best way to maximize your reach is through video ads or a hybrid of video and image ads.
“Videos,” says Melanie Musson of LAInsuranceQuotes.org. “People love videos, in fact, the majority of people would rather watch a video than read the same information.”
Lauren Clawson of Portent says, “Video is by far the best ad format for driving awareness. In addition to being the most engaging format, video views can be retargeted, where impressions for other ad formats can not.”
Becky Beach of Mom Beach adds, “Most people pay attention to a video and are more likely to share it.”
“Video ads on Facebook drive the best awareness,” says Ray Yoder of Garbrella Pergolas. “These display eye-catching photos of your products in a video format and drive huge customer engagement through likes, shares, and views!”
Daryl Burrows of Six & Flow adds, “Obviously here, you’re typically looking at upper funnel traffic.
Video works well at this stage, in tandem with a reach format, because video is the cheapest format on social, you pay for a view, rather than a click, and traffic from engaged users is free.
At this point, view-through impressions and conversions can be measured as the impact on an attributed conversion journey, and Facebook typically does well measuring this. Just be aware that Facebook measures view-throughs and their attribution window in a different way than Google’s analytics and ad platform.
Also just keep in mind that at this stage your audience probably hasn’t engaged with your brand before and your ads are more likely to be viewed as intrusive, so you need to have a softer sell here.”
Editor’s Note: Our Facebook Video Completion Metrics Dashboard shows the effectiveness of your video ads and viewer reactions.
Robert Bentz of Advanced Telecom Services says, “As far as formats on Facebook go, the king is still the in-stream ad. It is key for raising engagement and overall interaction.”
“When it comes to driving meaningful engagement on Facebook, our company has had the most success using short-form video, particularly within the News and Video feed placements,” says Colin DeVoe of Freethink. “Because of Facebook’s autoplay feature, you are more likely to catch the attention of a Facebook user with video as opposed to a still image.”
Will Cartwright of Get Known Pros adds, “Videos that are roughly around 15 seconds are the best for driving awareness. They should be slightly controversial to help boost engagement and conversation.”
Hans Dekker of Wiza agrees, “Short videos do best in this department. People aren’t ready yet to watch longer, educational pieces. Make sure you have short videos where the first 1-5 seconds immediately capture their attention (very important!), and when applicable include subtitles.
A great ‘flow’ would be to target a cold audience with a short video, then retarget those who interacted/viewed with a blog promo.
When approached correctly people are still very interested in reading blogs or how-to articles. Make sure to have a real scroll-stopper as your image (a single-image ad is still my favorite here).”
For example, Jay Lee of uAcademy says, “We’ve tested video ads and we’ve had a 34% higher conversion rate with video ads compared to image ads.”
Some marketers have had a lot of success with using user-generated content in their video ads.
Ameet Khabra of Ameet Khabra Marketing Inc. says, “What I have found works really well is UGC (user-generated content video). Yes, users want to see high-quality content but a lot of them are facing fatigue so what I have found that content that tends to blend in well with content they’re consuming from people they are already following works really well.”
“For likes, shares, conversations and overall buzz, the ad formats I’d use a mix of video and image ads,” says Carma Levene of Carma The Social Chameleon. “The video I’d split test the Video Views objective and the Engagement objective to see which one worked the best for my audience/the product or service I’m advertising.
I’d use static images with the Engagement objective and run them to both a warm audience to stack up some social proof and my target audience to get them involved in tagging their friends and sharing the content.”
“For leads and sales to a warm audience, I prefer static images run with Lead Gen or Conversion objectives. Campaigns with both Lead Gen and Conversion objectives will optimize for the people most like to perform these less passive actions – so using another format is counterintuitive.”
Tony Christensen of Tony Does Ads says, “I’ve typically seen images work the best for driving traffic to websites. They can have a strong and bold call-to-action and aren’t as distracting as other ad formats are.
Videos, carousels, or dynamic product ads can work well for driving traffic as well. Anyone running ads should test various ad formats to see which ones perform best for their desired business goals. The audiences you are targeting and whether you are remarketing or prospecting can change what format works best for traffic, so test it!”
In addition, Jasmine Hippe of Augurian adds, “Analyze your inbound search traffic when running these campaigns to determine the brand lift associated with your Facebook Ads.”
Once people know about your brand, it is time to get them back to your site. Assuming you are giving people a compelling reason to visit your site, the top three ad formats are video, image, and carousel ads.
“An image carousel is best for driving traffic to your website,” says Beach. “A Facebook user will watch a video, but then scroll down to watch something else. If you have an interactive image carousel then they are more likely to engage and then go to your website.”
Montagu agrees, “When it comes to traffic, a Facebook carousel is often the most effective as every slide can link to a different page. Using a carousel, you can collate content together that’s relevant, and drive consumers to multiple pages. You could also have a storyline message that’s more digestible than one static ad. In essence, every tile is an opportunity to click through, so carousels or slide shows are some of the best traffic generators that we have.”
Bentz adds, “We utilize a few different formats to drive traffic to our websites. One thing I strongly believe in is carousel ads. They make great uses for housing, e-commerce, food and dining, and any ads that offer multiple locations, products, attractions, etc.”
Dan Young of Loud Digital says, “In my experience, Carousel Ads are the best performers when it comes to driving traffic as you can get very creative across all devices.”
“The most reliable ad format for driving traffic is videos and images,” says Anh Trinh of GeekWithLaptop. “Both of them can catch the viewer’s attention and drive them to your websites. A single picture can paint a thousand words, so make sure to include all relevant info into your image to attract customers. Videos should be informational but entertaining as well, trying to put in-jokes in your video ads might be what you need to get that final click that will take people to your website.”
David Denning of Jumpstart Go says, “Video ads are the best for driving traffic as you pique their interest, deliver some information and value propositions, and then drive them to your site to learn more.”
Taylor adds, “The best formats for driving traffic is actually a combination of 2 formats used strategically. Video views build an audience, and then you run very cheap ads retargeting that audience with direct website clicks.
Once you’ve got traffic flowing to your website, provided you are using the pixel properly, you can build an audience based on the people that already convert.
Running a conversion campaign directly to your site is always a good strategy. I always warn small businesses though that they must have the budget to support Facebook’s learning period on a conversion campaign.
Thinking Facebook is going to learn your audience on a conversion campaign with a budget of $20 just won’t work. The campaign will fail, and then usually the person running the ad decides Facebook just doesn’t work. In fact, it works brilliantly, but you need the right tactic for your budget.”
“We have had success driving traffic to our site with every ad creative,” says Kevin Olson of Capitol Tech Solutions. “We have seen the most success from single image ads and video ads. If you use the right imagery for a single image ad, you can really capture the attention of Facebook users, and ultimately they will go to your website to learn more about what you’re promoting.”
Obaid Khan of Planet Content says, “Since it’s about generating traffic, I usually put up an image with a catchy caption, use a meme, or any image of a new feature, service, or study we’re working on – just enough to make the other person curious.”
Banish Angural of Social Media Fellow adds, “If you want traffic back to the website, I will consider an image ad with a highlighter to grab people’s attention to a nearly-ending offer that will pursue people to go to my website and grab the offer as soon as possible.”
When it comes to getting more bottom of funnel (BOFU) conversions, there isn’t one ad format that outperforms all the others. While it depends on your actual ad campaign and your audience, the most popular formats tend to be video, lead generation form, static images, dynamic products, and instant experience ads.
“Videos are also the best for driving actual conversions,” says Cartwright. “They often get the viewer interested and emotionally invested in them which will make them more likely to move forward.”
Denning says, “Overall, an optimized video ad will consistently drive the most conversions (no matter if that’s leads, sales, signups, etc.) as you’re able to deliver more information and peak more curiosity/interest.”
Bentz adds, “Actual conversions from Facebook are best obtained with paid in-stream (video) ads leading to a Facebook landing page. This again fits the need to optimize your ads to fit all available placements.
However the far most served and viewed iterations of these ads are the in-stream variety. It is also important to have proper pixels in place to retarget those who do not complete the form fill, sale, etc.”
“Facebook lead gen ads take the cake when it comes to driving conversions,” says Hippe. “This ad format allows users to submit their information to advertisers without ever leaving the Facebook platform. Be prepared to see higher-than-average conversion rates, and keep an eye on your lead quality to ensure you’re reaching relevant users.”
Khan says, “Lead generation ads tend to provide the customer with a fast and easy way to sign up to a service, while offer ads are more focused on product and service offers and discounts. Both work wonders for driving conversions – as long as you’re providing real value to the right audience.”
Nicole Suther of Human Marketing explains, “This is a pop-up created by Facebook. The user stays on the Facebook platform, so it doesn’t disrupt their user experience. People are more likely to fill out a form if it requires less effort and time on their end, thus the lead generation forms from Facebook are a good place to start.”
Noelle Del Grippo of Mole Street adds, “Users are more likely to convert when using lead generation due to the ease of filling out these forms. It’s more likely users will hand over their information when it’s easier for them to do so, making it a very effective tactic for getting leads.”
For example, Dekker says, “When promoting, for example, a lead-magnet in the form of an e-book, a Facebook lead ad with either a single-image format or gallery does great – as long as you’ve carefully selected your images. Make sure to test different ad creatives either on or away from Facebook.”
Trinh says, “In my experience, the best ad formats for conversions would have to be lead generation ads since it targets people who are more or less interested in your product and ads with amazing offers. Offers can entice people to purchase your product, especially if they see a good deal with your offer.”
Levi Olmstead of 2ndKitchen adds, “We use the longer forms that require more information. We found that the bare minimum lead forms from Facebook are very cheap at converting leads and emails, but produce a lot of garbage. Requiring 4-6 fields, and giving much more detailed information leads to a little higher cost per conversion, but highly qualified leads.”
Peter Czepiga of Bespoke Post says, “When running pure direct-response campaigns, nothing beats the classic newsfeed ad. This format has been driving bottom-of-the-funnel success for years. Because Facebook has more newsfeed inventory than any other ad unit, they have the flexibility to provide highly targeted impressions to a much higher volume of advertisers on this placement.”
“Dynamic product ads are a powerful way to drive conversions from users who need an extra push to purchase what is in their cart,” says Clawson. “Showing a user the exact items (in the correct sizes) drives the highest ROAS we see in the funnel.”
Brandon Amoroso of electrIQ marketing adds, “A conversion ad that uses a collection (or dynamic product) format works especially well on mobile.”
However, Olson says, “It depends on what you’re promoting. For example, if you’re selling apparel, then you’ll probably want to use either the carousel format or the collection format. You want to be able to display multiple products that customers can look at. This can’t really be done with a single image format.”
Christensen adds, “These ads will show people items that they have viewed on your website but haven’t purchased yet. They typically perform really well for driving conversions, since you’re remarketing your products to people that have shown a high level of interest.
I’d end by saying you need to test what works for YOUR products/services. Results can vary drastically based on creative, ad formats, competition, your industry, budget, the time of year, headlines/copy, and many other factors. Try different ad formats, read the data, then optimize and iterate your results over time.”
“Catalog ads and ads with instant experience/canvas are great for driving conversions,” says Alan Gruntz of BarkleyREI. “The canvas, in particular, keeps the user in the Facebook ecosystem until they’re ready to make the purchase removing possible bounce points along the journey.”
Montagu adds, “For conversions, anything around catalog sale ads and any ad that’s performing well with an instant experience, or any ad that’s been set up with an integrated marketing campaign as a result of re-marketing would be the best for conversion.”
For example, Jacob Lundy of Leighton Interactive.says, “We have also found great success in pushing carousel ads with multiple blogs – with the last carousel ad leading to a blog subscription landing page.”
While not a specific ad format, one tip that came up over and over again to increase the number of new leads or sales is to leverage retargeting campaigns.
“Remarketing works extremely well, as it brings back users to our sites or landing pages, which have already been to the site,” says Kristel Staci of BloggingTips.com. “Once a user is familiar with your site or brand, they are much more likely to buy on the second or third visit.”
Jeremy Cross of Team Building Seattle adds, “We’ve found that targeted News Feed ads are best for driving conversions to leads. The reason for this is that we can get extremely nuanced with targeting. Our rule of thumb is to go more niche than Facebook recommends with their audience meter. If you are reaching a small, focused audience then you can see a relatively high conversion rate.”
“It is very difficult to tell people what the best ad format for a certain objective is,” says Rob Sanders of Socially Found. “When creating Facebook ads, it is always best to test multiple ad formats and use data to highlight which one is performing the best, based on the metric that is relevant to the goal.
Imagery is key here, as you only have a fraction of time to stop someone from scrolling through their newsfeed to actually take the time to see what your ad is all about. An image carousel of multiple products could perform better than a single image, especially if you are displaying to a broader audience. A video can provide some movement as people are scrolling to grab attention, as well as caption text for those that have the volume turned off.”
Kelley Swart r of Adzooma adds, “You need to be smart, and there is no universal answer. It depends on many factors: your brand, your brand awareness, your offer, your target group, or even timing.
If I had to choose one, I would probably go for photo posts. My second pick would be video ads, but the problem with videos is that you need to be very aware of how to make them right to attract people for longer than 3-second views. Photo posts don’t require people to spend a lot of time on your content, your audience doesn’t need to have a flawless internet connection to see your content. This format is more approachable if you know what I mean.”
In sum, the ad format you choose will ultimately depend on your specific campaign, objective, and demographic. This is why it is so important to test different ad copy, creative, targeting, and formats.
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