95% of conversion rate optimization (CRO) experts prioritize their split-tests. Here’s how you can find (and test) the ones that are worth the effort.
Marketing | May 23
Dann Albright on August 15, 2018 • 14 minute read
We’ve established that organic reach on Facebook is nearly dead. Although some clever marketers have found ways to engage prospects on Facebook via organic channels, most marketers agree that it’s now a pay-to-play platform.
This means you need to make the most of every Facebook ad dollar. How can you reach the most people with every Facebook ad? It’s a question facing many marketers. But it leads to another question: how can you serve the best ads to that audience? Balancing the answers of these two question is paramount.
And that balance is a tenuous one. The highest percentage of marketers we surveyed said that their ads take a few days to gain traction:
But almost everyone said that their campaigns are only effective for a few weeks:
Which means that you don’t have much time to optimize your ads. Finding the ads with the best reach and most engagement—quickly—is crucial.
Here’s how the marketers we talked to do that.
Facebook’s wealth of information about consumers is second to none. So it’s no surprise that many marketers talked about effective targeting for increasing the reach of Facebook ads.
But there were two opposing camps here.
One recommended narrowing your targeting to focus on the people who will respond best to your ad.
The other recommended targeting a wider audience, both to increase raw reach numbers and gather better data.
Both are right, depending on your situation…
Colette Nataf, co-founder of Lightning AI, put it simply: “As marketers, we need to find the perfect buyer personas on Facebook so that we can match the right ads with the right users.”
With the massive amount of data that Facebook has collected, she says, marketers can find perfect groups of people to advertise to.
Not so coincidentally, Lightning AI’s software programmatically tests a very large number of targeting groups. Nataf shared their approach when they worked with Peloton, in which they tested over 1,000 combinations of interest and behavioral groups in two months.
That might not be feasible for your campaign. But it goes to show how many ways there are to narrow your target groups.
“Many marketers or advertisers don’t get nearly targeted enough and thus send their ads to [irrelevant] audiences,” says Casey Hill, founder of Hill Gaming Company. Because of that, he says, they “end up having lower relevancy and less impressions to their desired audience.”
To combat this, Hill uses Facebook’s Narrow Audience and Exclude People features. These features allow marketers to find highly relevant audiences for their ads.
It’s not about increasing your reach to the maximum number of people, he says. “Overall, it’s about getting the ad in front of the right people.”
Of course, the objective of your ads may make a difference here, too. If your highest priority is brand awareness, you’ll want a large audience to see your brand via Facebook ads. As usual, your goals factor heavily into best practices.
On the other end of the spectrum, several marketers warned against creating too small an audience.
For example, Listables founder Vivek Chugh emphasized the benefits of not getting too specific in your targeting. “Many times we over think the targeting, making the age range too small, adding too many interests, behaviors or demographics or additional layers that are not necessary.”
Natalie Hagen agrees. “[W]hen you do specific targeting, reach is restricted.” If you’re just looking to increase the reach of your ads, using “general/wide targeting with a decent daily budget” is the key, says the TakeLessons inside sales associate.
When you’re running Facebook ads, it’s important to remember that you already have some organic reach that you can take advantage of, too (we’ll talk about this in more detail shortly).
Says Jake Buchsbaum, growth marketing manager at Fundera, “Before expanding on your reach, it’s important to first capitalize on the reach you currently have. . . . You can improve relevancy by personalizing your text and images to appeal to your specific audience.”
He also emphasized the importance of not targeting an audience that’s “too niche.”
But remember, he says, that you’re trying to find an equilibrium. “As marketers, it’s our job to find the balance between improved reach and quality of traffic.” Using the Narrow Audience feature to select multiple interests or behavior groups, he says, will help you increase your reach to the right people.
Not everyone advocated simply making your target more or less specific. A few marketers told us that they’ll test to see which groups of users are most receptive to the ad.
This type of testing is crucial for improving your long-term ad performance, says Michael Lewis, marketing assistant at Active Web Group. “Testing broader audiences allows for more meaningful experiments, which leads to better, more conclusive data.”
In pursuit of this goal, he says, you should reconceptualize the early stages of your ad campaign. The early part of the campaign is “meant to develop your baseline and to collect data.” Once you’ve done that, you can start more effective targeting and see better response.
Sophia Pollock, paid social account manager at Power Digital Marketing, pointed out the importance of continuous testing. “This can be testing your creative, messaging, targeting, placements or optimization,” she says.
Here’s the process that she uses:
This is an ongoing effort to find the absolute best audiences, copy, and creative for the ads.
The Penny Hoarder‘s senior manager of paid media, John Morgan, recommended a slightly more conservative approach. Instead of running tons of different audiences at once, Morgan and his team focus on ads that are underperforming.
“When we see ads that fail to gain impressions, many times we’ll temporarily remove all targeting and let them run against a broad audience. After a day or two, we’ll use Facebook Ads Manager to analyze the ad performance by Age, Gender, Geography and other dimensions to see which audiences were most engaged.”
Then, using these results, the team either defines new targeting based on who interacted with the ad or tweaks the copy and imagery to better resonate with their target audiences.
Testing is effort-intensive. But it’s also the only way to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your Facebook ads. (It’s worth noting that these types of tests won’t necessarily increase your reach; but they will increase your reach with the right audiences.)
In addition to targeting advice, we also got some tips on retargeting. This tactic focuses on people who will be more receptive to your ads.
Spiralytics‘ content strategist Pierre de Braux suggests retargeting your ads to people who visited your website or those who didn’t open your emails. “This behavioral data is much more accurate for determining buyer readiness as opposed to arbitrary demographic data like age, gender, job title, and general interests.”
That contextual knowledge and recognition makes a big difference in how likely someone is to engage with your ad. “It’s always easier to engage an existing prospect than a brand new visitor,” says de Braux.
You can also use your website visitors to create lookalike audiences. Both Julien Raby, founder of Combustible, and Jason Sibley, head of campaign strategy at Creation Agency, recommended this tactic. Futurety‘s VP of business strategy, Sam Underwood, recommends doing the same with your email list. “Leverage your existing client list and lead list by uploading these lists to Facebook and let the algorithm do the hard work to find your ‘look-a-like’ audience. Facebook can match your lead list so you can post an advertisement right in front of them while simultaneously finding and targeting similar profiles.” explained Rahul Alim of Custom Creatives
Does targeting these warm leads with your Facebook ads pay off?
It certainly did for Cristian Rennella, co-founder of O Melhor Trato. He improved his site’s Facebook ad conversions by 31.2% using retargeting. It was a big factor in helping him go from zero users to over 21.5 million in nine years.
Engagement is a big factor when it comes to increasing your organic reach on Facebook. But it’s also important in expanding your ad reach, too.
BOOM Marketing CEO David Balogh sums it up: “Facebook ranks ads through a lot of details, and one of them is the virality effect (to have a lot of activity on the ad, ideally in the form of comments).” If people like your ad, Facebook will show it to more people. It’s that simple.
Balogh also points out that Facebook’s algorithms and ad policies change all the time. But at the moment, he says, getting authentic engagement is crucial for boosting your reach. Facebook wants to make money from your ads, but they want to make sure people like them, too. It’s in everyone’s best interest.
One way that you can get people to like your ad and engage with it is to show your brand personality. “Once you inject a little brand personality into your Facebook Ads, you’ll drive more engagement from your audience,” says Andrew Schutt, owner of Elevated Web Marketing. That “will boost your relevancy score and help lower the cost of your impressions, allowing you to reach even more people.”
“One tip I would give to other marketers who are looking to expand their reach is to run a ‘Likes’ campaign,” says Allison Chaney, chief digital training officer at Boot Camp Digital.
Because company content is less likely to show up in news feeds, having people like your page and engage with your posts will help increase your reach.
“The key lesson here is that you need a base audience to build on, and this can be done quickly and cost-effectively with a Facebook likes campaign,” says Chaney.
Growth Hackers CEO Jonathan Aufray combines the ideas of targeting and engagement with an interesting idea: “To expand your Facebook ad campaign reach, I recommend you first target your followers for 1 or 2 days.”
Because your followers are more likely to engage with your content, you’ll get solid engagement rates on your ad. After a couple days, target the friends of your followers. You should get more engagement. After that, target other people.
“Because your post got an initial high engagement, your reach will be higher,” says Aufray.
It’s important to keep in mind that engagement isn’t all about increasing your reach. There’s also the marketing value of social proof.
“The trick is to generate social proof for your ad by telling Facebook to focus on driving interactions and asking those who see your offer to like, share, and tag a friend,” says Chris McCarron, owner of GoGoChimp.
If the ad works well, copy it and change the focus of the copy to conversion.
Social proof is a heuristic that works well for getting people to take your ad seriously. Another one? Creating “an advertisement that is controversial and will piss people off.”
Alex Albarran, founder of Unstung Media, says that “[b]y creating something that people either love or hate, you’ll drive a lot of free engagement to your ad via shares, comments, and likes. This will ensure that your advertisement will be seen by more people for much less advertising dollars.”
Of course, you’ll need to be careful with this, as negative engagement can have consequences.
So how do you get engagement? Joe Sloan, Advice Media‘s marketing and communications coordinator, recommends using video. Research shows that videos get more engagement than other types of ads, says Sloan. Rahul Alim from Custom Creatives concurred, “One tip to expand your Facebook ad campaign is to use video to grab your audience’s attention. A clear offer in video format builds trust and we’ve seen an increase in conversions with people buying more products or services.
Just be sure that your first five seconds hook the viewer, and that you add subtitles. Most viewers don’t have their sound on, and you’ll need to catch them fast before they scroll by. Great videos drive high engagement numbers, and Facebook displays those ads to more users.
Whether you use video or not, you still need to make sure your copy is great.
“If you are getting low impressions there’s a good chance that it’s simply because your creative is bad,” says John Huntinghouse, director of digital marketing at Epic Marketing.
What’s the solution?
Collect data and use it to perfect your ad. Make sure your copy, images, and calls to action are all top-notch by testing multiple versions of each.
Which organic posts are doing well? What are your competitors doing? You can use these to guide your writing and testing, says Huntinghouse.
You can also use Facebook’s dynamic ads, says Rebrandly content manager Louisa McGrath. “If you upload a selection of ad copy, visuals and CTAs, Facebook will figure out which combinations work best and push out those ads for the best ROI.”
Once Facebook finds the best combination, it will run with that combination and increase your reach.
Still not getting the response you want? Maybe you’re copy is too aggressively promotional.
Jx Tan from Momentum Digital shared that “Facebook ad clicks have experienced a 20% quarter on quarter fall — the typical Facebook global user now clicks on a median of eight ads per month, down from the 10 that the company was reporting in April, per the 2018 Q3 Global Digital Statshot report from Hootsuite. He explains “This means as an advertiser, you are shooting at a smaller target.” To keep Facebook an effective part of your marketing mix, he recommends, “adopting a ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ approach to Facebook advertising, with most posts designed to increase basic awareness, and only a handful of carefully crafted posts (headlined with short videos or user-contributed photos) designed to elicit engagement, e.g. shares or comments. In these engagement posts, themes should be based on your target audience’s interests and needs with your brand weaved in, not the other way round!”
Tan added, “As a Facebook advertiser, you cannot go for a home run in every post as it means a high strike-out rate. Play the percentages, interact with your target audience members, work hard on your creatives and you will be rewarded!”
With the monumental amount of information that Facebook collects, it’s no surprise that they’re crunching numbers to help you target your ads.
For example, Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, recommends using Facebook’s ad set audience tool to find more audiences that you can target. By brainstorming audiences related to the ones you’re currently targeting, you’ll find all sorts of peripheral groups that might be interested in what you’re advertising.
Zeke Dolezalek, content director at Yellow Box, recommends considering what your target audience is interested outside of your company. What else do they like? Where do they shop? What do they watch?
“[T]he best way to make your advertising budget count is to really delve into the psyche of your customers,” he says. And Facebook can help you figure out how to do that with its vast array of information available for ad targeting.
Remember too that Facebook will give you an estimate of how many people your ad will reach. Disturb Digital CEO Rick Parmar recommends using the Estimated Daily Results calculation to guide on your potential reach.
You’ll need to balance that reach with the relevance of your ad. Once you find the right balance, your Facebook ads will be much more effective.
The ultimate goal in expanding your Facebook ad reach, of course, is to drive more revenue. But it’s important to remember that your ad spend is directly related to how many people you reach.
“One of our main tips to increase your ad reach is to increase your pay-per-click budget,” says POWERPHRASE‘s Oz Chowdhury. In the end, you’ll have to deal with simple laws of economics. And no Facebook ad hacks are going to get you past that.
Still, by using these strategies to increase your Facebook ad reach, you can make the best use of each advertising dollar. With efficient targeting, effective copy, and good use of Facebook’s advertising tools, you’ll reach the people you need to.
How do you maximize your reach on Facebook ads? Do you use these strategies, or others?
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