How to Not Waste Money on Facebook and Instagram Ads

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated. In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

As publishers, our relationship with Facebook is … complicated.

In 2019, Facebook traffic returned for a lot of publishers, and many now consider the platform a reliable source of traffic. However, there hasn’t been much consistency in regard to Facebook’s Ads Manager platform in the last several months, amiright?

Facebook Ads Manager Continues to Evolve

First, Ads Manager was completely redesigned in July. Reviews were mixed, but overall the user-interface improved. Even still, there’s always a learning curve when getting to know a new version of an intricate platform.

In addition to visual updates, Facebook Ads Manager is a lot more complex than it was just 2 years ago. There are now 18 different placement options for ads, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, in-article, plus Facebook’s audience network — which allows you to target users off of Facebook-owned platforms and applications. Facebook clearly marks “automatic placements” as “recommended,” but this isn’t often the best selection for most advertisers — and it takes some savvy to understand which placements make the most sense for your campaign.

There’s also the various options for campaign optimization. Facebook has four different delivery optimization options: conversions, landing page views, link clicks, and impressions. More than that if you consider that there are several different ways you can define a conversion. That’s a lot of decisions to make and places where your campaign can go wrong.

Beyond the campaign criteria above, a typical marketer also has to account for varying audiences and budget optimization, along with creative and copy testing. All this is to say, it’s easy to waste money using Facebook’s Ads Manager when running campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

Secondly, Facebook Ads Manager underwent some significant changes in November. You remember … the one right before Black Friday. Along with slight changes to the UI, these changes seem to have also placed an emphasized level of importance on a few small but key nuances in how you build and optimize campaigns.

Facebook’s Learning Phase

The learning phase is an often under-estimated way you can derail your campaign objections. As someone on our team once put it, the learning phase is “a dance more than it’s a science.”

Additionally, Facebook’s platform updates in November included “New Learning Phase Insights.” In this update, Facebook launched insights that display “the percentage of ads, ad sets and spend spent in the learning phase over the last two weeks.”

The learning phase of your campaign (the time period in which Facebook is getting to know what type of user is most likely to engage with your campaign, learning from those findings, and further refining your placements and targeting as a result) is roughly 7 days or 50 conversions. Depending on the campaign you’re running, 50 conversions can be a lot, which means most marketers have to wait those 7 days.

So what does the Facebook learning phase mean for marketers looking not to waste money? It means allowing campaigns around 7 days to start spending budget most effectively. And during that time period, any significant edits to the campaign can start that time period over from the beginning, so edit wisely!

Most of us know those impatient marketers. The ones that just can’t stop themselves from making changes to their campaign just a day or two after launch. Stop doing that! Making significant edits to the campaign before it has been live for around 7 days is a surefire way to waste your ad budget. Your campaign will start over from scratch and any lessons learned from your original campaign will not be relayed.

Since this update went live in November, campaigns can now move into a “Learning Limited” status after 7 days. According to Facebook, this happens when:

  • The bid control or cost control is too low.
  • The budget is too low.
  • The audience size is too small.
  • There are too many ad sets.
  • Other ad sets from the same ad account or Page are winning auctions instead.

Certainly use these insights to understand why a particular campaign or ad set cannot exit the learning phase, but also recognize that without paying close attention to the nuances of targeting and placements, as we discussed above, you may run ads for 7 days only to then find out that the platform can’t find enough people to engage with your campaign in the current targeting, placement, and budget allotted.

Also consider the learning phase when planning the timing of your campaigns. If you’re marketing tickets to an event and you want to really hit your audience hard in the 2 weeks leading up to your event date, you’ll spend half of that precious time with your campaign in learning mode — thus not spending your budget most effectively. To combat this, consider running an awareness campaign several weeks out from the event to allow Facebook to find audiences that will engage with your event content, and then retarget those who engaged but haven’t yet purchased tickets.

Objective Optimization of Facebook Campaigns

It’s important to evaluate your campaign objective. As mentioned above, there are more than a few campaign “objective” options you can select when starting your campaign, and each can cause the behavior of your campaign to vary wildly.

If you’re running a click-based campaign (in other words, your campaign “Objective” is “Link Clicks”), you may start to notice that you’re getting clicks, but your ultimate objective of traffic to your website isn’t being met. If this is happening, add “Landing Page Views” to your customized report and see what percentage of those clicking on the ad are actually landing on your website. Unfortunately, we’ve seen these numbers be as low as 35-40%. That means of 100 people clicking on your ad, only 35-40 are waiting long enough for the page to load.

So where did you go wrong? A campaign objective of “Link Clicks” is telling Facebook that all it takes to make you happy is clicks. Not refining your objective to “Landing Page Views” or “Conversions” means you can end up wasting a lot of money on “clicks” when, depending on your ultimate campaign objective, “clicks” don’t really mean that much.

So, consider and scrutinize your Facebook campaign objective closely. (Note: If you haven’t added the Facebook pixel to your website, you won’t have the option to optimize for Landing Page Views. Adding the pixel to your page lets Facebook see who actually results in a visit to your website.)

Running Ads on Facebook and Instagram Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Executing a campaign on Facebook is not that hard. But executing an effective and cost-efficient campaign is. With recent platform updates and an ever-changing algorithm, it takes work to stay abreast of best practices and knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of an ill-targeted or budgeted campaign.

Thoroughly plan your campaign strategy to avoid wasting money. Consider your objective, placements, and testing parameters closely. There are plenty of resources available to help you make the correct choices for your campaign. Or, get help if you need it. A strategic marketing team that can plan and execute your campaign strategy effectively is worth their weight in conversions.

Why You Are Missing Out Without Conversion Tracking

Which digital marketing channels are driving the most leads and sales for your business? Are any channels just wasting your budget? Without properly set up conversion tracking, there’s no way to answer those two critical questions.

How can you tell if your new Google Ads campaign is improving your conversion rate? What percentage of visitors coming to your landing pages are there because of your Facebook Ads? You can’t get an accurate assessment of the ROI generated by your advertising efforts without implementing mechanisms to track visitor responses.

What Is Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking involves placing a piece of code on your website to track visitors and their actions. The data helps you understand their responses to various techniques used in your ad campaigns and different webpage designs. You can use conversion tracking for testing of keywords, redesigned landing pages, and new ad text.

Items You Should Be Tracking

  • Forms on your website (ex. quote requests, scheduled appointments, demo requests)
  • E-commerce sales
  • Coupon codes you give out as a way of encouraging people to visit physical locations
  • Phone calls

Here is what you gain by effectively tracking your digital marketing efforts.

1. Better ROI Tracking

You can add tracking codes to “Thank You” pages to monitor completed transactions by visitors and origination channels. That can tell you how many of those conversions came from visitors who clicked on specific advertisements. You can include tracking of signups, lead generation, or other items relevant to improving ROI.

2. Insights Into Campaign Successes

Some ads will perform better than others. Conversion tracking tells you how well specific keywords perform in attracting your target audience. You can also learn which ad campaigns to eliminate if they tend to draw visitors who quickly move away from your landing pages. Use information gained from your split testing efforts to tweak your keyword lists, ad copy, and landing pages for better performance.

3. Figuring Out What Content to Reuse

You want to stick with what works. Conversion tracking lets you know which content on your website attracted the most interest, or which campaigns helped drive higher-quality visitors. You want content that keeps visitors on your site who will eventually convert into a lead or sale.

4. Improved Audience Categorization

Segmenting audiences allows you to provide relevant content to those who visit your site or sign up to receive your email communications. Conversion tracking helps you figure out whether you have your contacts properly sorted for the type of information they receive.

Better categorization means your audiences aren’t sending your emails directly to the trash bin, or worse, clicking the “report spam” and/or “Unsubscribe” link. You also increase your chances of attracting the type of attention that leads to more conversions and better ROI.

5. Knowledge of Where to Direct Marketing Budget

Marketers running campaigns on a limited budget must maximize each dollar spent, while being cost-efficient. That allows you to create more effective campaigns that get the most for your money. You avoid dumping money into failing ad strategies and can direct those funds to higher-performing efforts.

Why Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking allows you to track and improve the ROI of your digital marketing campaigns by helping you identify your best-performing campaigns and eliminate those not delivering the desired conversion rates. It also helps you understand where you should be directing your budget across all the various marketing channels so you maximize every dollar invested.

Want more help tracking your marketing campaigns?  Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.”

3 Ways to Combine Direct Mail With Digital Marketing

When you combine your direct mail with digital marketing, you enhance it and drive better results. There are many ways to add digital to your direct mail campaigns in a cost-effective way so that you can test to see how it works for you.

Direct mail has been around for a very long time and it is easy to continue to send mail the same way it was done 20 years ago, but this is much less effective now. Direct mail marketing in 2019 is so much more targeted and personalized, which makes it more effective. However, many marketers continue to silo their direct mail. This is a mistake. When you combine your direct mail with digital marketing, you enhance it and drive better results. There are many ways to add digital to your direct mail campaigns in a cost-effective way so that you can test to see how it works for you.

Let’s check out some winning digital and direct mail combinations.

  • Display Ads — You can use display ads in conjunction with your mail. You can match your direct mail data file to an IP address file to target specific people on your mail list. This is cookie-free marketing that displays banner ads on web pages as your customers and prospects are browsing. It gives you more opportunities to persuade your prospects and customers to make a purchase. Keep in mind that display advertising can affect people at every stage of the marketing funnel from awareness, education and evaluation to purchase. You can see real-time click rates to monitor progress.
  • Facebook Ads — You can use Facebook ads in conjunction with your mail. You can match your direct mail data file to Facebook. This will allow you to send targeted ads to your customers and prospects. They will see an ad in their News Feed. There are several ad options you can choose the one that is right for you. Your prospects and customers spend a lot of time on Facebook, so using these ads helps keep you top-of-mind. As with display ads, you can monitor click rates to make sure you are getting the results you need.
  • Email — Surprisingly, most marketers are using email, but are not combining it with their mail campaigns. The great thing about adding email to direct mail is that you can use it both before you mail to help build curiosity about your mail piece and after they receive it to keep your offer fresh and remind them to respond. This also gives you a chance to make an additional special offer to get them to buy now.

You can choose to use all three with a mail campaign or pick and choose what is best for your customers. If you don’t have enough people on your mail list, you can create a list of people who look like your current customers to send them mail, as well as display and Facebook ads. Email address append is also an option, but it usually only has about a 40% match rate. So if your list is small, it may not be worth it.

Increasing your exposure with customers and prospects increases your response rates, so by adding a digital component, you can increase sales. The best part about digital marketing is that it has a relatively low cost and can be tracked in real time. Plus, you will have additional metrics about your prospects and customers when they interact with you across channels. Are you ready to get started?

Facebook Live Growing Up Fast

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most of you reading this have not thought seriously about Facebook Live yet. Live is the real-time video streaming service it rolled out just a few months ago, but it’s already been used to cover both U.S. presidential nomination conventions, document shootings, and try on the Chewbacca mask watched around the world. And now, it’s getting ads.

Facebook Live EverywhereI’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most of you reading this have not thought seriously about Facebook Live yet.

Live is the real-time video streaming service it rolled out just a few months ago (January 2016), but it’s already been used to cover both U.S. presidential nomination conventions, document shootings, and try on the Chewbacca mask watched around the world.

Next week, Live will probably stream quite a lot of Olympic coverage straight from Rio, perhaps outside of scheduled broadcast hours.

Facebook Live Gets Commercial Breaks

It came out this week via Ad Age that Facebook is testing ads in Facebook Live. The stream hasn’t had those yet. In fact, thus far Facebook has been spending money to get top media partners to use the platform without taking steps to monetize it. (Which may be why we’ve seen some of the Facebook Live coverage moments mentioned above, but certainly not all of them.) Live ads can only be a higher priority now that Newsfeed ads are close to selling out (which Heather Fletcher reported on earlier this week).

These ads are in the hands of the media partners. Live video creators can insert the ads any time after five minutes into the Live stream, and they split the revenue with Facebook.

According to Ad Age, the Live test ads are 15-second commercial breaks during the live stream, what you could call mid-roll ads. They can’t appear earlier than five minutes into the Live stream.

Timing Matters Again

So how does this matter to you? I’m not going to say everyone has to go out and start making Facebook Live broadcasts. You might want to consider it for product demos where you want to include more interactivity, or for marketing events you’d like to show to a wider audience, but it is still pretty unproven as a content marketing channel.

Where I think Facebook Live does deserve more attention is as a live advertising channel. And that’s something digital hasn’t really had much of.

TV and radio advertising are tied to event timing. The Super Bowl only happens during four hours a year, after all.

The whole Facebook Live product takes what Periscope and Meerkat were doing and makes them bigger. Facebook is still one of the largest networks on the Web, and Facebook Live events broadcast by major media partners with millions of their own followers have the potential to be something like broadcast TV in the digital environment.

So I would watch very carefully what’s going on with Facebook Live, because it’s one big event away from becoming the new must-watch TV.

Target Marketing Live

And, if you want to see how a Facebook Live broadcast looks, check out our Facebook page today at 2 PM EST, when Target Marketing is going Live! Watch us pitch our best videos ideas complete with healthy bickering, sassy opinions and a movie quote (or 5). See you then!

Fan Funded: The Most Exciting Thing in Marketing Today

There’s a type of marketing being done today that is changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio was marketed and launched entirely through social media and crowd funding.

There’s a type of fan funded marketing being done online, especially on social media, that is actually changing the way companies are built, and not nearly enough people are talking about it.

One of the things that’s really worked well to get my attention as a consumer has been Facebook ads. Marketers have been able to dial those in to my personal interest with shocking accuracy. A lot of the time companies reaching me via Facebook are ones I’ve never heard of before. And often, they don’t even have a product to send me yet. … But they can still sell it to me!

That’s the really exciting thing to me. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow companies to launch without a product, without a lot of funding, and essentially presell enough product (with add-ons and kickers to boost order value) to guarantee the success of their first product.

In fact, one of the most successful of those for me has been for a product that doesn’t even exist yet, but I was very ready to spend $300 on: The Site:1 speaker from Princeton Audio in Wisconsin.

I didn’t actually end up buying one of these speakers, but only because the best speakers I currently own are probably the ones in my TV, so I’m not the kind of audiophile who can justify (to his wife) spending $300 on a speaker.

The marketing was done entirely through social media, Indiegogo, and word of mouth, and it had me totally sucked in. I was an inch from pulling the trigger, and I still might.

That marketing campaign created over $62,000 in funding, all of which represents various kinds of presales of the main speaker and various perks/upgrades. That’s more than enough to reach their goal and launch the company.

Think of what Princeton Audio did there. Too often we look at crowdfunding as nothing more than a donation engine. But that’s not really what’s happening here. This is the new face of social marketing, call it “fan funding,” and it is so powerful that it can actually let you use marketing to launch the company.

That’s really a 180-degree turn on the traditional way start-ups grow. Usually you come up with an idea, bring in a partner, bring in angel investors, then venture funding … all the while trying to develop your product and make some revenue on it. Marketing is secondary because your early goal is to get investor funding.

Fan funding lets you do the opposite. Instead of investors, you attract a fanbase, and that’s a marketing foundation that can carry your company for the long run.

The power of the fan funding/social media marketing platform in this case was enough to get to me, a guy who sees thousands of ads a day and doesn’t even own a stereo, to seriously considered buying one of these high end speakers. (I would love to know what in my Facebook profile tugged their ads in my direction.)

Princeton is hardly the first company founded on crowdfunding that’s gotten my attention, either. Just a few months ago I did buy into a product called Cthulhu Wars by a man named Sandy Petersen.