Our Data-Driven Approach to Facebook Advertising

16th October 2018

Have you felt out of your depth running your own Facebook Ads? Are you disappointed with your ad performance? We asked our Paid Social Specialist to share his experience and insights below. Having worked on many promotional campaigns, Andy Skraga has knowledge that charities, non-profits, and businesses we're working with would benefit from. Give yourself time to read this piece before you launch your next campaign.

We leverage Facebook's powerful algorithms to drive down ad costs and increase ROI. Here's how.

Facebook’s advertising platform has democratised mass global advertising. Today, a small business owner has power at his fingertips to reach hundreds of millions of potential buyers. Buyers from all walks of life, in every country in the world, and at any second of the day or night. Buyers using a multitude of video, images or page links they need to promote. No other ad platform can boost this colossal reach. Or rather, no other ad platform is as available to anyone with an internet connection with a few dollars to experiment with.

Removing organic reach from the equation

I'm a web developer and digital marketer with over a decade’s worth of experience. I’ve seen some breathtaking changes in the online business world. A few years ago the concept of viral marketing evolved, and then exploded. This allowed forward-thinking marketers to amass huge social media followings in the tens of millions. A few people created their fortunes by leveraging the power Facebook’s viral post sharing ability.

Facebook’s viral post sharing ability

To generate consistent Facebook traffic, all a marketer or publisher needed to do was post a certain style of content many times. Content that would be the most likely to spread itself across the internet like a virus. If you struck it lucky, your post would generate volumes of page views within hours. Depending on your business model, these views would translate to huge sums of revenue. During this golden era of Facebook organic reach, a fortunate handful of early-adopters made themselves wealthy without paying a single penny in advertising costs.

From a business perspective, Facebook could not allow this to continue untamed. Over the past couple of years, the world’s biggest social network has become a “pay to play” social media platform. The potent organic reach that digital marketers enjoyed in the middle of the decade is now suppressed. Regular content on your business page now yields little to no traffic to your website or product pages. This is a cause of frustration to many business owners who had embraced social media marketing.

This seismic shift has occurred while Facebook have been honing and expanding their sophisticates ad platform. Facebook advertising is now more powerful. The employment of machine learning (AI) has propelled Facebook advertising to the tool box of almost every marketer in the world. This benefits many brands who continue to join the platform in their thousands today.

The secret to successful Facebook advertising

Facebook advertising is a popular self-service ad platform that is straightforward to use and with a low barrier to entry. Why do almost all Facebook advertisers fail to achieve a positive ROI? With months of campaigning and financial investment, how are ads continuing to underperform?

Unbeknown to most, there is something behind the scenes driving the platform’s exponential growth and popularity. Insightful digital marketers intrigued. Business owners and marketing professionals, who have delved deep enough into the Facebook rabbit hole, have caught a glimpse of the dizzying potential available. You can set up your campaigns in the right way to achieve success.

The secret to successful Facebook advertising

In the Facebook advertising world, positive ROI does not come from experience, wisdom or intuition. ROI uses maths, and access to the deep well of data that Facebook provides (to the paying customer of course). Used well, this remarkable ad platform yields such a low cost per result and instant global reach, that other forms of marketing have become redundant for many businesses and niches.

Facebook’s intelligent data processing and optimisation AI only becomes clear when you delve deep and step onto Facebook's steep learning curve. This learning reveals complex algorithms that allow us to run successful ad campaigns. Judiciously managed, these campaigns can drive down the cost of advertising almost any product or service. We are once more in the era of creating overnight millionaires. A host of otherwise failing businesses are reviving their fortunes.

From the trenches of e-commerce comes a smarter way to run ads

It was not until I plunged full-steam into a Facebook advertising driven e-commerce model, that I learnt of the reasons why some entrepreneurs were able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars every day. Using nothing but a few Facebook ads and a thrown together Shopify store. The e-commerce boom is “the greatest business opportunity of a generation”, and it continues to flourish today.

This vibrant business model is not built from raw creativity. Instead it comes on the back of sophisticated Facebook advertising techniques. Techniques developed in a dynamic environment that yield spellbinding returns on investment, to those who are patient and determined.

It’s entertaining to discover the rabble of adolescent millionaires produced by this remarkable business model. More important to marketers and business owners are the nuances and mechanisms of Facebook’s advertising algorithms. These are being exposed in a way rarely seen before. A battery of sophisticated techniques, developed in response to billions of dollars spent in Facebook advertising, coupled with repeated and fastidious split testing en masse in the e-commerce world. We can now learn to press the right buttons and leverage Facebook’s immense reach and data processing power to our own distinct advantage.

The hidden power inside Facebook's platform

For businesses failing to generate revenue from Facebook, or struggling to grasp the core concepts of the array of conversion types and targeting options, there are methods we can use to “teach” or train Facebook advertising systems to work for you. Rather than losing money or treading water with ad results and becoming frustrated, we can generate a positive return.

The hidden power inside Facebook's platform

This marketing concept is based on taking a data-driven approach to advertising. It means leaving preconceptions and intuition at the door, instead trusting the metrics flowing back daily from your ad campaigns. Using this flow, you can proactively build a valuable bank of data within Facebook’s tools. The data directs actions, even when only breaking even in the initial stages of campaigns.

Before I describe how we can use Facebook algorithms to our benefit in a practical way, it’s worth covering some of the common mistakes that are killing your Facebook advertising efforts.

The three Facebook advertising mistakes almost everyone makes

The popularity and ease of entry for small businesses and casual users to Facebook’s ad platform has been both a blessing and curse. A blessing for Mark Zuckerberg who has watched the social media company he founded grow unimaginably wealthy, and a curse to the causal user or business owner trying to promote a service or product on Facebook and discovering it’s also a highly efficient way to lose your hard-earned cash in a short period of time.

Rule 1: Never boost your posts

Boosting posts is to succumb to Facebook’s questionable marketing tactics. From within your business page, you create an elementary style of ad to “boost” a post or video. This might seem a convenient way to get started with Facebook advertising. You will be unlikely to achieve a positive result with this “quick fix” type of ad.

The key to achieving a ROI and mastering this platform is to create your campaigns and advertisements from within the Facebook Ad Manager. This allows complete control over the precise targeting and nuances of campaigns. Within the manager, it's possible to tie campaigns to Audiences, Page Posts and the Pixel to start off on the right foot.

Rule 2: Always install the Facebook pixel on your website

The Pixel is a a small snippet of code that Facebook uses to collect data about visitors to your website or online store. Its utility and power is huge. Installing the Pixel onto your site is the first step in taking control of your Facebook advertising and making the platform work for you.

Installing the pixel can be quite technical depending on your website or store platform and your abilities with code. But don't worry, we can help you with that side of things!

Rule 3: Be patient, and don’t be afraid to spend money

We can have a Facebook campaign up and running in 30 minutes, bringing in qualified traffic to your website. But to take effective control of your campaigns you need to make Facebook do the hard work for you. This will require a shift in mindset. The first element is to be patient with your ad campaigns. While Facebook advertising is a faster way to gain traffic than SEO. When compared to other online ad platforms such Google Adwords, Facebook is immediate. Great results will still take time.

Don’t be afraid to spend money on Facebook ads

The second shift is that we must not be afraid to spend money on campaigns, especially in the beginning. The more money we spend with Facebook, the more efficiently the algorithms operate, the lower the CPM drops and the greater value Facebook will offer us as a client. This notion throws up a key concept to the required mindset. Facebook advertising spend is never wasted. We are effectively buying data if we have our Pixel set up correctly and if we always endeavour to use video creatives.

How we begin to train the Pixel

For every dollar you spend on Facebook advertising, you receive eyeballs and traffic. You are also provided with usable data about this traffic. Think of this data as people taking actions. These people taking actions is why you're spending money on their platform.

This valuable and unique data is stored in multiple locations both within Facebook’s ad platform in a data store filled with information about your customers. Customer actions such as adding to cart, filling out a form or visiting specific web pages are recorded. The Pixel is the data connection between your website, online store or landing page and the Facebook ad platform. Without the Pixel installed on your site, you are missing out one of the greatest advantages of this amazing machine.

This customer and traffic data is also held at the Ad Manager, Campaign and Ad Set level. Data is held for each video you publish and promote via ads. This is why video is the preferred medium for advertising on Facebook and Instagram today. We can leverage this very immediate data to our advantage even without a Pixel in place on the website..

The Pixel helps make audiences, and audiences help drive up ROI

Building audiences that resemble other successful audiences, and understanding how to scale those audiences is a another key concept to grasp for successful Facebook advertising. No other ad platform allows you to hone in on potential leads and buyers in such a precise way. Building audiences from existing data allows us to advertise to new audiences generated via an algorithmic process. We can then encourage consistent, positive ROI from our campaigns. We go beyond superficial tactics employed by some would-be Facebook advertisers. This enables a more effective, growth-driven and data-led approach to online marketing.

Facebook assigns people to “buckets”

Facebook advertising operates on an auction based system. It will provide the highest quality traffic to advertisers who spend the most, targeting the most precise of audiences, coupled with the most engaging and engaged content. To facilitate this process, Facebook divides it’s billions of users into “buckets” of people most likely to take a certain action. Ads that engage users with a viral video, or engage valuable consumers who purchase products online are most successful. The latter are fewer in number and more desirable to an advertiser than the former. As such they are much more expensive to advertise to.

Successful Facebook ad strategy

By building up data about visitors, prospects and buyers in the early stages of ad campaigns, we can create similar audiences. Within Facebook’s platform, the Pixel data from the website or store (such as people who purchased a certain product, entered a sales funnel but dropped out before completion) can be used to target 'lookalike' customers.

The power of Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences

“Custom Audiences” of product buyers or web visitors, can be combined with Facebook’s own baked-in data resources. This combination forms the basis of an effective retargeting resource. It also generates powerful seed audiences to propagate, creating precise audiences to further scale and advertise to.

Our recipe for repeatable Facebook advertising success comprises scaling into these “Lookalike Audiences”; retargeting Custom Audiences; and anchoring campaign decisions on systematic metrics analysis rather than haphazard intuition. We target new campaigns based on solid data and conversions to grow and coax ads towards an increased ROI.

The power of Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences

Marketing to these well-matched, algorithmically-generated audiences, we are able to refine and split test ads and campaigns. Ads that might appear unremarkable and yielding little in the way of positive results in the early stages, can gather enough valuable data to reduce CPMs, increase ROI, and generate fresh audiences. This gives confidence in a measure of predictability and longevity.

Taking things forward

Facebook paid advertising presents an unrivalled marketing opportunity. It has the power to reach billions of people worldwide within modest budget restraints. Facebook ads offer the benefit of solid, actionable results reporting. If you would like to learn more about our ever expanding marketing and SEO services, please get in touch.