Rapid Growth

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Facebook Marketing: What the Zuck?!

Thomas MacThomas

Marketer in Residence @ Forward Partners

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years you will have noticed the surge in demand for Facebook advertising inventory. It turns out that people do actually click on Facebook ads, who would have thunk it, eh?

Key takeaways:

  • If you're not using Facebook to market your digital product you probably should be
  • Focus on creative and really work hard on CTR
  • Segment to find a responsive audience but don't go too far

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Whilst Sun Tzu had no idea of a man named Mark Zuckerberg or indeed a social network, he did understand that to succeed at any task (in his case overcoming warring factions within ancient China) one needed to have great understanding of your own organisation but also that of the organisation you are trying to overcome. Whilst we’re not going to try and mount an audacious hostile takeover of the Facebook behemoth, we do need to understand how the internals of Facebook’s advertising platform works to be able to harness it for our own commercial needs.

Is Facebook right for you?

Tl;dr: Probably.

Most businesses with any online presence can harness one of Facebook’s ad formats for a specific business need. Facebook is great at doing three things: raising awareness, increasing consideration, and driving conversions (whatever they may be). Recently more and more B2B players have entered the Facebook auction, I’m now constantly chased around the newsfeed by people such as SEMrush (see below) and other digital marketing SaaS companies.

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 08.56.10.png

The campaign objective

Tl;dr: normally you’ll want this to be conversions

This is a very crucial step for your campaign. Setting this objective at campaign level will determine how your campaign will run and also the people that Facebook will try and target. CPC seems like a decent choice here, but be warned, Facebook knows which users have a high propensity to click on adverts and will serve ads to these people regardless of their conversion history. High click propensity users do not necessarily equal high conversion propensity users.

The auction

Tl;dr: To win the auction, you need to understand the auction (a bit).

The Facebook auction uses a VCG auction type. You can dive into that here. A warning: it gets fairly complicated, quickly. The real takeaway from it though is that it’s setup to reflect the true value of what you would like to pay for results. I.e. if you can afford to bid £10 for a conversion, then you should bid this much. You will never pay over this amount and in practice you will mostly pay well under it. This also applies for clicks and again for impressions if that’s what your campaign objective is. Facebook’s auction is highly complex due to the different bidding models you can apply. Contrast this with AdWords’ relatively simple CPC formula.

Optimising in the auction

Tl;dr: Focus on click-through rate.

Once you’ve set your bid, you have a few options with which to optimise your facebook campaign. By and large the most important is CTR. This includes all interactions with your ad unit, not just link clicks. If your creative is poor and has a low CTR it will not be served as much as creative with high CTR. Also, creative fatigue is a real thing, so make sure your frequency remains low (making sure you look at this metrics across the campaign lifetime).

Relevance score is also a good guide to how efficacious your ad is for your target audience, but CTR still wins.

Read on for more reasons why CTR is super important…

WTZ is this about?

Tl;dr: this box causes heartache for most - it also keeps changing.

Confusing optimisation setting box below:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.20.31.png

You may think: “ooh I can get a super cheap CPC so let’s beat the system by optimising for link clicks.”

Do not do this. You’ll mostly get a load of low converting click-happy people (see the campaign objective section above) and miss out on people you actually want who have a higher propensity to convert.

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.27.50.png

The chart above is official Facebook material, however the title should be changed to “Clickiest user are not necessarily “convertiest”” to be correct.

Stick to the “Conversions - Recommended” setting (formerly oCPM conversions). Then focus hard on CTR. If your CTR is high then you will beat Facebook at its own game.

Think about it like this: Facebook is interested in providing a decent user experience within its newsfeed, but also is highly interested in generating revenue for itself. If you select optimise for clicks, it’ll show your ad to people who will likely click. In this scenario Facebook wins, it generates cash and you may get some conversions. If you stick to oCPM conversions and have good creative then you can outperform other people and pay significantly less per click (eCPC) as you’re receiving a very high CTR and being charged not for clicks but impressions. You’ll also receive more shares, increasing reach even further. Chart alert:

So, to reiterate. Focus on CTR.

Your target user

Tl;dr: define your segment but don’t overly limit the audience size

Facebook’s power really lies within the immense targeting options it can offer. However, this can also be a bit of a double edged sword. Quite often it’s too easy to over-target. This will limit your audience, sending your CPM high and more importantly won’t allow the Facebook optimisation algorithms the ability to work their magic. By limiting your audience you’re also increasing the rate of frequency increase, meaning you’ll need more creative more often, which usually carries an overhead. Try and aim for hundreds of thousands or more when selecting an audience.

If you are really intent on targeting a small group for some reason, then this is also possible. Ignore the speedometer (below) when Facebook tells you your audience is too specific, they’ll usually still see ads. If they don’t you will have to raise your bid to overcome the small audience hurdle.

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 11.54.35.png

What next?

This post could go on for a very long time about the ins and outs of tactics for successful campaigns, but at the heart of every one will be CTR. It’s probably also worth mentioning the power of the Facebook Pixel, but there is enough content around that to fill a couple more posts… something for 2017! In the meantime, check out John Loomer who’s a regular blogger on this and has some sound advice.

Thomas MacThomas

Marketer in Residence @ Forward Partners

Tom is the former Head of Marketing at Forward Partners. He is an award winning growth marketer, having gained experience heading up the marketing function at high growth daily deals site Wowcher, online gaming firm William Hill Online and more recently the mobile app Bizzby. Tom helps our startups with marketing strategy and support, everything from PPC all the way through to TV.

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