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8 tips for launching an effective paid Facebook campaign

Stephen Anderson
8 tips for launching an effective paid Facebook campaign Stephen Anderson

While "set it and forget it" may work as a mantra in the infomercial world of Ron Popeil and small rotisserie ovens, it should most certainly not be the mantra of your Facebook ad campaign. True, digital media planning has always relied on constant optimization, but Facebook advertising has done to media planning what social media as a whole has done to most things --  changed the game. So, what is a media planner to do when trying to plan a successful Facebook campaign? Well, Facebook already offers some tips and best practices, but the truth is, because of how dynamic Facebook advertising is, every campaign needs to be approached individually. Here are eight recommendations to think about when launching your next Facebook campaign.

8 tips for launching an effective paid Facebook campaign 

Like search, apply a high touch, flexible approach

Similar to how search broke the buying mold in the early part of this century with auction-based, demand-driven media, Facebook advertising is accelerating the media planning cycle and approach for media planners and buyers. Success in the Facebook ecosystem requires a unique blend of skills -- a firm grasp of audience targeting and segmentation, a search engine marketer's understanding of auction-based media platforms, and the necessary analytical chops to apply daily optimizations to your campaign. Add in the fact that forecasting can feel like a wild-goose chase because planners must dig through a variety of demographic and self-identified interest data points in order to find estimated audience volume data, and each unique segment is treated as an individual campaign. This means that there are often few established benchmarks and limited insight into actual estimated click volume. Planners must therefore be armed to translate problem solving into action in a real-time environment.   

Take advantage of segmentation features, but be careful not to limit your audience

The overwhelmingly unique attribute of Facebook advertising is the ability to target your audience based on an entirely new paradigm -- their self-professed areas of interest in parallel with their brand "connections" and more traditional geographic and demographic profiles. For some brands, this interest-based segmentation may be intuitive and come naturally as it may closely mirror the process of generating a keyword list for paid search. For example, a bicycle manufacturer can easily identify cyclists who may "like" certain cycling organizations or races, or have "connections" with complimentary (or competitive) brands. For others, this process is less clear.

Targeting based on interests is an in-depth exercise that requires diving deep into understanding the target audience. Often, this will mean piecing together a range of signals and information to identify a variety of personas and audience segments. This process should start with a consumer insights team working hand-in-hand with a media planning team to clearly identify behavioral and psychographic audience subgroups that represent the greatest opportunities for targeting. 

While the ability to hyper-target an audience is appealing, and can lead to an extremely efficient campaign, there is a possibility that you can negatively impact a campaign by "over-segmenting" your audience. The more granular you get with audience segmentation, the more limited your audience becomes, which is a critical point when you consider both the likelihood for burnout and Facebook’s audience minimums -- minimum of 150 people per segment. This takes us to our next point.

Plan for burnout

While Facebook has grown to become the largest display provider, its arguably greatest value for advertisers is the opportunity to hyper-target audience segments based on self-identified interest areas. This is a groundbreaking opportunity for advertisers, yet it can also lead to challenges; one being "burnout." Ad fatigue is inherent in Facebook advertising because segments can be so focused that they result in extremely small audiences compared to more standard site or network buys. With such finite targeting, burnout can occur in as little as ten days due to repetitious ad serving.

To account for burnout, a plan must be developed ahead of time to ensure that creative is refreshed continually and segments are paused or replaced throughout the duration of the campaign.

Test and control

On the topic of hyper-targeting, while this is generally a best practice, it is not the rule. AMP Agency’s historical data have shown that in many cases more specific targeting has performed comparatively worse than general-targeted campaigns. Rather than over-segmenting your target, or rather, segmenting for segmentation’s sake, think about testing general vs. audience segments. The testing will allow your planners to evaluate whether the cost of the higher-priced audience segments outperforms a lower-priced general audience profile like gender and age. 

Build a library of creative assets

While "sponsored stories," "ads with friends," and "comment ads" have added variety to the types of advertisements a brand can buy on Facebook, the format of ads remains fairly consistent -- 25 characters for your ad title, 135 characters for your ad body text, and an optional image of up to 110 x 80 pixels (displayed at 100 x 72 or 110 x 80 depending upon display). To avoid ad fatigue, our creative team provides a bank of assets to our media planners for use throughout the duration of the campaign, usually 20-30 images and a similar number of copy variations. Not only does this help prevent performance burn out, but it also allows a planner to test various creative combinations against different segments, which can help identify the most salient messages and consistent themes for specific audiences. Additionally, if content is flagged by consumers, Facebook is likely to remove it quickly. Having backup creative assets on file allows for a seamless transition to a new image and/or line of copy to replace the content in question.

Optimize. And then, optimize some more

In addition to having a bank of creative on file prior to launching a campaign, an optimization plan with clearly defined objectives and a testing approach should already be identified and ready for implementation. The optimization plan should include a prioritized list of target segments and multiple correlating creative variations that you suspect will be most successful in reaching that audience. Your bank of creative should include multiple graphical or photographic approaches, calls to action, and copy. Through your testing and optimization, you may find that one call to action works well with passionate fans, while another may work for casual fans. In addition, you’re likely to find that some segments greatly outperform others.

Our experience has shown that a baseline can be established in as little as one week after the campaign is live. After analyzing this initial baseline, it is important, dare I say mandatory, to optimize the campaign daily -- pausing and adding segments based on performance and shifting dollars to support top audience segments. In addition to optimizing to best performing campaigns, the planner on an account must also be consistently monitoring and updating bids against the suggested cost-per-click (CPC). On a recent campaign, we saw a $10 recommended CPC drop to $2 over the course of a weekend, which made a $7 bid quickly go from slightly aggressive to significantly wasteful. Based on Facebook’s algorithms, a suggested CPC can vary based on the number of impressions available, the frequency of clicks from a target, and the number of other advertisers competing and their associated bids. Update creative often to stay relevant and fresh with your audience, and reallocate budgets to support the highest performing segments to drive maximum ROI for your campaign.

Measurement is not a four-letter word

No best-practices article is complete without mentioning tracking and measurement. If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably in media and the importance of measurement is at the core of your DNA. I’ll therefore spare you on preaching to the choir the basics of defining objectives, key performance indicators, and leveraging analytics. That said, one important point to stress is to make sure you are not measuring your Facebook campaign in a vacuum. Core in-channel metrics should be considered to drive day-to-day optimization such as click-through-rate and cost-per-action -- whether that action is a "like," lead, or other.

Measurement can also be applied to help determine which ad copy and imagery will perform best based on statistical significance. On high impression volume accounts, ensure that you implement a testing plan before going live that will gauge the effectiveness of creative. When developing this component of your measurement plan, consider that statistical significance may need to be lowered in order to accommodate for fast-paced optimization decisions.

Additionally, remember that your Facebook program should be evaluated in relation to the entire media plan. This cross-channel attribution can be achieved through a variety of solutions. At AMP, we leverage a media management and reporting platform that provides insight and analysis across channels. These pathway data help to understand the big picture and shift budget and priorities to those channels of greatest influence across the program as a whole.

Approach your first campaign as an opportunity for learning

There's no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to Facebook advertising. It is a test-and-learn environment, and since there are no insertion orders or minimums to worry about, Facebook advertising tends to be one of the more flexible components of your media plan. Facebook is a great environment for brands to learn about their audiences. Through our segmentation for a recent campaign, for a client in the health care space, we were able to identify a consumer segment based on gender and specific age range that drove the highest volume of leads, as well as the most efficient leads. These data will be used for future campaigns both on Facebook and outside of Facebook. 

With a little bit of experience and foresight, many of the common Facebook advertising missteps can easily be avoided. To be successful, ensure you dedicate the proper time to planning and developing a segmentation strategy, and then carefully test and optimize the plan when it is in market.

Ensure you have sufficient creative to refresh throughout the course of the campaign, and encourage your planners to be extremely hands-on with ongoing management. With those tips in mind, test, learn, and test some more. 

Stephen Anderson is SVP of search services at AMP Agency.

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Joe Doran

2012, February 10

Great tips Steven!

To get the most bang out of your buck in Facebook and other social ads you have to lean into it. We have found that most brands have a hard time dealing with this complexity. They just don't have the time to learn the tips and because you have to lean in everyday, they don't have the band width to manage all the channels.

Your points are spot on around targeting the right audience, getting the right creative (and creative library) as well as bid management. At Rallyverse (www.rallyverse.com) we have taken another step where we orchestrate the owned media with the paid that results in a significant impact for the brand. We also found that our ability to dynamically create unique ads - not just variations - for our clients greatly reduced the burden in building the creative library.

Keep sharing the tips and tricks.