SocialFacebook Ads: Lessons From the Trenches

Facebook Ads: Lessons From the Trenches

Much like those of its search-cousins AdWords or Bing Ads, Facebook Ads' feature sets change frequently, leaving us in a constant state of learning and testing to find out what works.


OK, enough with the random “war time meets Pirates of the Caribbean” analogy and onto the Facebook Ads strategies! Facebook Ads has been around long enough that it is no longer considered new. However, much like it’s search-cousins AdWords or Bing Ads, the feature sets change frequently. This leaves all of us in a constant state of learning and testing to find what will generate the best performance for our campaigns. Or at least it should!

In this vein, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned with many of the recent (ish) changes in Facebook Ads.

It’s All About the Creative

Targeting is pretty darn important, too, but creative is where the real magic happens. You get the creative “right” and you will achieve great performance.

  • A picture speaks a thousand words and will make or break your Facebook ads.
  • Getting the image “right” is a considerable challenge. Keeping text at 20 percent or less? Keeping within brand guidelines? Does the image convey your core message or benefits? Is the image visually attractive or attract attention? My two cents: hire a talented graphic designer.
  • Don’t assume anything about the order, length, or substance of your copy. If you are coming from the traditional PPC world, set aside your text ad writing skills and prepare to learn a NEW skill. A desktop newsfeed ad has three text entry points (headline, link description, and body text) and the testing opportunities are endless.
  • Facebook’s motto is “hack” and you should live by that motto. Specifically in regards to copy length. If you build your ads in the Web interface, you will receive errors if you try to write copy past the standard character limits. Not so if you promote a page post or create ads within Power Editor. Tread with caution – when you go over you stand the chance of copy being cut off – just review your work in the live preview and test, test, test.
  • Don’t assume anything about device or placement. Some Facebook ads will kick butt across mobile, desktop, newsfeed, and right placement. Some ads will only work for a single device or placement. Why do I state the obvious here? Because Facebook makes it quite easy to run all devices and placements together in the same ad unit by default. Don’t give in to the temptation – SEGMENT.

Creative Is King, but Targeting Rules the World

You could have the most amazing copy and images in your ads, but if you are targeting all users in all countries, you will end up with nothing but an epic bill from Facebook. Targeting matters.

  • Custom audiences rock. Upload your email or phone number lists and deliver a laser focused message to a VERY specific group of Facebook users. The possibilities are endless.
  • Custom audiences based on conversion and/or site tags also rock.
  • And if you didn’t figure it out already, lookalike audiences based on your custom audiences or conversion/site tags rock, too. I have entire accounts that have run at times exclusively on lookalike audience targeting to great success.
  • Generally speaking, Facebook’s targeting features just keep getting deeper and deeper. We started with only interests. Now we have partner categories, demographics (including cool stuff like job titles, industry, financial, and ethnic background, etc.) and behavior-based targeting.
  • The relationship between campaign > ad set > ad is crucial to success. The campaign is merely a container and designator of the campaign’s objective. Ads are merely for testing images and text copy. This means that the ad set is truly the king of the hill where your targeting must reside – audience, interest, device, and ad placement segmentation.

Facebook Works for Direct Marketing

I know, I know… this still blows a lot of people’s minds. The truth is that Facebook Ads drive conversions, sales, and a plethora of Facebook-oriented actions. Frankly, it blows MY mind that so many people are stuck on “Facebook Ads are only for branding and social engagement.” Think again, friends.

  • Campaign Objectives were a stroke of genius. Facebook has always had a tendency to give us ALL THE THINGS with regards to ad types and features. This caused chaos and confusion. Campaign Objectives solved that problem. Your objective will determine the types of targeting and ad units available to you – and once set cannot be changed. Website conversions, events, likes, app downloads…take your pick.
  • Optimized CPM (OCPM) was also a stroke of genius. Bid automation has its place in all manner of biddable media, but Facebook hit it out of the park with OCPM. Remember those campaign objectives? How about setting an automated bid based on a cost-per-acquisition (leads, sales), cost-per-action, etc.? It works. And it works well.
  • OCPM requires patience. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Once you’ve launched your ads with OCPM in place, you have to let Facebook accumulate data for OCPM to truly be effective. What does that mean for you? Don’t make knee-jerk decisions and switch to CPC bids or to pause the ads altogether. Give them a few days to marinate (actual time varies based on targeting, conversion action, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to test custom OCPM. Facebook has default targets for the various Campaign Objectives. For example, website conversion CPA is $30 by default. Your target CPA may be higher or lower – set a custom CPA accordingly. But it is also worth noting that if you are struggling to get conversion volume with OCPM, set a custom OCPM that is well above your target CPA. You will be pleasantly surprised at the (positive) results!

So many features. So many possibilities. As with any digital advertising platform, your results may vary. But one thing is for certain: Never. Stop. Testing. With that, I’m headed back to the trenches – I’ve got a few ads to write for Facebook!

Image via


SEO for Website Redesign and Migration

SEO SEO for Website Redesign and Migration

Ever-Changing GoalPosts - SEO Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Analytics Ever-Changing GoalPosts - SEO Challenges and How to Overcome Them

7 Unexpected PPC + SEO Strategies for Growth Marketing

Content 7 Unexpected PPC + SEO Strategies for Growth Marketing

All About Click Fraud and How You Can Block It

PPC All About Click Fraud and How You Can Block It