7 ways to improve your Facebook- and Instagram ads

When scrolling down my social feed I’m interested in looking at what my friends are doing, get some inspiration for future surf trips or just learning something new. Of course I also tend to notice ads during my scrolling, some bad and some that are really good. So, what differs a bad ad from a good one? Well, I guess that is in the eye of the beholder, but I would like to share some of my personal reflections on the matter.

Let’s start by looking at the bad ads. For example I recently noticed one from a company I had never heard of with copy that said ”Black shoes from brand X, 78 dollars”. The questions I immediately asked myself were: Why should I buy these shoes? And why should I even bother to look at the vendor’s website? Even if I happen to be interested in shoes (which indicates that the advertiser has done their homework with audience targeting) I am not really ready to marry this shoe company after the first date. If the shoes happened to be the right match maybe I’d consider it but it seems rather unlikely.

So, what makes a good ad stand out from the crowd? The basic rules are that it should be adapted and targeted in a way that suits the reader, which is done by using the right content. In order to succeed in your content creation I have put together a short checklist for you that you can use for inspiration:

1. Give your campaigns the right opportunities

Facebook use their learning phase of each campaign to improve your results and find more people with similar attributes. You need to have 50 conversions per ad set (audience) in the last period of time, around 7 days, to get the most out of your campaign. That could be pretty hard to achieve if you optimize against purchase and don’t have a lot of data to lean on. You are better off if you trust the learning phase instead and try to choose the step before purchase; add to cart. Or an even earlier step in the funnel than that - people who visited a product page. After that, start with 1 or 2 ad sets based on your budget and successively scale up. The better data your learning phase gets, the better you will succeed in the long run.

2. Use lookalikes the right way

Use Facebook analytics to find out how much data you’ve got in each step of your funnel (to do this you need to have your Facebook pixel firing) and create lookalikes out of that. For example, make a lookalike of people who made a purchase on your website. Remember to keep in mind that if the audience, which your lookalike is based on, is too small - Facebook will not have enough data points from your source to create a great performing lookalike. In that case you could instead choose to create a lookalike of people who added a product to cart and then you can grow the source of the audience and help Facebook out by finding similar people to them.

3. Take advantage of every platform

Customize your content from platform to platform. You might have heard that you should use a 16:9 format for Facebook, which means that your content is horizontal, and that might be good for people browsing on a computer. But nowadays we use our phone, scrolling, scrolling and scrolling; therefore you have to really take advantage of every space you’ve got. So instead, try to make your content 1:1 for the feed and 9:16 for stories. In other words, use every space you get for your money.

4. Make your ad pop out

This might follow up a little bit on my previous tip but there’s a lot of hard competition out there, so you better make your ad stand out a bit from the other 7 million advertisers. You have to catch the viewers’ attention in the first few seconds. But, how can you do that? Let me give you an example. People tend to watch videos over photos, that is something you may be aware of already. And you also might know that you need subtitles because of people watching with the sound off. But do you think that goes for all of Facebook’s platforms? The answer is no. Think about when you're on Instagram watching stories. You usually don’t mute your phone just because you’re watching stories. In fact, 60 % of people watch stories with sound on. That is a great opportunity for you to not only catch the viewer’s eye - but also their ear :)

5. Customize your ad for different people

Think about my introduction. Would you have purchased from the company with the ad only telling you the price of the shoe with a picture? Probably not. But if, let us say they showed me a video with advice like “how to take care of your surfboard” - that is something I probably would click on. By doing that, I start trusting that company and their chances for me to engage with one more ad is much higher. I’m not there yet, to buy, but maybe one step closer to becoming a customer. You better analyze these steps to figure out which content to deliver at each touchpoint.

6. Use metrics to keep track

  • Impressions: Number of times your ads have been shown
  • Reach: Number of people who have seen your ads
  • Link clicks: Hopefully this is self-explanatory
  • CPC (link): Cost per link click. Notice that I use link clicks, not just cost per click - because the second one also includes clicks on your ad like a comment or like.
  • CTR %: Click Through Rate. The higher rate you get, usually the cheaper your cost per click will be. Facebook wants to provide relevant content and rewards you if you’re doing this right.
  • Frequency: How many times a person has seen your ad - impressions divided by reach.
  • Result: How many conversions you’ve made (the conversion is determined in the first step of your campaign)
  • Cost per result: Spend divided by result
  • Conversion value: If you’re Facebook pixel is tracking that, use that in order to know if your campaign is profitable or not.
  • ROAS: Return on ad spend. How much are you getting back from each dollar you put in. Keep in mind that even if you’re getting 3 dollars back, you need it to cover more than just your ad spend. In most cases, you have more costs than that.

7. Optimize like a king

When your columns are all setup like I talked about in my previous part, then it’s time for optimization. Start with one campaign and compare your different ad sets with relevant metrics. Pause bad ones and duplicate good ones to try new ones. Maybe you could target a new interest, make your lookalike bigger or try a completely new one. There are also a lot of other things you can do to optimize your campaigns, to name a few; you’ll find them in Facebook Ads Manager under the tab “division” and by selecting after delivery:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Region
  • Placements
  • Time of day (only relevant if you’re running campaigns with lifetime budget)

Facebook’s machine learning is getting better and better, spending your money where it gets the most results - but you better keep an eye on this to make sure you’re not spending money without getting anything back.

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Petter Nilsson

Digital Marketing Expert
Star Republic, SQLI Group