Last updated July 8th, 2021.
You’ve heard all the naysayers. “Facebook advertising doesn’t work”. “Facebook just wants to steal your money”. “Facebook advertising is too expensive”. “Don’t ever use it”. But with the right Facebook ad hacks, you could possibly move a lot faster and with better direction.
Suffice to say there’s a lot of trepidation when it comes to using Facebook advertising. There’s so much information out there about it (much of it incorrect too!) it can be overwhelming, especially to a first time user. Often, this information overload leads to one of two things happening: you either experience decision paralysis and end up not doing anything at all, or you take a misguided approach to using the platform, resulting in a burning hole in the pocket with nothing to show for it.
Facebook is still one of the most effective, fast-moving customer acquisition channels out there, and definitely shouldn’t be written off straight away. I say ‘fast-moving’ because, with even a small budget, you’re able to get results and reliable data back within a matter of days which will give you a better idea of whether Facebook advertising will work for you.
It’s the little things that count.
In digital marketing, it’s often the little things that end up making the big differences that get you better results and save you money. The more time you spend with advertising, the better you’ll get at understanding the small nuances.
So if it’s trial-and-error, do I just go in blindly?
Not quite. Think of Facebook Advertising as a science project (even if it’s been a while since you last had to do one!). There should always be a framework or process you work through to make sure you’re making the most out of your effort and dollars. Firstly, there should be a hypothesis you draw when you start – this could be something as broad as ‘I think I can find my preferred customer type, which is a 16-24 Female, on Facebook. Then you run an experiment to test your hypothesis – so, in this case, you run some ads targeting Females in that age category. Once you have data back from that experiment, you can then figure out if your hypothesis passed or failed, and why. Then you rinse and repeat.
While we’re sure a framework is good and all, we know you’re here for the Facebook ad hacks. That’s cool too, so here they are.
Here are 12 Facebook hacks and other advice we wish we’d known when we first started.
1. Make ‘Best Practices’ Your Foundation
When you’re starting from scratch, it’s starting it all that’s the hard part. It’s, therefore, a good idea to check out best practices first. Experts like Jon Loomer, Amy Porterfield and Mari Smith all do awesome guides on best practices to get you started. It’s also a good idea to do your competitor research and read reports on what has performed well before to get you off to a good start. Visit your competitor’s pages, take screenshots of ads and anything else you might like to draw inspiration from for when you start your own campaign. These practices form heuristics that will help you move faster.
However, make sure you don’t stop there. You have to keep in mind your company and your audience are uniquely yours, so whatever the people around you do might not always work out for you. If you just rely on ‘best practices’ and that’s it, you’ll find your performance will plateau. Therefore, make best practices your foundation, and always keep evolving from there.
2. Always be testing something
You’re not going to get things right the first go. That’s why it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket, or, in this case, hoping all your results will come from one ad. Make sure you always create more than one ad per ad set, and you’re using more than one ad set at a time. In fact, Matt Thomas from MarketingProfs states that you should “bake-in” your testing – i.e. don’t create your ads, sit on them for a bit and then test, but instead, start your campaign by testing. After you’ve found out which ad or ad set performs better than the other, switch the underperforming one off and replace it with something else. Doing so ensures you’re always making sure you’re getting the best results possible and pushing the envelope. Also, who knows? An audience you didn’t think would work in the first place might end up surprising you and end up performing better than everything else. One of the biggest mistakes you could be making is assuming you know what’s going to work.
3. Don’t plug all your audiences into one ad set
Interest groups are one of Facebook advertising’s most well-known features – after all, if you were a fashion brand, you’d be wanting to get in front of people who showed interest in fashion.
However, one of the most common mistakes is putting all the interests your audience could conceivably be interested in into the one ad set, especially interests that have no real connection with the other. Peep Laja, from Conversion XL, states that this common mistake will stop you from finding out which Interest is actually performing well for you, and which one is dragging you down.
Using fashion as an example again, a common mistake is including people who are interested in ASOS.com or The Iconic, with designer brands, such as ACRONYM. Sure, your audience might like both shopping on the Iconic as well as browsing high-ticket ACRONYM jackets, but generally, there is no connection between the two.
It all comes down to testing. If you’re trying to see what interest groups work out to be for you, it’s better to limit the targets to 5 or fewer interests per ad group and to make sure there’s an overarching theme between each interest. In fact, Facebook advertising expert Andrew Hubbard suggests you only keep one interest per test. For example, you might have an Interest group that targets people who are fans of The Iconic and ASOS, the commonality between the two being they’re both online only Fashion e-commerce. Then you might have another ad set targeting people who like ACRONYM and Adidas Y3, with the theme of high-end, expensive tech-wear being the common interest.
If you’re lumping all your interests together, your audience becomes one big, diluted mess, where you’ll have a hard time deciphering which particular interest is working out for you, and which one is dragging the rest of the field back.
4. Use breakdowns
Facebook gives you a number of ways to look at and dissect your data. One of the most useful features is using breakdowns.
Breakdowns, like the namesake, allow you to break down your data into more distinct segments. You can view performance broken down by Age, Gender, Placements, Timezones, Device and more. Breaking things down allows you to get granular with your data and figure out what exactly is and is not working for you. For example, if you had an ad set that was targeting both men and women aged 16 to 35, using breakdowns, you’ll be able to see the individual performance of males and females, as well as the performance between the different age groups within that targeting. Doing so will allow you to hone in on the best performing categories, and then create a separate ad group with just those variables, knowing that based on the historical data, this ad group will perform well.
The moral of the story? Don’t limit yourself to the default settings! Step out of your comfort zone and start trying different views! The possibilities will blow you away.
5. Check your placements
We briefly mentioned placements in the point above, but what are they?
Placements are where your ad shows. Facebook breaks them down into three major categories – Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network. Within Facebook, there are more categories – News Feed, Right Hand Side and Mobile Newsfeed.
Not all placements are born equal. For example, we’ve found that Audience Network in our tests results in incredibly cheap clicks, but not a lot of results. In her testing, Karola Karlson from Scoro, also found that Mobile Placements, while having cheap costs-per-click, cost twice as much to convert.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to at least split your initial testing and have ad groups show exclusively in different places, and find out which Placement works best for you. This is also a good idea as the language and behaviour of users on Facebook and Instagram, for instance, are very different, so you should make sure you’re differentiating between the two.
Later down the track, it’s worth breaking down Facebook placements even more and have your ad sets show exclusively on News Feed, Mobile Newsfeeds or desktop Right-hand Sides. You might find one of these particular placements perform much better than others, allowing you to continue just experimenting with ads on that particular placement.
6. Set up Conversion pixels
One of the most stock standard ways to check how your performance is cost-per-click or cost-per-result. Pretty easy stuff.
But often it’s not enough to go by those results, especially if you’re trying to acquire new leads or purchases on your website. By setting up conversion pixels right at the start of your process, you’ll be able to track better what exactly is making you money, and stops you from making early, and sometimes, incorrect assumptions about your performance. For example, recently, we worked with a client who was running a few different ads but did not have conversion tracking set up. When we looked at her account, there were a few ads that were more than twice as expensive per click than any other ad, so as a shortstop, we turned them off. However, after we implemented conversion tracking, we turned those expensive ads back on on a hunch, and then called it a night.
Imagine our surprise when we woke up the next morning, checked the account and found that the expensive ads had rolled in a bunch of new leads, bringing them in at a much cheaper overall costs than the rest of the field! Just goes to show – don’t judge an ad by its cost-per-click.
7. Use Facebook’s stock images to test with
Everyone knows that high-quality imagery goes a long way, but often you’re limited in what content you have to work with.
So here’s a quick productivity hack for you. A while ago, Facebook partnered with Shutterstock, allowing you to use their stock images for free in your ad imagery. ‘But stock images look terrible!’ we hear you say.
Often, that is the case, but amongst the masses of images that look like the very definition of ‘bad stock imagery’, there are a few pretty good ones. The reason we recommend it is if you’re looking to move fast, get results fast, and not add extra burden onto your already beleaguered graphics designer, it often helps to augment your ads with a few stock images here and there.
If Shutterstock is not your thing, but you still want to source high-quality royalty-free images, Unsplash and Pexels are our usual go-to places.
As straightforward as it may sound, when putting together an ad, it’s important to use eye-catching creative. But it’s not always that simple.
Every day we work with hundreds of clients who have an abundance of high-quality, captivating images and videos, but unless you’re using them to your advantage, you’re wasting your time.
Recently we carried out a series of split tests across a wide portfolio of clients where we increased the brightness and contrast of ad creatives by 30%, and you wouldn’t believe what we found.
In the case of one of our art clients, not only did our tests result in more purchases and a higher average order value, it increased our ROAS from a 6.57x to 25.57x – that’s almost four times the amount of return for a quick, 30-second change. This is because increased brightness and contrast helps improve your link click-through-rate which means you can drive more traffic to the website and therefore convert more customers.
The theory behind this is simple: the human eye is naturally attracted to bright, vibrant images with rich, contrasting colours.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, you’ve got some downtime and start scrolling your Instagram or Facebook feed, is your screen brightness dimmed? (most likely if it’s set on automatic, which most are). Now consider the below creative comparison, are you more likely to click on the left, untouched image, or the right? The right of course. That’s because a) it’s easier to see, b) the product looks fresher and tastier and c) it pops.
The quickest way to increase your brightness and contrast is head to your finder window (if you’re on a Mac), select tools > adjust colour > increase the exposure and contrast slider and voilà, you’re good to go!
9. Test for goal optimisations
When it comes to advertising, we always have a goal in mind, whether it’s getting new leads or purchases. So it seems to make sense to let Facebook optimise for that, allowing it to show ads only to people who are most likely to convert. For the most part, it does a pretty good job.
However, especially for rarer forms of conversions, or if you have a smaller following, it can get things wrong. Often this is because Facebook doesn’t have enough data to draw reliable conclusions about what will work.
While this won’t leave a massive burning hole in your pocket, it’s a good idea to test these different bidding and optimisation goals anyway just to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.
This one’s a bit more of a technical one, but if you’re a stickler for data and you’re looking to get granular with your results, this tip will help you track every single user every step of the way.
UTM parameters (Urchin Tracking Modules) are an incredibly important piece of digital marketing housekeeping you should be doing across all your digital marketing, not just your Facebook advertising. UTM parameters are little snippets of code that you add to the end of URLs that will allow you to better identify and track all the various bits of traffic that go to your website via Google Analytics.
Using UTM parameters are especially relevant with Facebook Advertising, as Google Analytics will often mis-categorise website traffic coming from ads, lumping them all under Social referrals or even worse, as Other, making it difficult to see whether it’s your ads are pulling in the quality traffic, or just your organic content marketing.
Facebook makes it super easy to put in UTM tracking, giving you a particular field in the ad creator to add in your snippet. Once in, you’ll be able to use Google Analytics to take your data analysis to the next level, including narrowing down which particular ad or campaign gives you the highest quality traffic, and how it compares to the rest of your digital marketing efforts across the board.
We advise implementing UTM parameters sooner rather than later because it can be a pain to go back and do it in retrospect (kind of like trying to fix up a mistake you made while putting together IKEA furniture…after it’s already all done).