Facebook Engagement Ads 101

April 24th, 2010

By Megan Hannay

Last weekend I was browsing my Facebook account, when text on the right side of the screen caught my eye: “Frightened Rabbit coming to Cat’s Cradle.” Frightened Rabbit? Seriously? I freaking LOVE that band! I clicked, I was transferred to the vendor’s info page, and minutes later I printed out my ticket.

I saw, I clicked, I bought. A Facebook ad fairy tale. If only all impressions could end in such sweet success.

In reality, as with most online ads, millions of Facebook ad impressions end their digital lives as nothing more than a sight briefly seen on a sidebar. So what can you do to ensure that at least a decent number of your ads lead Facebook wanderers to the promised land?

1) Think “eye candy.”
Yes, that does sound strange, and NO, I’m not suggesting you use irrelevant photos of attractive people to catch clicks. But at the same time, not many folks are going to click on a pic of a pickle.

Because pickles are boring.

Choose art that has to do with your product or service, but also choose art that catches the eye. Figuring out what pictures work the best often have to do with trial and error. Sometimes even switching up a background color can make a significant difference in clicks.

2) Titles are your friend.
There’s some debate over whether the picture or the title of a Facebook ad is the most valuable asset for pulling in clicks, and, personally, I think it can be either, depending on the ad. If your ad is going directly to a Facebook page, you don’t have much of a choice for the title – it defaults to page’s name. But when you’re going to an outside site, you have the freedom to create your own 25-character title. Twenty-five characters really isn’t much (we’re talking 18% of a tweet!), so this is another opportunity to get creative and see what works.

My most successful ad titles in the past have always included a call to action. “Win a Laptop!” “Download the Beta!” But, ultimately, I think your strategy really depends on the audience you’re trying to reach. I clicked on the “Frightened Rabbit” ad because it told me they were coming to town – that’s all I needed to see.

3) Mix and Match.
If I were to sum up this blog post in one sentence, it would be this one: Developing and running Facebook ads is a big experiment. And in order to get enough data, you need to begin with enough to study. I usually begin by running every set of copy I have with every piece of art I have, and seeing which ones pan out to be the most successful. You may be surprised. Sometimes the pictures I find the least appealing, or the words I find the least interesting end up getting the most clicks. That’s why it’s important to really try things out instead of assuming that your own personal preferences know best.

4) Keyword strategy = psychology.
When you’re developing keywords lists for your ads, think about your target audience. If you’re targeting 24-year-old guys, try “Family Guy” or “John Stewart.” If you’re targeting Megan Hannay, try “Coffee” or “France.” Some of your keywords may have absolutely NOTHING to do with your product, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Why bother to target people who already list your product as one of their “interests?”

5) Plan ahead, and “copy” later.
This is a cool trick that I didn’t figure out until my third or fourth Facebook ad campaign. Maybe I’m just slow, but I’ll share it with you just in case.

When you first create a Facebook ad, you usually have to wait a few hours (sometimes up to a day) before the ad is “approved” to go up. In other words, don’t expect that your ad will go up within seconds of its creation. BUT whenever you go to create a new ad, you have the option of “copying” any previously approved ad instead of starting from scratch. This function can be super helpful if you’re creating a batch of ads, all for the same campaign, with the same start and end dates, and with the same (or similar) keywords.

I recommend starting about 48 hours out from when you want your ads to go up. Create that first ad, fill out all the info on keywords and target audience and campaign name, etc., wait for it to be approved, and suddenly, you’ve got a decent starting point for all of your other ads. All you have to do is “copy” the original ad, switch up the photo, or the copy, or maybe some keywords, and you’re good to go! This is a huge huge time saver when you’re developing a slew of ads for a campaign.

6) Start out STRONG.
Let’s say you have $3000 for three weeks of ads. You could set your daily budget to $142.86 per day, and leave it at that for twenty-one days. But how much fun is that? We want results now! And I’m not just talking about more traffic to your page. The CTR of the first few hours of an ad’s run dictates the number of impressions Facebook is going to give it for the rest of its life. So give your ads a good chance! I usually start my ads with at least a few hundred dollars as their daily budget. This way, you get the kind of information you need early on (how the ads work, what ads need to be paused or redone).

Plus, part of the point of engagement ads (or of any social media engagement, really) is to get people talking about your product or service or contest, with the hope that they’ll spread the news to their social networks. Ideally, putting out more budget during the first few days or weeks of your ad will lead to faster impressions and social spread on the part of your product throughout the campaign.

7) Switch it up.
Even eye candy can go stale. It’s been a few days or weeks since launch? Try something new. Flip around your titles. swap some sentences (remaining within the confines grammar and continuity rules, of course). Don’t worry, you won’t hurt an ad’s feelings by giving it a new face – it WANTS to be successful. Pause ads, edit them, turn them upside down. Keep going when it works, and trash it when it doesn’t.

8) Don’t always believe the “suggested bid.”

Okay, so let’s say I started all of my ads with a $1.25 per click bid because Facebook suggested something between $1.14 and $1.36. Now, six days later, Facebook “suggests” somewhere between $1.50 and $1.77. Why? WHY? Did I just miss the quickest bout of inflation in the history of the United States? No, I haven’t. And you won’t have either, when your bid suddenly jumps. Because it will. And, to be honest, I’m not quite sure why. I’m sure it has something to do with the Facebook ad algorithm that only a handful of nerds in Palo Alto can comprehend. But what I do know is that sometimes raising an ad’s bid by even as much as $.50 has absolutely no effect on the number of impressions or the click-through rate.

If you do want to raise your bid (which IS sometimes very necessary), try it first on a few of your ads. See how these ads compare after a day or two, and go from there.

9) Don’t expect a miracle.
Yes, Facebook ads will bring more fans, er, “like-ers(?)” to your page or site. But in order to retain those fans and/or a low bounce rate, you need to make sure that people will be engaged once they get there .If you’re running a campaign or contest, you’ve already got a pretty good call to action. But if you’re just looking for new fans for your existing Facebook page, you want to make sure to have a reason for them to be there. Consider offering discounts for new fans. Answer questions that they post on the wall. If no one posts questions, ask a question! Everybody loves answering questions. Don’t you agree?

What’s Next?
For those of you who spent yesterday under a rock, Facebook announced a bunch of developments that will be rolling out on the site. Some of these changes may begin to influence ad targeting. Now users will be able to connect to Facebook via outside sites and “like” everything from their favorite bands, to their favorite Tuesday-night TV show and their favorite lipstick brand. As you can imagine, this information will likely re-engineer Facebook ads as we know them. I’m super-excited to see what new options this signifies for the future of Facebook ad creation!

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