How to run effective Facebook Ads
Have you ever run a digital advertising campaign on Facebook or Instagram only to see your budget evaporate with little to no return? The secret to Facebook Ads success lies in deeply understanding the customer journey and solid content marketing foundations. Wrap your head around that and you’ll see your campaign performance skyrocket.
Facebook Ads offers brands the opportunity to reach potential customers with laser-focussed targeting and fast-track brand awareness and sales (did someone say conversion rates?). But it takes more than a big budget and technical know-how to run successful Facebook Ads campaigns — especially for conscious companies where discounting and click bait can damage brand reputation.
The secret? Understanding the customer journey and leveraging content marketing foundations (yep, all that blog content, and SEO copywriting, and social media content marketing is all going to do wonders for your paid ads campaign performance).
You see, advertising on Facebook and Instagram rarely works effectively in isolation. High performing campaigns piggy back off the success of your brand and marketing foundations. That means having a strong brand proposition and quality content marketing already in play.
If you’re playing to win, you’ll need to develop a strategy that piques the interest of your ideal customer and artfully carries them down the sales funnel peddling positive impact and ethical benefits over deeper discounts and grabby headlines.
So, how do you run effective Facebook ads and grow your conscious brand without falling down the discounting and click baiting rabbit hole? It all comes down to your strategy, campaign structure, ad creative, and optimisation framework.
Let’s dive in.
Creating a winning Facebook Ads strategy
Every great marketing campaign is underpinned by a well-considered marketing strategy and successful Facebook Ads campaigns are no different — it all starts with strategy.
Now, strategy is one of those words that gets bandied around and often without clear explanation. We’re all just so strategic, right?
The good news is, putting together a simple but effective Facebook Ads strategy isn’t as hard as it may seem. In fact, most strategies are made up of five key elements:
- Objectives (what are you trying to achieve)
- Audience (who is your customer)
- Messaging (what are you saying)
- Medium (where will your ads show)
- Measurement (how will you measure success)
Ask yourself these eight questions to help shape your strategic thinking for your next campaign:
- What am I trying to achieve (goals and objectives)?
- What am I selling (your product or service)?
- Who is the buyer (target audience details)?
- How does my product or service provide value to my customer (features and benefits)?
- Where should my ads appear (Facebook and Instagram placements)?
- How will I know if my campaign is successful?
Answer these questions, and you’re well on your way to putting together a robust campaign strategy. No more boosted posts, okay?
Alright, let’s walk through the five elements of a successful Facebook advertising strategy.
1. Get clear on your objectives
Now this one might seem a little obvious, but it’s important to mention as its easy often overlooked. So, when we’re talking about objectives and Facebook Ads there are two parts to consider.
First, we have the overarching marketing objectives — what are you trying to achieve more broadly with your marketing activity? Your business plan or marketing strategy should give you the answers, here.
Next, you want to consider which Facebook campaign objectives are best suited to help you achieve these broader marketing goals.
If the aim of the game is increasing your online sales, then you’ll likely want to choose the conversion campaign objective (hello, conversion rate optimisation). That being said, there is also value in using other objectives to build awareness and trust such as video views, engagement, and traffic objectives.
Checklist for setting Facebook Ads objectives
- Review your overarching business goals
- Review your marketing objectives
- Get clear on how this ad campaign stacks up to deliver on the overarching objectives
- Determine what success looks like for this ad campaign
- Write down your campaign objectives and key performance indicators
It’s crucial to set out your goals and objectives up front so that when the results start rolling in you have something tangible to measure them against.
2. Finding your target audience on Facebook
You know what you’re selling and you’ve got your goals on lock. The next step is to identify your target audiences. Now, you can have a lot of fun with this. The trick is to break down all the different kinds of audiences that might need your product or services into groups rather than bundle them into one audience set within Facebook. Why keep them separate? Well, if you want to know what different audience targeting is delivering results, you’re going to need to have separate audiences that you can test against one another.
When I am putting audiences together, I like to start by putting myself in the audience’s shoes for a day and ask myself questions like:
- Where are they waking up?
- What’s their routine like?
- Who do they live with?
- Where do they work?
- How do they get to work?
- How do they relax?
- How to they have fun?
- What content to they read?
- What brands do they wear?
- What products do they buy?
This helps to pull together a range of different audiences within the backend of Facebook. By way of context, one client that I worked with produced ethically-made clothing for babies and toddlers. After diving deep into audience research, I identified a bunch of different target audience sets including people that read parenting magazines and blogs, people that care about sustainability and the environment, people that are interested in breastfeeding and free parenting.
Once that’s done, I like to dig into the customer journey to purchase and really put some time into thinking about what the audience needs to know at each stage from awareness, to consideration, to conversion.
With that on lock, the next step is to jump into the Audience Insights section of Facebook Business Manager and start building some audiences. The key here, is to play around with the interests to build out “cold audiences” — that is, the folks that might not know about your brand just yet. And then to dive into custom audiences — that is, the folks that have interacted with your brand in some way (or lookalikes of them).
Checklist for Facebook Ads audience identification
Start by identifying who they are:
- What’s their age?
- What’s their gender?
- Do they have a job?
- What’s their income?
- Do they have a family?
- Where do they live?
Then work out how to best connect with them:
- What are their goals and aspirations?
- What challenges are they facing?
- What motivates them?
- What brings them joy?
- What would make their life easier?
- How can you help them?
Types of audiences you can build in Facebook Business Manager
Before we shift to the next step, it’s important to clarify the different kinds of audiences you can build within Facebook Business Manager.
First up, we have have saved audiences – these audiences are created manually by selecting interests, behaviours and characteristics and are typically your cold audiences. Although, you can create a saved audience of people that follow your Facebook page or even friends of people that follow your page.
The second kind of audience you can create is custom audiences – these audiences are created using data sources such as the Facebook Pixel on your website, data from the Facebook platform, or third-party data sources such as your email marketing list.
And the third kind of audience you can create is lookalike audiences – these are created by Facebook using your custom audiences as a source to literally create lookalikes. Yup, you could create a lookalike audience of your top-converting customers (now that would be smart, wouldn’t it?).
Facebook ad campaigns offer up a plethora of audience targeting options including custom audiences, saved audiences, and lookalike audiences. Take time to understand how they can work for your brand to deliver maximum results.
3. Lock in your marketing messages
Your brand exists for a reason and that doesn’t go away just because you’re running Facebook Ads. Before you start building out a campaign, check in with your mission and purpose. Ask yourself who do you serve? And how do you serve them? What problems does your product or service address or solve? Getting clear on this will make it a whole lot easier to shape your marketing messages.
Plus, as an ethical brand, you’re selling to conscious consumers and these good people are not quite so motivated by trends and deals but rather they value positive impact and connection to community. This means you’ll need to hone in on your brand mission and purpose when putting together your Facebook Ads strategy.
My favourite way to lock in marketing messages is to sell the solution rather than the tangible product or service. By highlighting how your product or service can help your target audience overcome their challenges, achieve their goals, or solve their problems, you’re shifting from selling a commodity to a value exchange.
Here’s how it might look:
|Product or service||Problem it solves|
|Hair cuts and styling||Confidence, self-worth, time out for self-care|
|Dog walking service||Absolving guilt for time-poor dog owners, a healthy pooch|
|Ethical clothing||Guilt-free shopping that aligns with personal values|
|Kids books||Expanding their imagination, precious time together|
|Graphic design||Business growth, confidence in presentation|
Locking in your marketing messages in the strategy stage will make it so much easier to write effective Facebook ads copy when it comes to putting together your campaign creative.
Checklist for establishing your marketing messages
Start by reviewing your target audience along with their pain points, aspirations, challenges and goals. Then;
- Write down what you sell including all the features and benefits
- Write down how your product or service solves a problem for the people in your target audience
- Spend time mapping out key messages
- Identify which messages are required at different stages of the customer journey to purchase
Putting this in place early means you’ll have a solid and strategic point of reference when it comes to writing the captions, headlines and titles for individual ads.
As an ethical brand, peddling deep discounts and click-baity headlines isn’t going to achieve Facebook Ads success. Instead, stay true to your brand purpose and showcase the positive impact your brand can make.
Choose your platforms and placements
Once you’ve got your objectives, audience, and marketing messages locked in, the next step is to identify which platforms and placements your ads will run on. If you’re already running organic social media content marketing activity (and you should be, because Facebook Ads piggy backs off the success of your overarching content marketing) you’ll be able to dig into the insights on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about how and where on the platforms your audience are consuming content.
There are a whole host of choices when it comes to placement targeting for Facebook Ads campaigns. And while you can build out a complex and comprehensive campaign, you might want to start simple and select both Facebook and Instagram platforms and their respective Feeds and Stories placements. Even with these placements, you can build an effective Facebook Ads funnel.
Determine your measurement framework
The final step in your strategy is to determine your measurement framework. Now, this should be relatively straight forward as you’ve already identified your goals and objectives. Achieving these goals and objectives would result in campaign success. Having said that, there are some additional considerations for your measurement framework — micro and macro performance metrics.
Macro performance metrics
So, macro performance metrics are the big deal numbers such as impressions, clicks (and click through rate) and conversions (and conversion rate). These numbers are intrinsically linked to the goals and objectives you set at the beginning and will be used to measure the results at campaign, ad set, and ad levels.
Micro performance metrics
Micro performance metrics are more like performance indicators that stack up to achieving a macro performance metric. For example, your Ad Engagement Rating, Frequency and even performance across different audience attributes might not be directly connected to the holistic conversion outcomes but they play a significant role.
Structuring your Facebook Ads campaign for success
With your strategy firmly in place, the next step towards running effective Facebook Ads lies in the structure of your campaigns. The key here is to understand both the customer journey to purchase and what campaign objectives make sense for each audience and the stage they are within the journey to purchase (aka: marketing funnel).
Choose your campaign objective
Now, remember, when you’re putting together an ad campaign you’ll be kicking things off by choosing a campaign objective. And you’ve got a whole lotta options here, too.
Typically, if your overarching objective is to increase sales then you’ll want to go for the conversions objective and pick “purchases” as your conversion. This means Facebook Ads will work towards driving as many conversions in the most cost-effective way possible (and that when you’re measuring conversion rate its the rate of purchase).
That said, there is plenty of value in the other objective options, too. For example, the traffic objective is great if you’re working with a cold audience and want to point them to a landing page such as blog post that explores your product in more detail or a case study page on your website that highlights the value of your service.
Equally, the video views objective is excellent if you’re targeting an audience with a video that will pique their interest and build the connection with your brand. The key here is to remember what stage of the customer journey the target audience is at and choose an objective and creative that works well for that stage.
Choose your target audience
Bam. Thanks to your work during the strategy phase, you’ve already done the ground work here and have your target audiences locked in. Now all you need to do is build out the audiences within Facebook Business Manager for easy selection during the campaign set-up process.
I like to go ahead and build out a bunch of different audiences before I start setting up the campaigns. While this isn’t essential it can really speed things up when you’re putting together your campaign.
One of my favourite Facebook audiences hacks is to get an audience naming convention in place. This makes selecting your audiences during the campaign set-up much easier. Here’s a quick example of how the audience naming convention might work.
|Audience name||Audience description|
|TOF – AU – Ethical Shoppers||This is a top of funnel (TOF) audience – which means they’re likely a cold audience at the awareness stage of the marketing funnel. The AU indicates they’re based in Australia. And Ethical Shoppers indicates the interests and behaviours targeting settings in place.|
|MOF – Facebook Fans – F30+||This is a middle of funnel (MOF) audience – which means they’ve likely had some exposure to the brand, product, or service or have engaged in some way. Facebook Fans indicates that these people follow the brand Facebook page (or have at least engaged with the content). And F30+ indicates that the targeting has been set to people that identify as female and are 30 years of age and over.|
|BOF – Website Visitors||This is a bottom of funnel audience (BOF) which means these people are a “warm” audience and have definitely had some exposure to the brand. In this case, they’ve visited the website (hence the name website visitors).|
Lock in platform and placement
You’ve already done the ground work in your strategy here, too. So now its just a matter of selecting the right platforms and placements for this particular audience. See how it’s all marrying up nicely now?
Add your budget
The last bit, adding your budget. Then you’re all set to move onto the fun bit: putting together ad creative. Seriously, who doesn’t love flexing their creative muscles and putting together images, copy and video that’s designed to attract attention, engage the audience, and drive action.
Creating effective Facebook Ads
Next up? The fun part: creating effective Facebook Ads. Here, it’s all about bringing your strategy together with compelling ad creative that aligns with the audience and the stage of the customer journey that they’re at. As an ethical brand, you’ll want to hone in on positive impact as well as features and benefits rather than pushing deals and discounts — these should always be used sparingly.
Ads for every stage of the marketing funnel
I’ve had skin in the Facebook Ads game for around seven years. And holy heck has the platform changed a lot in that time (anyone remember the first iteration of Power Editor?).
One thing that hasn’t changed, though? Making sure the message is relevant to the recipient remains crucial for Facebook Ads success. The most effective way to ensure your marketing messages stack up for the target audience is by creating ads that align with the customer journey stage.
Remember the ol’ “sales and marketing funnel”? Yeah, it’s kinda the same thing as the customer journey to purchase. In its most basic format, you’re looking at a journey that takes the customer from awareness to consideration to conversion.
Ads for the awareness stage of the customer journey
At the awareness stage, the customer might not even know about your brand, product or service yet. So from an advertising perspective the goal is to pique their interest.
Ethical brands targeting conscious consumers might want to focus on positive impact (or reduction of negative impact) at this stage. For example, a brand that specialises in compostable packaging might want to hone in on the number of plastic packaging that ends up in landfill and the positive difference it makes to choose compostable packaging. Equally, an ethical clothing company might want to highlight that it pays workers a living wage as this is likely to align with the value system of the consumer.
In the example below, Well Made Clothes have got a fantastic Stories ad in place. The tone and style of the copy is smack bang on brand, and they’re highlighting the ethics of the featured brand — Veja sneakers.
Ads for the consideration stage of the customer journey
At the consideration stage, the customer is likely to be comparing their options. Maybe another brand offers a similar product, or maybe they have a couple of things on their list and can only choose one. Remember, at this stage you’re up against your competitors but also competing for share of wallet. At this stage, the customer might need to see features and benefits as well as more information on the ethical framework the brand has implemented in order to aid their decision making.
In the example below, Patagonia are advertising their winter jackets range and highlighting the ethical framework that ensures the product is responsibly made from material source to manufacturing. Bonus points for asking the audience how their clothing is made — it shares the responsibility with the consumer.
Ads for the conversion stage of the customer journey
Oh yeah, at this stage it’s all about getting that conversion over the line. Typically, you’ll be targeting audiences that have already visited your website, perhaps they’ve even viewed products, added to card, or initiated checkout. Aka: retargeting. Yup. You can target all of these things with your Facebook pixel.
In terms of creative, at this stage you’re going to want to overcome any barriers or friction. This means highlighting all the positives from fast or free shipping to flexible returns. Anything that you have in place that can help reduce friction is a win-win at this stage of the journey.
Some brands also like to offer discounts on retargeting ads and while they can work, it can also create a race to the bottom by training your audience to wait for a sale. Not ideal. Plus, as an ethical brand targeting conscious consumers it’s more about positive impact and less about rampant consumerism and deep discounts.
In this example, Everlane are highlighting their ethical framework and also seeking to overcome the shipping “friction” by noting the the first order ships free — more incentive to purchase.
Optimising campaign performance
Again, this might sound obvious but testing is often overlooked in favour of getting more campaigns out the door. With epic reporting functionality baked into the Facebook Ads managed platform, I implore you test and optimise your ads. Even the most simple changes and tweaks can make a big difference.
There’s so much to go into here that I think I’ll write a separate blog post on optimising Facebook Ads. But for now, let me leave you with a bit of a framework for optimising your ads.
Checklist for optimising your Facebook Ads campaign performance
Start by checking back on the goals and objectives you set at the strategy stage. Then;
- Review the campaign objective
- Check the results for that objective — conversions campaigns will record conversions based on the type selected (for example: if purchases was set as the conversion type, then the volume of purchases will be the result for the campaign)
- Check the cost per result
- Check the impressions (are there enough for the results to be statistically significant)
- Check the clicks (are there enough for the results to be statistically significant)
- Check the total campaign spend
- Check which audiences performed best
- Check which placements and platforms performed best
- Check which ads performed best