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March 22, 2018

Before we start working with new brands, we typically run audits of their current advertising efforts to make sure we can help optimize their existing efforts and provide additional value. To date, we’ve completed 50+ Facebook ad account audits, and are amazed by some of the common mistakes that even the largest advertisers make.

Ranging from slip-ups that can be remediated with the click of a button, to systemic issues that require reprioritization and resources, we’ve seen it all. Lucky for you, we’re sharing our thoughts on why these seven mistakes are made so frequently, what the repercussions are, and how you can remediate them.

 

#1: Setting the wrong campaign goals

Starting from the top, we check out campaign objectives and optimizations, as this will determine how and to whom you’ll serve ads.

First off, always bid in the auction instead of for ‘Reach and Frequency.’ Next, always bid on events that are valuable to your business. If you’re a performance marketer, top-of-funnel events like brand awareness, reach, traffic, engagement, video views, and sometimes even app installs should be avoided.

Rather than objectives that represent what’s important to a business, these ‘vanity’ metrics have no place in 2018, yet we see it all the time.

 

How to fix it: Whether you’re promoting a mobile app with MAI campaigns, or web products with oCPM campaigns, start by thinking about what your business is trying to achieve. If you’re trying to sell products or services, optimize for purchases. If you’re trying to find high-value gamers, optimize for events like ‘Unlocked Achievement.’ Keep in mind that as you bid further down the funnel, your audience should be larger. For example, when targeting conversions, you need at minimum 25-50 (but ideally 50-100) event completions per ad set per week.

If you don’t have enough data to do so, try optimizing for the conversion step before your revenue-generating conversion event.

For app advertisers, here are some more ideas for optimizing for the right in-app event.

The important thing to remember (and tell your boss) is that top-of-funnel metrics really shouldn’t have a place in your 2018 paid social strategy.

 

#2: Not using Lookalike audiences to their full potential

Lookalike (LAL) audiences are Facebook’s most powerful audience type. They give advertisers virtually infinite ways to reach new users based on their existing Custom Audiences. Sadly, advertisers don’t always make the most of them.

New advertisers may also not have historical data yet, or might not understand how to create and upload them. If that’s the case, implement your Facebook Pixel ASAP to start collecting traffic and conversion data. See Facebook’s Pixel documentation here.

Additionally, despite the heaps of content out there about the power of LAL audiences, many advertisers still may not understand the power they have to expand your targetable audience based on your current and potential customers.

How to fix it: Lookalike audiences can be made from any Custom Audience, and those can be as broad or narrow as you’d like (as long as it’s larger than X people.) Here is an exhaustive list of Custom Audiences by Jon Loomer that you can then use to build LALs from. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Active web viewers by number of pages viewed, frequency of web visits, or time spent on site
  • Specific web page viewers
  • Referrer parameter or UTM parameter
  • Value based conversion
  • Video engagement

Facebook can match your custom audiences on 15+ fields for direct targeting and for developing Lookalikes. Thus, the more information you have on uploaded lists, the better. Targeting lookalikes will help you get at the heart of your future customers, going beyond interests and behavioral targeting for a more complex audience. Lookalikes, in one form or another, are widely used, accounting for about 45% of total budgets on average, and are often the best performing audiences.

For more LAL considerations like how big of an audience you should develop and how to, check out The Ultimate Guide to Lookalike Audiences.

 

#3: Fragmenting ad sets

As we already went over, the Facebook algorithm learns over time with input volume. To make sure you’re targeting big enough audiences to achieve enough weekly conversions, avoid ad set fragmentation via splitting up audiences and placements.

Facebook defaults to targeting combined placements and devices, and is always pushing ‘broad targeting.’ We don’t recommend going to those extremes, but getting too granular can be detrimental to your performance.

How to fix it: As a rule of thumb, you should only split an audience or placement for the following reasons:

  • If you’re bidding differently for each (oCPM ‘Add to Cart vs. oCPM ‘Purchases’)
  • If they’re worth different dollar amounts to you (Android vs. iOS)
  • If you’re running audience-specific creatives
  • For tracking or testing purposes

Facebook gives visibility into placement performance, but the downside of combining ad sets is not having visibility into which specific audience segments are performing better than others.

For this reason, we typically start by launching individual audiences and monitoring performance over several days. If an audience isn’t getting enough conversions, we’ll move the bidding event to a more top-of-funnel event to give Facebook more signals. Once we determine audiences are performing well, we’ll combine them. This works very well for Lookalikes and when individual ad sets have 20% or more audience overlap. From there you can continue optimizing and narrowing your audiences for ongoing performance.

Just remember that, although Facebook has gotten better at optimizing for smaller audiences, bigger audiences are always better when you’re bidding for down-funnel events like purchases (which you should be!).

 

#4:  Paying for the wrong prospects

The Facebook audience creation tool is extremely robust with seemingly infinite targeting options.  In addition to previously discussed audiences, advertisers also have to keep in mind geography, language, age, and gender.

With all those audience targeting options, it’s not surprising that advertisers make mistakes now and again. We also see advertisers flub when determining where and where not to serve ads. Here are the most common audience and placement errors we see on a regular basis that can easily be avoided:

  • Geographic and language targeting: This is pretty self-explanatory, but if your app or product is only available in certain markets, make sure your audience reflects that. You can narrow by continent, country, region/state, county, city, zip code, or distance around specific addresses.
  • No exclusions: Unless it’s a remarketing campaign, you should ALWAYS have exclusions set up to ensure your existing users, subscribers, app installers, etc. don’t receive your ads.
  • Page connections and sent messages: One simple way to avoid targeting users who already know you (for prospecting campaigns only) is to exclude users who are connected to your Facebook page or have sent you a message (works within last 365 days).
  • Devices: Make sure to look through all the listed devices to make sure you’re targeting devices you support and that are high quality. Commonly we see advertisers fail to remove tablet delivery when an app isn’t available on those devices. Note: you’ll have to separate Android and iOS to get this level of granularity.
  • Operating system versions: On that same note, f your app has a minimum or maximum OS version requirement, make sure you designate that.

How to fix it: This mistake is mostly a matter of hygiene and attention to detail. If this is something you’re running into, try making an audience template for campaigns that have your baseline inclusions and exclusions in place. Use that template to layer in your other targeting options. Keep in mind that you’ll want to develop different templates for prospecting and retargeting campaigns.

 

#5: Not leveraging video

Over half of the audits we’ve recently done have made this mistake. Why? Sure, video content is much more time consuming to create than static images, but with all the new CHEAP marketing video services out there (we can’t be the only ones getting those facebook ads), there are no excuses.

We probably don’t need to tell you about the power of video to engage and convert, but here are a few stats from our client data:

  • Nearly half of our ads contained video.
  • Video ads have on average 24% better click-through rates.
  • Video ads have on average 11% lower install costs.

And they’re fun!

How to fix it: If you don’t have the time or resources to make or optimize video content, start with a slideshow and optimize from there. Built right into Facebook, this is an easy way to start down the time-based content path. If that proves to be effective, here are some cheap and free resources to start building out your video content:

  • For royalty-free stock video, check out this list of 10 free sites.
  • Once you have your own video (hello iPhone) and maybe some stock footage, there are tons of websites that make social-ready videos with built-in text-overlay and soundtrack capabilities. They vary in price and level of customization, but here are a few that come highly recommended:
  • If you want to edit your own video, here’s a list of 9 free video editing software.

That said, as developing video content becomes more and more accessible to advertisers, it’s becoming more competitive than ever. Here are a few ideas to help you stand out from the competition:

  • Keep it clear and more importantly concise; 74% of ad recall impact is delivered in the first 10 seconds.
  • Design for mobile, as over half of all video is now consumed on mobile over desktop. Vertical video is a great way to take up more screen real estate.
  • On that same note, design for sound off, as but always have a sound element, as 85% of Facebook video content is watched without sound (source). Facebook’s video studio editor makes it easy to add ambient noise or royalty free music with a few clicks.
  • Related, text overlay is a winner. Instead of captions, simple explanatory or call-to-action copy will likely improve your click-through rate and even down-funnel success metrics.
  • Test different concepts; product imagery, step-by-step guides, lifestyle footage, user-generated video, etc. Before spending resources on developing those concepts, try testing them with slideshows.

 

#6: Not utilizing product feeds

We recently wrote about the power of product feeds to fuel organic and paid product promotion. For e-commerce companies, building out a product feed is a no-brainer. But to be frank, we don’t blame advertisers for skipping over this one. It can be very cumbersome and time-consuming to create and manage product feeds, especially large ones.

The potential upside, however, is worth it. Product feeds can help turn a static Facebook account into a personalized, product-centric peek into your business–bolstering organic and paid promotion. On the paid end, product feeds are the mechanics of collections and multi-product ads for prospecting and Dynamic Ads for retargeting.

 

 How to fix it: If you have a big, unruly feed that you don’t want to manage, start with just creating a feed of your 10-15 best sellers. You might not have enough to build any collections in your Facebook ‘Shop’ but start by tagging them appropriately and try dynamic ads on specific product pages.

Product feeds are a great way to get a leg up on the competition. From prospecting likely buyers to retargeting cart abandoners, this will become more and more important for e-commerce brands to leverage throughout the buyer’s journey.

 

#7:  Infrequent creative testing

One thing we ALWAYS check for as a sign of ad account health is testing – creative testing, bid strategy testing, audience testing, etc. Whether it’s too few or too similar, just about every ad account audit we do runs into this issue.

We get it; it’s hard and time-consuming. For the novice or part-time advertiser, it may also be difficult to discern when and when not to run specific tests. Often we hear from clients (and other agencies) that they don’t want to screw up the success they’ve already achieved. You should have the opposite mindset. In our opinion, if you’re not always testing, you’re completely undermining your potential. Even incremental improvements can have a HUGE impact.

How to fix it: The most important change to implement is your mindset; that some percentage of your resources (time and budget) should go towards testing, whether that’s formal A/B testing or with other features like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO). While creative split testing is great for testing important design and messaging concepts, DCO is a good solution to fold in new creative asset components (copy, images, CTAs, etc.) seamlessly while at the same time learning about which creative aspects resonate with different audiences.

 

That said, frequent testing will require resources in building out creative assets to test. That is one of the value adds of working with a partner agency like us, who conceptualize and develop endless creatives. Ideally, that investment will more than pay for itself in the upside of creative wins you have.

The reason we exist as an agency is because we know that paid social, while extremely powerful and efficient, can be incredibly complex. With the amount of personalization afforded by the most elaborate platform out there, these are, in summary, the most common mistakes we see:

  1. Setting the wrong campaign goals
  2. Running too many ad sets at once
  3. Not using Lookalike audiences to their full potential
  4. Paying for the wrong prospects
  5. Not leveraging video
  6. Not utilizing product feeds
  7. Infrequent creative testing


As they say, half the battle of fixing a mistake is knowing you’ve made it. We hope that with the guidance provided to overcome those mistakes, you have a good foundation to make incremental improvements to your Facebook advertising campaigns.

As part of our contribution to the community at large, we offer a limited amount of free ad account audits. If you’re interested in getting our 1-1 thoughts, drop us a line, and we’ll let you know if we can help > 

The reason we exist as an agency is because we know that paid social, while extremely powerful and efficient, can be incredibly complex. With the amount of personalization afforded by the most elaborate platform out there, these are, in summary, the most common mistakes we see:

  1. Setting the wrong campaign goals
  2. Running too many ad sets at once
  3. Not using Lookalike audiences to their full potential
  4. Paying for the wrong prospects
  5. Not leveraging video
  6. Not utilizing product feeds
  7. Infrequent creative testing


As they say, half the battle of fixing a mistake is knowing you’ve made it. We hope that with the guidance provided to overcome those mistakes, you have a good foundation to make incremental improvements to your Facebook advertising campaigns.

 



As part of our contribution to the community at large, we offer a limited amount of free ad account audits. If you’re interested in getting our 1-1 thoughts, drop us a line, and we’ll let you know if we can help > 

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