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Thumbs Up: How to create more successful Facebook advertising campaigns

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Facebook Ads – love them or loathe them, they’re everywhere. And they're a must.

With over half the population of the UK now active on Facebook, and its algorithm now giving organic priority to more, well, 'social' person-to-person content in a bid to clean up the platform's public image, the competition to capture attention amongst active users is becoming more intense. In short, brands and businesses are now effectively compelled to invest in boosted posts if they have any intentions of appearing in people's feeds.

Thankfully, Facebook's ad platform is incredibly powerful, drawing data from users’ online activity - both on and off the Facebook site. Indeed, with their wealth of information it can sometimes feel like Facebook knows more about us than we do about ourselves - something that perhaps has come to a head with the recent controversial voter profiling and targeting in the build up to elections on either side of the Atlantic.

Some businesses and brands jump into paid Facebook posts haphazardly and, unsurprisingly, get very frustrated. They shovel money into boosting posts without being all that confident of how well they will perform - or even what those results should be. Unfortunately, without clear objectives and a strategy to guide your paid social media activities, wasted time and money will be an inevitability, not a possibility. If you’re managing a Facebook page for your business there are many ways to get it right, but there are equally a number of pitfalls you should do your best to avoid:

Facebook Ads Boosting

1. Random Boosting

Boosting content is easy: Facebook provides that helpful little button right there on your post. But hang on, before you click it, let’s stop and think. If you’re boosting every post indiscriminately, or worse still boosting without any real structure or strategy, then you aren't really going to be providing your target audience with a considered, consistent experience that knits together nicely and neither will you be getting the most out of your budget to reach common goals such as driving traffic to your website, generating conversions or simply growing engagement.

Don’t hand over another penny of your money before you develop a strategy around which posts should get boosted, to whom and how often. A common approach might involve:

2. Underusing Facebook Adverts Manager

While boosted posts have a role to play in your Facebook marketing strategy, if you’re not using Adverts Manager then you’re missing out on a whole host of powerful tools and techniques. A simple 'boost' may be the hammer in the Facebook toolbox, but there are a range of much subtler instruments at your fingertips to really make your budget work harder - and smarter - for you. Specifically optimised ad formats for a wide range of marketing objectives include:

Using Facebook Ads Manager

3. Not Retargeting Your Website Visitors

It's a no-brainer, but one that is commonly overlooked. In showing your Facebook ads to people who have recently visited your website, you can serve up retargeted messaging in a more effective way since they are warm leads: users who are already familiar with your business and likely to be much more receptive.

With Facebook’s website tagging you can find highly relevant audiences for your ad campaigns, instead of wasting ad spend on people who don't have any previous experience of your products and services or, worse still, aren't even in your target market. It's a cold, hard fact that not every person who visits your site will convert, but you should at least capitalise on any visitors you have had by using targeted Facebook and Instagram ads to keep your particular product, promotion or message front-of-mind. This alone will give a helpful kick to any potential customers who need a little extra encouragement, and in the long run lead to improved brand awareness and trust.

4. Avoiding custom audiences

Even for a niche product or service there will be a range of discrete customer types and a variety of personas. Only the luckiest of businesses will be able to promote their wares with a one-size-fits-all form of advertisement, so naturally the more you can specialise and tailor ads the better chance you have of piquing a person's curiosity and generating further interest.

Thankfully, Facebook's Ads Manager tool combined with the vast depths of user data the platform commands as a whole makes for a potent mix when it comes to being able to identify, create and target bespoke groups of people. Custom audiences can be manipulated to offer you a much more appropriate end user for your specific ads, rendering them theoretically much more effective.

Split testing on Facebook Ads Manager

5. Not split testing

Split testing is a crucial - but often underused - way of determining the highest performing variant of two different approaches. Experimentation is the name of the game and chances are you'll end up with insight on ad performance that contradicts your initial presumptions - in the best possible way. Tests can be carried out via a number of angles:

6. Skipping the Landing Page

For website conversion ads – whether you want your visitors to download content, submit a form, or complete a sale – you need to provide a cohesive customer journey that doesn’t leave them stranded. This requires the implementation of a user-friendly landing page, which is also mobile-friendly to account for the fact that most feed scrolling, ad clicking and site browsing will be done on mobile devices.

It should be a destination that reassures potential customers that they’re still in the right place and encourages them to proceed with completing the conversion. When a lead clicks on an ad for a specific offer or product and then arrives on your homepage, you’ve disrupted the flow of their navigation and are likely to lose the attention of all but the most determined customer. Similarly, if people land on a page that offers some form of continuity but then leaves them having to clicking around your site to complete their transaction, they may run out of time or desire to see the conversion through to the end.

Your audience's time is precious, so if you've been lucky enough to secure a brief moment of it then your priority should be to make their experience as consistent, straightfoward and frictionless as possible, with obstacles removed at all stages of the process.

Facebook ad engagement

7. Ill-Fitting Imagery (and ill-judged copy)

Stock photos are invariably abundant, available and affordable, but the trade-off is that you run the risk of ending up with visual assets that don't truly align with your brand, aesthetic, products or, indeed, audience. This will only create a jarring effect that may greatly reduce the persuasive effect of your ad campaign and result in wasted budget or a disengaged target audience that comes away with a worsened impression of your brand.

By now there are a several sites, such as Canva and Unsplash, that focus on stock imagery that doesn't look so, well, stock. There are worse things you can do for your authenticity and trustworthiness that gathering together a range of natural shots that look and feel less staged, and there's more chance you will publish content that befits your brand.

As far as the copy you use in your ads goes, be wary of going into too much description and switching readers off before they've even got to the core message. Be succint, snappy, and to the point; reams of text will only serve to hamstring your campain as people served up the ad will find themselves in a battle with words rather than a clear, concise message.

8. Not Having a Clear Objective

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you should always embark on a Facebook ad campaign with a clear, predefined aim in order to achieve best results. This should also extend to the messaging of your ad which ought to give the user no doubts as to what is being asked of them. Consider the likely outcomes of these two examples:

  1. An ad which promotes a 30% reduction on a specific product range and offers a clear call-to-action through a 'Shop Now' button, which carries the user straight through to the relevant web page.
  2. An ad which simultaneously asks people to like your page, click through to your website, submit their email to sign up for a newsletter and also leave a comment to enter a prize draw.

The latter is a confusing combination of requests and may well do little more than leave the target audience thinking 'What do they want from me?' Social media is consumed at an ever-increasing pace and people scroll through their feeds at lightning speed. Your ad needs to very quickly and efficiently communicate your message rather than presenting complexity and multiple requests, which will only . Keep it simple, keep it relevant.

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