Facebook ads: the story of misleading metrics and moving on


2016 was the year the Guardian proclaimed Facebook to be the ‘bad guy’; Facebook, however, overcame the criticism and posted record revenue figures — up 51% to £6.9 billion — with mobile ad revenue growing up to 84% in Q4 of 2016. Much of the criticism directed at Facebook was due to the misreporting of metrics related to likes, shares, and views on video content. With the digital advertising industry branded as having a ‘murky supply chain’ by P&G’s chief brand officer, there is a current backlash against a number of media suppliers and their methods of reporting.

Does the problem lie in what brands and agencies are measuring and not the data itself? Do ‘vanity’ metrics align to your business goals? Have people lost sight of the fundamental reason we use Facebook advertising? 

So, what are Facebook ads?

Facebook advertising has evolved rapidly from its early days in 2012. Back then, the social media marketing landscape was a simpler one. At that time, as a Paid Media Consultant, I worked with a range of university clients who were able to disseminate content, gain event attendees, as well as prospectus sign-ups, from simple messaging displayed within the news feed and right hand column ads. Targeting at that time was relatively restricted, however it was a great tool for reaching a student demographic on a global scale. Facebook, however, faced criticism back in their early days with evidence of ‘like farms’ coming to fruition. ‘Likes’ were the ultimate vanity metric of Facebook’s initial launch, and were a contentious point when trying to explain likes vs. actual business value. The Facebook advertising platform has matured considerably and data, targeting, and creative options now make it a must in most businesses’ digital marketing arsenal. It is the ultimate platform to transcend the marketing funnel and the cost efficiency gained when you compare against traditional above the line campaigns has seen a greater shift towards digital spend from traditional advertising.

Why use Facebook advertising?

My standard response to this would be ‘Why not?’. However, as I explain later, you shouldn’t lose sight of your business goals and audience when utilising Facebook advertising. Beyond this general point though, there are a number of reasons why we would use Facebook advertising.

Brand building

Speak to many brands or agencies that measure the impact of Facebook on their business and they will tell you there is a correlation between the amount of paid Facebook activity and the impact on brand search — either through paid or organic — as well as it being a great area to grow brand sentiment.

Content visibility

It’s become increasingly important to use Facebook advertising to gain visibility of any owned content, with decreasing visibility on organic posts. If you’ve developed great content, make sure it is visible.

eCommerce and Lead generation

Who would have thought you could sell through social? As we know, Facebook provides a ripe arena for many retailer and B2C brands to harvest. Additionally, Curated have seen great success on Facebook for lead generation for a number of B2B clients, due to the increasing power of targeting options. Think beyond the service and consider the audience you are selling to.

Retention

Within an acquisition-obsessed industry, I always have to ask clients the question, ‘What about retention?’. Your current customers are the gifts that keep on giving and to keep communicating with them is key. Social is an ideal channel to do so, offering valuable content or a level of customer service that can sometimes be difficult to maintain for businesses.

So how do you use Facebook advertising?

The sections below are not an exhaustive list, but rather an explanation of the principles we put in place before embarking on any Facebook advertising strategy. There will be nuances by client and vertical, however the areas below are our key focus.

Have a plan

On the surface, this sounds incredibly simple, however I have seen a number of poorly conceived and implemented Facebook campaigns. The main issue has revolved around businesses not aligning the reason for using Facebook advertising to their business goals. They have chased the new, shiny feature or platform to either get first mover advantage or because their competitors are already using it. There is no harm in biding your time and thinking about this strategically. Sit down and create a simple strategy document: What are your goals? Who are your audience? Is it BAU or campaign based? Taking time to answer these questions will allow you to execute a better campaign.

Align to personas and do your research

Don’t forget your audience. Gone are the early days of Facebook advertising, where you had limitations to the audiences you could target. Build your audiences within the platform before starting, based on your business personas. Don’t have any personas? Have a simple ideas session internally and develop 3-4 audiences that mirror your customers and research the additional interests and behaviours that your personas follow.

Track and measure

You’ve done the hard work, so why wouldn’t you track properly? Don’t solely rely on the statistics that the Facebook insights give you. Let the conversion pixel be a guide, and not the rule, that dictates your insight on performance. Create a tracking parameter sheet so that you can track the adverts more accurately and at an individual level — this is key for anyone working within a performance marketing vicinity. Use Google Analytics, other third-party analytics, or CRM systems such as Salesforce, and ensure you can directly link performance to your business goals and return. Ultimately, ‘vanity’ metrics are tertiary measurements, whilst your business data is of primary importance.

Think about context

So you now know who your users are. When are they active? When do they engage? What devices do they use? Context is king within any Facebook strategy. From your persona research, customer understanding, and analytics data, you’ll better understand when to serve certain content. For instance, if you know your customer purchases more on a Monday, you’ll likely serve more direct response based adverts on this day. However, the same customer may also like to consume content on their commute on a Friday morning. At this time you would aim to serve them more content-based advertising, skewed towards mobile devices. Understanding context fully will allow you to use your budget more efficiently across Facebook, as this will grow business return and brand resonance.

Refresh and innovate

So you are all set up and the results are good; time to sit on your laurels? Short answer: No. Keep an eye on the frequency of your ads, their performance, and business return; if this is beginning to look fatigued or shaky, think about refreshing the content of your advert. You also need to take into consideration the way your audience may prefer to consume content. Some of the audience may prefer simplification. There is no better example than at time of sale for a business. Simple messaging works best, pushing a consumer through to purchase quicker. However, some members of your target audience may prefer to engage with either pictorial or video content. This is where an understanding of the nuances of consumer behaviour comes to the fore. Don’t be scared to disrupt and be innovative. Use guerrilla tactics and target competitor brands that your audience may follow or the publishers/brands that they may be interested in. Keep testing and document the results of your A/B tests. Testing never stops and this is particularly important for Facebook, especially when taking into consideration the suite of options now available to the advertiser.

And Retarget

Whether for the purpose of storytelling, conversion, or retention, retargeting is an essential component of any Facebook strategy. Monitor your best performing Audience Definitions (Remarketing Lists) within Google Analytics and incorporate them into your Facebook platform. Also, upload your customer data into Facebook to continue serving valuable content, to cross-sell or resell, or to target similar audiences to your customer base. If budget is tight, retargeting — either with content or direct response messaging — should be the area that you maintain throughout the year.

End note

With the plethora of new channels, tactics, and targeting options available on Facebook, it is becoming harder to determine what the best approach is when starting a Facebook advertising campaign. Furthermore, with Facebook’s emergence within the messaging, video, and VR space, these additions will further complicate things. However, it is important to keep things simple and build a foundation of best practice. Have a plan, align to goals/personas, and measure the metrics that matter to your business. Keep testing and don’t be distracted by the next shiny feature that becomes available. When Facebook advertising is implemented well — relevant and simple — it has a massive impact across the marketing funnel, as well as on your business goals.

If you’d like to find out more, or need advice in implementing your own Facebook advertising strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we’ll help you out.

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