Instagram Stories Are A Ripoff… And They’re Awesome

“Great artists steal.” That’s a favorite Steve Jobs quote of mine. While the designers who created Instagram Stories may or may not be great artists, they definitely stole from Snapchat.

Not that I really care. Here’s why…

Short-Lived Media Like Instagram Stories Keeps Us Real

When you know your post is only going to last 24 hours, you don’t care so much about how polished it is. And I think that’s a good thing. Raw, un-produced media is more like the way we interact with our friends in person. You don’t rehearse before asking your pal to join you for lunch. If you did, you’d be eating alone. The more we approach social media like we’re just talking from one human to another, the more authentic we our communication can become. Instagram Stories relieve us from the burden of trying to get things perfect, which makes social media more enjoyable.

You Can’t Worry About Metrics When There Aren’t Very Many

Sometimes the best features are when things are left off. Since you can’t Like an Instagram Story in the first place, you aren’t going to worry as much about how well a Story performs. As far as I can tell, all you can see are the number of views your story gets. No worrying about number of likes or responding to comments. This is like getting a credit card where you’re not allowed to see the bill or pay the balance. Update: I was just informed that some people think credit cards actually work this way. Whoops.

It’s Easier To Find Your Way Around

One of the things that bugs my about Snapchat’s Stories user interface is how hard it is to tell how many updates a user has posted. That little wheel in the corner of the screen just doesn’t do it to me. Instagram’s version, where bars are lined up on the top of the screen, feels like an improvement. And this is a small thing, but I love how you can move forwards and backwards between users in Instagram’s version.

That Highlighter Feature Is A Better Way To Do Text

If your text just doesn’t stand out agains the photo, the highlighter option makes your life way easier. Being able to make your text legible without having to use that black bar is just makes for better compositions.

OK, It’s Not Perfect

Instagram Stories are going to be pretty tough to use once they’re widely adopted. Scrolling across that bar along the top isn’t going to cut it.

The filters are kind of weak sauce. I mean, one of the reasons Instagram was so popular early on was because it’s filters let your lame photo of a cheeseburger look like it was slightly artistic and slightly less lame. Instagram should be a leader here, and it’s not.

Finally, Instagram has the chance to one-up Snapchat by letting people react to Instant Stories. Turning these from one-way updates to two-way conversations could be a lot of fun.

But I Still Love The Effort

Instagram Stories, along with Snapchat and Facebook Live, are the greatest changes ever to grace social media. Turning social media from a permanent record of events to a live, in-the-moment stream gets us acting like the real versions of ourselves – the version our friends see us as when they interact with us face-to-face.

Do you love or hate Instagram Stories? Let me know in the comments.

Don’t Create Another Facebook Audience Until You Try This

Read any article on running a Facebook ad campaign and you’ll be told to split test your ads. Big deal. But I want you to quit worrying about testing this headline or that image for the moment and try something completely new – compare Facebook audiences against each other.

As I discussed in this post, it doesn’t matter how good your Facebook ads are if they aren’t shown to the right people. And with the myriad ways in which Facebook let’s you create a target audience, you should spend just as much time exploring new targeting options as you do on the ads themselves.

Here’s How To Compare Facebook Audiences

Fortunately, Facebook let’s you test multiple audiences against each other to see which performs best. It’s actually pretty simple, and I’m surprised more marketers don’t spend time on it. Here’s how to do it (the right way)…

Facebook let's you test multiple audiences against each other. Here's how. Click To Tweet

First, create a handful of Facebook audiences that best approximate the people you’re trying to target. Experiment with different approaches, such as Likes/Interests, Behaviors, Demographics, Website Activity, or Lookalike Audiences. If all this sounds new to you, here’s a guide on creating different types of Facebook audiences.

Next, use Facebook’s “Show Audiences Overlap” feature to see how similar each of these audiences is. You’ll find it on the Audiences page in Ads Manager by clicking the Actions button near the top of the screen.

Select each of the audiences you’ve just constructed and open the Show Audiences Overlap window. You should see something like the below:

Facebook audiences overlap
Ideally, you should see little to no overlap between your audiences. Anything more than 25%: proceed with caution.

Make sure to select each of your audiences in that box in the top right. You’ll want to compare each audiences against all the others before proceeding.

You’ve structured things the right way if there is little to no overlap among all of your test audiences. If that’s the case, then you can safely run all of your ads to each of these audiences simultaneously. Just create a single Campaign with an Ad Set for each audience, and you can easily compare the results.

How Much Is Too Much?

If there’s too much overlap (say more than 25%), then proceed with caution. You’ll be bidding against yourself when you run your campaign. That will cause your ads to be unnecessarily expensive or cause them to stop running entirely. Worse, you won’t get a true gauge on how those audiences perform.

If you see that more than one of your audiences is performing well, no problem! That just means you have even more people to target. And since Facebook consistently offers new ways to target people, make audience split testing a regular practice.

Target Just The Right People With Facebook Custom Audiences

If you don’t show your Facebook ads to the right people, then it doesn’t matter how good they are. That’s why creating the right Facebook audience is one of the most effective things you can do to get better results. In this post, I’ll show you how, using Facebook custom audiences.

Creating the right Facebook audience is one of the most effective things you can do to get better… Click To Tweet

The Facebook custom audiences tool is broken down into three types: Saved Audience (beginner), Custom Audience (intermediate), and Lookalike (hard core). For premium Star Wars-themed protective laptop covers for MacBook users. Not that I can imagine anyone not wanting one…

Saved Audience: Start Here

Start a new Saved Audience and you’ll soon find that Facebook’s Detailed Targetinsection has literally thousands of choices. Where do you start? Here’s the answer you don’t want to hear: you just have to dig through them and see which ones could apply. Here’s what I found for our Star Wars laptop covers:

  • Target people who use a Mac by selecting Behaviors -> Digital Activities -> Operating System Used -> Primary Mac OS X.
  • Constrain your audience to Star Wars fans by selecting Interests -> Additional Interests > Star Wars. There are dozens of similar choices, but since this is described as “People who have expressed an interest in or like pages related to Star Wars” it should be a pretty safe bet.
  • Since these are premium covers, make sure your ads are only shown to people with an income greater than $50,000 by excluding Demographics -> Financial -> Income -> $30,000 – $40,000 and $40,000 – $50,000.
  • Since people who travel frequently are more likely to need a laptop case, add one further constraint: Behaviors -> Travel -> Business travelers.

If this audience is constrained to people older than 22 who live in the United States, you get 170,000 people. That’s a perfect audience size for custom Facebook audiences: large enough yield plenty of responses, but still targeted to potential customers only.

Facebook custom audiences saved
You don’t need The Force to target people when you have this many options.

Custom Audience: Now You Can Retarget

Now that you’ve got traffic coming to your website and are selling Jar Jar Binks Rey-themed laptop covers for $95, it’s time to step things up.

If you were wise, you would have installed the Facebook tracking pixel on your website before you began sending visitors there. Doing so will allow you to build Facebook custom audiences based on people who’ve taken action on your site. For example, you could set up an audience of people who viewed Star Wars-product pages on your site but did not complete a purchase. Perfect for retargeting with a follow-up ad.

You can even upload email and phone numbers of your existing customers to create a Saved Audience. When your Star Wars: Episode VIII- themed items hit the market, you’ll have a list of known buyers ready to market to.

Facebook custom audiences screenshot
The custom audience feature is “impressive…. most impressive.”

Lookalike Audience: Mysterious But Effective

Facebook custom audiences truly reach Death Star-like power with the Lookalike Audience option. How does it work? Using a “seed list” of Facebook users you’ve specified, Facebook can create a larger group of similar people. I’ve never found a good explanation of how Facebook builds its Lookalike Audiences, I just know that they work.

The Lookalike Audience option is especially handy when your audience can’t be easily defined with Facebook’s pre-determined options in the Saved Audience tool. Here’s how to build one:

  • Select a data source. Choose a Custom Audience you’ve already created, a conversion pixel you’ve configured, or the followers of your Facebook page.
  • Select the country you want to target people in. Yes, Antarctica is an option.
  • Choose the size of the audience you want to create. It will be presented as a percentage of all Facebook users in that country, so a 1% audience for the United States will be about 2 million people.
Facebook custom audiences lookalike
To test multiple sizes, select “Show Advanced Options” and Facebook will create up to six Lookalike Audiences.

Mind Blown: You Can Mix All Three Audiences Together

That’s right – to create insanely accurate Facebook custom audiences, you can actually combine all three types. Here’s how you could create an über-list of people who might buy a Star Wars-themed laptop cover:

  1. First create a Custom Audience of all people who’ve purchased any laptop cover from you. You could do this by uploading a list of customer contacts or by using the Website Traffic option to target people who’ve bought one.
  2. Use that Custom Audience to create a new Lookalike Audience. If based on the United States, this would give you a list of 2 million people who would be likely to buy a laptop cover.
  3. Finally, create a Saved Audience that uses this Lookalike Audience as its source (just select it next to the Custom Audiences option). Further narrow your targeting by adding the OS X, Star Wars, income, and business travel constraints you added with your very first Saved Audience. Chances are your new audience will be a bit smaller, but perfectly targeted.
To create insanely accurate Facebook targeting, you can combine multiple audiences together. Click To Tweet

To take things a step further, you can even split test audiences against each other – a topic I cover in this post.

What Else Do You Need To Know About Facebook Custom Audiences?

Building custom Facebook audiences requires thoughtfulness and the patience to test out new ideas. If you have other tips on building a great Facebook audience, please share them in the comments!

6 Reasons The Facebook Ad Platform Is Really Just A Terminator

Saying, “The Facebook ad platform is the most powerful ad network in the world,” sounds a little crazy. It also happens to be true. Do you know why?

It’s because the Facebook ad platform is actually an experimental software-only version of Skynet’s artificially intelligent autonomous war machines, also known as Terminators. Here are the six pieces of evidence that prove it.

Facebook Ads Can Adapt To Any Situation

The Facebook ad platform could be hiding an ad right behind you.
Turn around… there’s a Facebook ad behind you.

When I first heard the term “machine learning”, I immediately though of the Terminator. Turns out, it’s a practice Facebook employs as well.

Unlike most forms of traditional advertising, Facebook ads have the uncanny ability to identify and respond to new circumstances. Thanks to the power of its advanced ad delivery algorithms, it constantly makes informed guesses on what it thinks will be effective, measures the results, and adapts accordingly. Facebook will not only optimize for demographics, device, placement, and time of day, it will also show successful ads more frequently than unsuccessful ones. Scary.

Just like a Terminator, once you activate a Facebook campaign, it will quickly do everything in its power to terminate your enemies generate ad results.

Facebook Ads Are Nearly Impossible To Get Rid Of

Facebook views setbacks to its ability to serve ads with curious disdain.

Think that running AdBlock Plus on your laptop is going to make Facebook ads go away? It’s not – 80% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile, where ad blockers have little to no effect. Furthermore, Facebook has 1.65 billion users who each spend 50 minutes per day on the social network. They’re using that time to serve about 2.8 trillion ad impressions per day.

80% of Facebook's ad revenue comes from mobile. Click To Tweet

You might eliminate one or two Facebook ads, but the reality is that you’re way outnumbered. Just like Skynet and its Terminators, your only real option to eliminate Facebook ads entirely is to destroy Facebook itself. Good luck, John Conner.

The Facebook Ad Platform Knows Everything About You

Just like Skynet, the Facebook ad platform knows everything about you.
Your knowledge about yourself pales in comparison to what Facebook knows.

Facebook Ads obtains a tremendous amount of information about who you are and what you’ve done. It uses that information to hunt you down and show you an ad it thinks you’ll click. Just like Skynet (except without the whole “wanting to kill you” objective). Just take a look Facebook’s Data Use Policy to see what’s being tracked:

First, every Page you Like, post you click, photo you share, and every other action is tracked by Facebook. Did you just take 37 seconds to stare at that photo of your ex-girlfriend on vacation in Panama City? Facebook knows.

We collect…  the location of a photo…  the types of content you view or engage with or the frequency and duration of your activities.

Secondly, Facebook collects data from you devices, learning where your are, what type of phone you use, and EVEN IF YOUR PHONE IS LOW ON BATTERIES.

We collect information from… [the] devices where you… access our Services… [such as] operating system, hardware version, device settings, file and software names and types, battery and signal strength, and device identifiers… Device locations… the name of your mobile operator or ISP, browser type, language and time zone, mobile phone number and IP address.

Any site that uses Facebook’s Like, Share, or login platform also provides data back to Facebook:

We collect information [from] third-party websites and apps… about the websites and apps you visit… as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.

Finally, Facebook enlists the help of other Terminators 3rd party data providers:

We receive information about you and your activities… such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them.

Facebook Is Constantly Testing New Prototypes

The Facebook ad platform is constantly evolving.
What started off as a simple ad product, Facebook now offers more than a dozen campaign objectives. Fortunately, none of them have red eyes or a mimetic polyalloy frame.

When Facebook’s ad product first rolled out, it was a “basic model” that only delivered ad placements on the right hand side of the desktop News Feed. Almost like the “rudimentary” T-100. But fast forward a few years, and things have gotten way more sophisticated. Placements now extend to both Desktop and Mobile News Feeds, within Instant Articles, across Facebook’s Audience Network, and even to Instagram.

Not only that, but the types of ad units has proliferated as well, with images, videos, carousels, canvas ads, and plenty of other variations. Evolution indeed.

Facebook Ads Are Occasionally Prone To Glitches

Terminators and the Facebook ad platform are error prone.
Neither the most advanced Terminators nor Facebook ad products are error-free.

Even the most sophisticated machines are prone to glitches. Like the time my team tried to set up Facebook’s new “Reach & Frequency” delivery tool and and were told that we needed to come up with a budget that was both greater than $761.77 and less than $761.77. Oh, and Facebook’s support team told us that it would take “about 2 months” to fix the issue.

Just like that time Power Editor didn’t work. Or like that other time Power Editor didn’t work. Which was exactly like that day when Power Editor wouldn’t work at all.

Facebook Fails When It’s Submerged In Molten Steel

Terminator melting
We were completely surprised to learn that Facebook’s ad servers were also non-functional after being submerged in molten steel.

This one surprised us, too. But sure enough, when we placed one of Facebook’s ad servers in a vat of 1600° C steel, it was unable to maintain delivery of our ad campaigns. I guess no ad platform is without its shortcomings. We plan on conducting repeated tests to see if this is issue persists.

Surprise: when we submerged a Facebook ad server in 1600° C steel, it stopped delivering ads. Click To Tweet

Update: after we destroyed 17 additional ad servers, Facebook asked us to discontinue our tests. While sensitivity to extreme heat may be a shortcoming in the current iteration of the Facebook ad platform, expect that issue to be resolved with future prototypes.

Scared? Don’t Be

No doubt that the Facebook ad platform might seem a little frightening. Who wouldn’t be a little intimated by a constantly adapting and evolving system that uses machine learning to target 1.65 billions of people it knows nearly everything about?

The good news is that the Facebook ad platform is really just a tool. As a marketer, it’s up to you to determine how to use it. Advertise responsibly. And if you get frustrated, try putting out your cigar on your monitor.

Cigar put out on Terminator.
Facebook is not amused by your attempts to destroy it.

Facebook Campaign Objectives: Here’s How To Choose

Understanding Facebook campaign objectives is a bit like buying a vehicle: you know that they all basically do the same thing, but picking the wrong one can lead to misery and frustration.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t do much to illustrate the differences between each of objective. Here’s an example. The help text for the “Increase engagement in your app” objective reads, “Use the app engagement objective to increase engagement in your app.” Wow.

To make picking the right Facebook campaign objectives easier (and far more entertaining), I’ve matched each objective with it’s vehicle counterpart. If only buying a real car were this simple.

What’s my marketing objective? I’ll tell you, Facebook… it’s to make sense of this chart.

By the way, to make things even more confusing, Facebook campaign objectives have slightly different names in Ads Manager and Power Editor. The name you see in the headline is what’s visible in Power Editor; the Ads Manager equivalent is listed below.

Page Post Engagement: Top Fuel Dragster

Like a top fuel dragster, there’s no confusion about what boosting a post does.

Ads Manager name: “Boost post.” Simple. Powerful. Boosting posts does one thing and one thing only – it gets your page posts in front of more people. With only about 10% of your Facebook followers seeing your posts organically (if you’re lucky), boosting your posts is almost a necessity.

While boosting a post is probably the simplest way you can advertise on Facebook, that doesn’t mean it’s a tactic just for beginners. If you already have your audiences defined, boosting your posts right from your page is still a go-to tactic for many marketers.

Page Likes: 1965 VW Bug

No longer practical, but great at getting Likes.

Ads Manager name: “Promote your Page.” I’m not entirely sure why people still pay for Facebook Likes, but if you think that’s the best investment of your marketing budget, Facebook can make that happen for you.

That’s why getting Page Likes is kind of like driving an old-school VW Bug. There’s no real practical reason to do so, but if you want people to simply like what they see, it’s the way to go.

Clicks To Website: 2002 Honda Accord

Like the Accord, Click To Website is nothing special, but it will get the job done.

Ads Manager name: “Send people to your website.” Ah the Honda Accord of Facebook campaign objectives. New Facebook marketers, start here. If you really can’t decide what to pick, it’s hard to go wrong with this choice.  You can always upgrade to something fancier later.

And there are even some situations when Clicks To Website is the best choice. Here are a few:

  • You don’t have Facebook’s Conversion Pixel installed yet.
  • There truly isn’t an objective beyond getting people to view a web page.
  • Your budget doesn’t allow you to generate more than five conversions/day (more on that below).

Website Conversions: UPS Truck

Facebook’s Website Conversions objective and UPS trucks share one thing in common: they both use sorcery to reach unreal levels of efficiency.

Ads Manager name: “Increase conversions on your website.” Here’s the thing about UPS trucks… they rely on sophisticated systems to choose their routes and get packages delivered as efficiently as possible.

The Website Conversions objective works the same way. No one is really sure what Facebook does to “optimize” for conversions, but if you set things up right, it will. That’s what makes Website Conversions the most prized of all the Facebook campaign objectives.

That being said, you can’t just dive right in. You’ll first need to install and configure Facebook’s Conversion Tracking pixel, a task only slightly preferable to filing your taxes. You’ll then need the patience to ride out the storm while Facebook figures things out.

Finally, the Website Conversions objective doesn’t work well if you have a relatively low budget. If your campaign doesn’t consistently get five conversions per day, Facebook will stop running the ads altogether.

Mobile App Installs: 2008 Tesla Roadster

Tesla’s Roadster didn’t exist prior to 2007. And you definitely weren’t playing Pokémon Go then, either.

Ads Manager name: “Get installs of your app.” There were two things absent from the early 2000s: any car produced by Tesla and Apple’s App Store. The Mobile App Installs objective wasn’t around either. Though not the newest Facebook campaigns objective, it’s certainly the one most related to modern technology.

If you’re an app developer, you’d be hard pressed not to use this objective in your campaigns. Everyone else can basically ignore it.

Mobile App Engagement: Morgan 3 Wheeler

Morgan 3-Wheeler
The Morgan 3-Wheeler and the Mobile App Engagement objective: for niche audiences only.

Ads Manager name: “Increase engagement in your app.” There’s only one possible reaction you can have when you see a Morgan 3 Wheeler: what the f*%k is that? That’s also what most people say when they come across the Mobile App Engagement objective.

However,  those who do market mobile apps (not me) know exactly what this is for and how to use it. Just like that automotive aficionado for whom a three-wheeled, motorcycle engined, open top, and fire-breathing car is the perfect choice. Just don’t expect your friends to understand.

P.S. In Power Editor, you’ll also find Desktop App Installs and Desktop App Engagement listed among the Facebook campaign objectives. 

Local Awareness: Parade Float

A Lego campaign float cannot be improved upon. And like Local Awareness ads, its perfect for getting the attention of people nearby.

Ads Manager name: “Reach near your business.” The Local Awareness objective has some cool tricks up its sleeve. Not only can you target people who are physically near your business at that moment, but you can use some very relevant CTAs to encourage a response. Facebook lets you choose from Like Page, Call Now, Get Directions, Learn More, and Send Message.

This objective can only be used to reach people within 50 miles of your business. Just like a parade float, it may not reach very far, but it’s great at attracting the attention of those nearby.

Event Responses: Postal Service Truck

Postal Service trucks may be the only vehicles that look slow at any speed. Fortunately, Facebook Event Responses work a bit faster.

Ads manager name: “Raise attendance at your event.” You’re getting ready to host Paducah’s 7th Annual Poodle Show, Shrimp Boil, & Trike Rally. Last year was a huge success, but you really want to blow things out of the water this year. Where do you turn? If it was 1987, it would be the Postal Service. Fortunately it’s not, which means you’re going to use Facebook’s Event Responses campaign objective instead.

To get the most of this objective, you’ll need to create a Facebook Event first. When people click “Join” on your ad, Facebook will automatically add the event to their Facebook calendar. You’ll also be able to measure how many people have responded. Time to buy some shrimp.

Offer Claims: “Free Candy” Van

Just like this van, Offer Claims ads are short and to the point.

Ads Manager name: “Get people to claim your offer”. You’ve got a discount, some special offer, some promotion that people gotta know about. Then Offer Claims is your ticket. Unlike like that “Free Candy” van you are still skeptical about (“But what if it’s Twix?….”) , Offer Claims ads are legit.

In fact, of all the Facebook campaign objectives, this one allows some of the most creativity in how it’s used. You can create some very specific offers, using the following settings:

  • Offer type: Percent Off, Amount Off, Buy One/Get One, Free Stuff
  • Percent Value
  • Offer Title/Description
  • Expiration Date
  • Discount Code
  • Terms and Conditions

Video Views: Bluth Company Stair Car

Like the Video Views objective, Michael Bluth’s go-to vehicle is sure to get stares wherever it goes. Yes, of course, the pun is intended, sheesh.

Ads Manager name: “Get video views.” If you have a video, you want one thing: for people to sit there and stare at your creation. This leaves no other option but to select the Bluth Company stair car as the representative of the Video Views objective.

The Video Views objective is perfect for retargeting, because Facebook will automatically build an audience of people who have watched some or all your video. And if you want to go completely crazy, Facebook will let you upload videos up to 60 minutes long. That’s 2.72 Arrested Development episodes.

Product Catalog Sales: Food Truck

Just like a food truck, Facebook's Product Catalog Sales objective allows you to show what you're selling and drive sales.
Just like a food truck, Facebook’s Product Catalog Sales objective allows you to show what you’re selling and drive sales. Although at the time of this writing, food trucks still smell better.

Ads Manager name: “Promote a product catalog.” If you’re an ecommerce site, the Product Catalog Sales objective gives you a powerful way to create ads that are far more descriptive than typical formats.

You can even go a step further with something called Dynamic Product Ads. This tool allows you to automatically generate ads from your product catalog, and use Lookalike audiences to find more people who might be interested in a product, and create different calls to action based on previous user behavior.

Dynamic Product Ads are a bit too technical for this article, but Social Media Examiner has a great tutorial on how to use them.

Lead Generation: 1985 Toyota Hilux Pickup Truck

If only you could just drive around town and pick up leads.

Ads Manager name: “Collect leads for your business.” Sometimes you don’t need anything fancy, you just want an email address. Or, a truckload of them. Enter the Lead Generation Facebook campaign objective.

Instead of sending people to your landing page, Facebook users can enter their information directly in the Facebook app. This is the only one of the Facebook campaign objectives that allows you to do this. By default, you’ll collect their name and email address, but Facebook will let you ask up to three additional questions.

The only thing challenging about the Lead Generation objective is that you must set up a Lead Form prior to using this option. For some unnecessarily complex instructions on how to set up Lead Forms, visit this resource from Facebook.

Brand Awareness: 2007 Hummer H2 With Body Wrap

If you have to do a vehicle wrap, promise me you won’t choose a purple Hummer with chrome wheels.

Ads Manager name: “Increase brand awareness.” Sometimes you just want to let people know who you are. Thankfully, Facebook offers a classier way of promoting your brand besides wrapping a chrome-wheeled Hummer H2 with a gaudy vinyl wrap. It’s called the Brand Awareness objective, and it’s basically just fancy way of saying that Facebook will optimize your ads for impressions.

There’s not a whole lot to do with Brand Awareness objective – define you audience, set your budget, add your creative, and Facebook will show you ad to as many people as it can.

Which Facebook Campaign Objectives Do You Drive?

Have advice on using Facebook campaign objectives? Let’s hear it in the comments below. If you’ve thought of a way to use an objective in an unorthodox way, I’d love to learn about it.

Facebook Relevance Score – Why Marketers Should Love It

If you’re like many marketers, you may not have given the Facebook relevance score much attention.

It might be tempting not to. After all, if your ads are converting and you’re happy with the numbers, then does relevance score really matter? You’d better believe it. Keeping reading to find out why.

Facebook Must Serve Two Masters

Like an aging rock band that must keeping nurturing its fan base if it wants to keep selling $275 concert tickets, Facebook must keep its users happy if it wants to keep them around. And what’s a sure-fire way to turn away people in droves? Other than producing crappy albums, it’s too much advertising. Especially if those ads are seen as unrelated or annoying.

Secondly, Facebook must also serve its dark (but wealthy) overlord: the advertising industry that provides it with over $20 billion of revenue each year. (By the way, I just realized that I’m part of the advertising industry, so does that make me a dark overlord? I sure hope so.) As advertisers, we want as much ad inventory as we can get our hands on.

Does that put advertisers at odds with Facebook users? Maybe not.

The advertising industry provides Facebook with over $20 billion of revenue each year. Click To Tweet

Users And Advertisers Want The Same Thing

On the surface, it might seem that Facebook users want absolutely no ads, while Facebook advertisers want all the ads. But neither statement is really true.

As a Facebook user, you do need to see some advertisements, unless you want to start paying for access. Which you’re not going to, you cheap bastard. And since Facebook stated years ago that its platform will always be free to use, that’s unlikely to be an option anyway.

Now, as an advertiser, do you want your ads to be shown to fewer people? Or pay more than necessary? Of course not. In a perfect world, your ads would be shown at the top of the News Feed, where they’d receive a 100% click-through-rate and a cost per conversion of just pennies. Sure.

With either too many or two few ads, the Facebook ad ecosystem dies.

How Many Facebook Ads Are Users Willing To See? It Depends

If I were in charge of Facebook’s ad platform, a big part of my job would be maximizing Facebook’s sustainable inventory of ads. How many ads is Facebook serving today? It’s easy to find out. If the average cost of advertising on Facebook is $7 CPM, and Facebook generates $20 billion in ad revenue, then they have about 2.8 trillion ad impressions to serve each year. At 1.5 billion users, that’s about 5 ads per person/day.

Let’s pretend that Facebook wanted to increase the number of ads per person/day from 5 to 5.5. Let’s look at a few options to see if any would work:

  • Show more ads. Nope. This would worsen the user experience and may cause people to spend less time on the site. This might actually reduce ad inventory. After all, if people aren’t visiting Facebook in the first place you can’t show them an ad.
  • Change placement to make ads less prominent. Wrong again. Facebook would have to reduce CPM for their ads, as advertisers wouldn’t be willing to pay as much for a less prominent placement.
  • Show ads that are more relevant. Bingo! If you’re only seeing ads that are tailored to your interests, you’d be willing to put up with more of them. And that’s exactly what the Facebook relevance score is for: to encourage advertisers to show ads that are less annoying more valuable to its users.

Facebook Relevance Score Helps Advertisers And Users

Ultimately, the Facebook relevance score helps get advertisers get better results from fewer ads. If your advertisements are being shown to the right audience, you shouldn’t need to generate as many impressions to  get the same result.

And it gives users a better experience by encouraging advertisers to show them ads that relate to their likes and interests.

Ultimately, the Facebook relevance score helps get advertisers get better results from fewer ads. Click To Tweet

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Facebook rewards and punishes advertisers based on the relevance score of their ads. After all, if they were able to increase ad inventory from 5 to 5.5 per user per day (without sacrificing CPM), that could potentially add $2 billion of advertising revenue to Facebook’s pockets each year. Not bad.

That may be part of why, according to a recent report by AdAge, the number of ad impressions Facebook served increased by 29% from 2014 to 2015.

Improving Your Facebook Relevance Score

Hopefully you’re now convinced that you need to pay attention to improving your Facebook relevance score. However, just because you care about hitting a high relevance score doesn’t make it easy. In fact, I’ve often found it pretty tough.

If ads could get a negative Facebook relevance score, these probably would.

I’ll cover some tips on improving your relevance score in a future post, but in the meantime, if you’ve cracked the code on consistently getting a high Facebook relevance score, and I’d love to hear how you do it. Leave your advice in the comments below.


Facebook Ads Not Working? Fix Them Now With This 14-Step Guide

When I was a kid, there was a sure-fire way of getting Super Mario Bros. to work on NES when the game wouldn’t load: take out the cartridge, blow into the end with all the electronic bits, and retry. Nine times out of ten you’d be back in business. Unfortunately, Facebook ads are often just as finicky. Except that blowing on your computer screen won’t get you very far. That’s why I wrote this guide: to give you a 14-step guide for when your Facebook ads are not working. Because nothing is more frustrating than seeing your Facebook ads not working.

Tip #1: Double Check Everything

The Apollo module might be slightly more complicated than Facebook campaigns.
So many buttons, so many things to go wrong.

Remember when you called your Internet provider because you couldn’t get House of Cards to play on Netflix? And they told you to first check if your cable modem was plugged in? This is that step. Except it’s more like piloting the Apollo space capsule: there are a thousand switches to check, and if you bump the wrong one, bad things happen.

If you’ve made any of the mistakes below, you won’t be the first person:

  • Used the wrong URL for your ad’s target destination
  • Forgot to add your Facebook tracking pixel to your landing pages
  • Didn’t set the right objective for Facebook to optimize on
  • Left a campaign, ad set, or ad set to “OFF
  • Sent traffic to a landing page you haven’t published
  • Used an expired credit card to pay for your ads
  • Hit a budget limit on our account or a campaign
  • Pre-pay for a full tank of gas at $5.63/gallon when renting your Kia Forte from Hertz

Check these first before diving into the more difficult fixes below.

Tip #2: Pick The Right Objective

Right now, Facebook offers fifteen campaign objectives to choose from. That makes things complicated. Heck, ordering from McDonalds feels like taking a multiple-choice test from a sadistic 3rd-grade teacher, and they only have nine Extra Value Meals to pick from.

Facebook offers no less than 15 ad objectives.
Facebook ad objectives : choose wisely.

If you’re unsure of what objective to pick, Clicks To Website is probably your safest best. When you’ve got the basics figured out, consider moving to Website Conversions. This will allow Facebook to send traffic to people it thinks are most likely to take a certain action on your site. Like downloading your latest ebook, The Beginner’s Guide To McDonald’s Extra Value Meals: What To Choose, How To Eat, And Best Places To Get Sick After Consumption.

One word of caution when using Website Conversions… 

If you aren’t getting at least five conversions a day, Facebook will consider your campaign unsuccessful. Facebook will then stop running your campaign “to keep you from wasting money.” You won’t find this listed anywhere in Facebook’s help articles, but I can confirm this both from personal experience and conversations with Facebook support.

Tip #3: Check Placement (Don’t Use Audience Network)

Facebook ad placement is one of the most important aspects of campaign performance.
Placement matters. A lot.

Facebook offers four ad placements: Desktop News Feed, Mobile News Feed, Desktop Right Hand, and Audience Network (aka the 5th Circle of Hell).

What is this Audience Network? It’s a smorgasbord of ad placements on external sites and within mobile apps. It also includes ads placed within Facebook’s Instant Articles.

The problem with Facebook Audience Network ads is they offer a very poor user experience since the ad layouts vary greatly. You also are subject to the “fat finger” problem, where users inadvertently click on an ad when navigating on their phone.

The problem with #Facebook Audience Network ads is they offer a very poor user experience. Click To Tweet

You’d think that Facebook would simply show your ads on the best-performing placements, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, when I wasn’t paying attention, I’ve seen Facebook spend nearly all of my budget on Audience Network.

So to be safe, turn off Audience Network placements. Completely.

Outside of Audience Network, your mileage may vary among the other placements. If you see one that’s underperforming, take a look at how your ads are presented. Maybe your creative doesn’t work well in small sizes. Maybe your headlines are too long for mobile. Whatever the case, either turn off an underperforming placement or revise your copy and creative to make sure it presents well in all formats.

Tip #4: Get The Right Audience

The best ad in the world won’t convert if it’s delivered to the wrong audience. And you’d be surprised at how very similar Facebook audiences can perform quite differently.

Try testing different versions of your target audience, to see which works best. Here’s an example of how to create three different audiences:

  • Build your first audience using Facebook Likes and Interests. Try to find things that only people in your audience would have an interest in.
  • Create a based on Facebook’s Behaviors options. Dig deep into the choices Facebook offers. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  • Finally, try a “Lookalike” audience of your existing customers or leads.
Facebook's behaviors tool offers some interesting ways of targeting people.
There are 156 million people interested in computer servers?!

Next, take a look at the audience size relative to your budget. You may have created the “perfect” audience. But if it’s made up of only 35,000 people and your budget is $500/day, you’ll wear out that audience in just a few days.

Tip #5 Check Your Relevance Score

Creating a good user experience is a big focus for Facebook. That means they don’t want ads that are spammy, annoying, or well, irrelevant.

That’s why you need to pay close attention to Facebook’s Relevance Score. A high relevance score of say, and 8 or 9, means you’re doing it right. A low score means your audience and your message are never, ever getting past a first date. 5 or 6 is about middle ground.

Remember that Facebook Relevance Scores can change over time. If you’ve found a winner – great! Just keep an eye on it – if relevance declines, it may be time to shut things off and move on to a new ad.

Tip #6: Don’t Compete Against Yourself

Your Facebook ad campaigns can compete against each other when they target the same audience.
Fighting yourself is so awkward.

Seriously, this is a thing you can actually do with Facebook ads.

It happens when you have more than one campaign targeting the same audience. When that occurs, Facebook gets… well, confused. And when Facebook gets confused, it will either stop delivering your ads or it will charge you more than it should. Either scenario is bad.

Thankfully, Facebook has a Compare Audience Overlap feature. Just select two or more audiences and you can see how distinct they are. As a rule of thumb, anything with more than a 50% overlap is probably going to cause you problems. If the overlap is between 25-50%, you’re still probably OK, as long as the audience size is large enough.

Tip #7: Be Patient

Here’s the real challenge with Facebook ads: they don’t work right away. Here’s an example:

I recently set up a campaign for website conversions. I was willing to pay up to $20 per conversion, a number I’d consistently hit before.

But did my first conversion magically come through once I had spent $20? Nope. How about $50? $75? Keep going. The first conversion didn’t happen until I had spent nearly $100. But a short while later, I got my second, bringing the average cost per conversion down to about $80. A third brought the average down again, to about $60. And so on.

Once I gave Facebook some time to optimize, everything fell in order, and I got plenty conversions well under my target. #epicwin

The lesson: don’t make changes until you’ve given Facebook plenty of time to optimize.

Facebook ads not working? This is what an optimized campaign looks like.
Facebook can take a few days to optimize, but when it does, it works!

Tip #8: Evaluate Your Landing Pages

Sometimes your ads are just fine, but your landing pages are sucking you dry. How do you know? If you answer “No to any questions below, you still need to work on your ads. All “Yes” responses and you can safely move on to your landing pages:

  • Is your Cost Per Click (Link) healthy? Don’t get confused by regular ol’ Cost Per Click, as that includes any click on your ad, not just those that go to your landing page.
  • Is your Click-Through Rate (Link) above 0.5%? That’s just rough target, but if you’re seeing numbers below this, you probably need to make some changes to your ads or your audience.
  • Is Frequency below 5? Frequency is the number of times people have seen your ad. If your audience has seen your ad at least five times already and they still haven’t responded, they’re not about to start now.
  • Is your Relevance Score a 5 or above? Anything less and Facebook thinks that your ads are not very pertinent to your audience.
  • Do you have enough data? Don’t assume things aren’t working if you only have a few clicks or a few hundred impressions.

However, if you are getting clicks to your landing pages at a decent cost (aren’t you proud of yourself?), then check out Unbounce’s The Most Entertaining Guide To Landing Page OptimizationYou’re welcome.

Tip #9: Understand Who You’re Talking To

If you don’t know what’s important to your audience, good luck getting them to click anything. Here’s the good news: if you aren’t sure which of your product’s benefits will resonate, you can test. Heres how:

  1. Start by creating a persona of the person you’re trying to target (let’s call him Greg). Click here for a handy resource on creating personas.
  2. With this vivid picture of Greg in mind, identify 5-6 benefits your product can provide that will help him. Does he want to save money? Sleep better? Collect every Star Wars action figure ever produced?
  3. Create an ad for each benefit, using unique copy and creative.
  4. Test all of these ads together – the winner should tell you what benefit resonates best with Greg.
  5. To optimize further, continue making new variations centered around that winning benefit.

Tip #10: Say Exactly What You Want To Communicate

This Facebook ad from Nature box is exactly what copy should look like.
There is no confusion about what this Nature Box ad offers.

Copy is one of those things that everyone can write, but few can write well. Your word choice can make a tremendous difference in how people respond to your ad. Here are three questions to evaluate the quality of your copy:

  1. Is it clear? Choose clarity over cleverness, and being succinct over verbose.
  2. Are you triggering the right emotions? Whether you want the reader to feel curious, excited, anxious, or whatever else, pick words that match that emotion.
  3. Does the reader know what to expect next? Make sure your copy clearly states what the reader should do (click, download, etc). and what she can expect once she takes that action.

If you’re stuck, here’s are some great resources from Copyblogger on writing great copy and from Authority Hacker on writing copy for SEO.

Tip #11: Run The Right Number of Ads

Did you just stay up all night making 67 variations of your ads to test? Hold on there, hombre. Running all those ads at once won’t help you.

Like a nervous first-year high school basketball coach picking his starting lineup from players he knows nothing about, Facebook can’t optimize your ads until it knows which of them are the best performers. 

Facebook can't optimize your ads until it knows which of them are the best performers. Click To Tweet

And if you have too many ads, it will take Facebook a long time to figure that out. Or worse, Facebook will pick a “winner” before it’s given all your ads a fair shot, leaving a potentially great ad stuck in the dust bin.

You run into a different, but equally bad, problem with too few ads.

Let’s say that for every 100 ads you create, 30 are solid, and 70 are duds. Nothing wrong with that. But if you only test a few ads, you’re not giving yourself a good chance of finding a solid performer.

To avoid both problems, shoot for 5-6 ads within each ad set.

Tip #12: Get (The Right) Creative

If Bob Ross made Facebook ads, they'd be unstoppable.
If Bob Ross made Facebook ads, they’d be unstoppable.

Developing the right creative is often the scariest part for many marketers. It’s the part where we have to rely on an actual artist to develop art, something most of us can only pretend to know much about. That, or rely on some crummy stock photography. Not even your mom would be proud of you then.

Here’s the good news: developing creative isn’t that much different from developing copy. Identify who you’re targeting, the message you’re trying to convey, and any emotions you want to trigger. Share these with your designer. Ask him to copy up a few concepts to see if you’re both speaking the same language. If one of those looks good, create 3-5 final variations that you can test.

Don’t have a designer on hand or the budget for a freelancer? Try a free tool like Canva or use a service like Fiverr to hire one for a little as five dollars. Exchange rates are your friend when there are skilled Photoshop ninjas in Romania. Just make sure you specify exactly what you want to have designed.

Tip #13: Try Rebooting

Resetting your Facebook ad campaigns isn't fun but it's sometimes necessary.
More things in life could use a reset button.

Sometimes Facebook just needs a good kick in the pants. With a steel-toed boot. If you’ve made a bunch of changes to your campaign and nothing seems to be working, then clone your campaign, burn the old one to the ground, and start over.

If this sounds stupid, it’s because it is. Rebooting your campaigns should not be a viable solution to getting your ads to perform, but it is. It’s as though Facebook’s ad delivery algorithm sometimes turns into a bipolar robot who huffs glue when you’re not looking. Once brain damage sets in, there’s no turning back. The only way to fix things is to toss your campaign in the incinerator and begin anew.

Sometimes Facebook just needs a good kick in the pants. Click To Tweet

I hate trying this technique because it’s so blunt and unscientific, but sometimes it’s exactly what needs to be done.

Tip #14: Be Human

This is the least concrete but most important concept. Ads that are pushy, gimmicky, or disrespectful won’t get results. Even if they do, do you really want to be that type of marketer?

If you aren’t sure how your ads will be perceived, show them to a friend, your mom, your boyfriend… anyone who’s a reasonable human being. Ask them how the ads make them feel. For bonus points: tell your friend that the ads were created by someone else. You’ll get much more objective feedback.

If your ads consistently get negative feedback from others, keep working at it. No one got great overnight!

Facebook Ads Not Working? All You Really Need To Know Are These 5 Points

Hopefully, the points above give you some new ways of getting your Facebook ads working again. But if it all seems like too much, remember that there are only five things you need to be successful with Facebook ads:

  1. Understand the mechanics of the ad platform
  2. Offer something of value
  3. Respect the user
  4. Have the persistence to keep going until you get things right
  5. Oh, and read this article when you need a reminder.

Have other advice for getting your Facebook ads to perform? Share what you’ve learned in the comments!