social media how toAre you running Facebook ads?

Do you want to get more out of your ads?

The right optimization can make or break your ad campaign. Target audiences, timing and ad creative are all important considerations.

In this article I’ll share three tips for making the most of your Facebook ad campaigns.

#1: Reach the Right Audience

Many marketers optimize their Facebook ads based on the soulless numbers they see on that platform, which often leads to reaching the wrong audience.

For example, when you run a campaign to increase your page likes, you only care whether your ads are increasing the number of likes. But consider that the number of likes says nothing about your fans’ relevance to your business. For all you know, a substantial portion of fans could be fake—that’s definitely not the audience you’re going for.

optimze facebook ads

Find 3 ways to optimize your Facebook ads for better results.

Whether you’re running a campaign to increase overall Facebook engagement, drive traffic to a website or convert website visitors, I assure you this issue still applies.

So how can you optimize your Facebook ads to avoid that trap? Check your data to ensure you’re reaching the people most likely to buy from you.

To see whether your current campaigns are working and truly reaching your target audience, go to your Facebook Ads Reporting page and click on Edit Columns.

edit columns in ad reporting

Open Edit Columns to start matching your Facebook audience with your current customers.

Next, tick the following:

  • Data Aggregation > Campaign Name
  • Data Breakdowns > Age and Gender
  • Delivery & Spend > Reach & Amount Spent
  • Actions > The specific action your campaign seeks (e.g., website conversions)

Untick everything else and click Save Columns.

tick report data

Choose the data to view.

You’ll end up with a table that looks like the one below.

Click Reach on the top row to sort the table. Now you can see the demographics of the majority of people your ad is reaching and how much of your ad budget you spent on them.

sorting ad report data

Sort your ad report table by reach.

The key question to ask yourself is whether your campaigns are reaching the people who will convert. If they aren’t, look at your individual ad sets and make changes to or stop the ones that aren’t working.

If you discover your current ads are reaching the wrong age group, change your demographic parameters in the Facebook ad settings.

On the other hand, if you see that your conversions (e.g., video views in the table above) are higher for a different age group or gender, you may want to allocate more of your ad budget to that audience.

ad report data breakdown

Ad report data breakdown options.

Just a quick note: Your Facebook ad report also tells you where most of your conversions are coming from—country, (ad) placement, device and destination (funnel). But beyond these options, there is little to no information on the exact category or type of Facebook users who are converting through your ad.

#2: Compare Duplicate Ad Performance

This may come as a surprise, but I’m advising you not to create too many ad variants just yet. Don’t jump right into A/B testing.

Designing good ad creative takes real time and effort, yet so many brands simply dive straight into testing and trashing different ad images without giving them a chance to shine. It’s a waste of resources and money.

Before you do the same, try reusing an ad to see how the numbers differ. For example, I ran two duplicate ads for a client. Even though I ran both ads for the same period of time, the results differed in the total number of website clicks and cost per website click.

duplicate ad run comparison

Compare duplicate ad performance to see how they stack up.

In the image below you can see that the click-through rates for both ads differ by more than 0.5% (neither click-through rate is ideal).

The average optimized CPM for both ads also differs significantly. The first duplicate is 70% more expensive than the second.

duplicate ad run ctr and cpm comparison

Take a look at the CTR and CPM for duplicate ads.

You have no control over which ad performs better, but you can optimize your overall campaign performance by comparing data and getting rid of the ads that aren’t making the grade.

#3: Include Interesting Images

Your ad creative can determine whether your campaign is a rousing success or a disappointing failure.

Zach Kitschke, head of communications at Canva, suggests you pick imagery that tells a story about your brand or product. Adding an icon to your design immediately increases the salience of your message.

No matter what, the visuals you use should be consistent—templates are great for this. And don’t forget the power of color. An emotive palette says a lot about your brand and should reflect your brand’s other marketing materials.

Zach also told me it’s important to have a balanced design. Try using the rule of thirds: divide your design into three columns and three rows, then space out your content along those points.

edit columns in ad reporting

Use snackable images to convey your story.

Donna Moritz of Socially Sorted likes to create “snackable” images that are easy for visitors to process and understand. Some examples of these snackable pictures are memes, quotes, behind-the-scenes photos, etc.

Of course, your goal in using these quick images is to have people take action—whether it be a like, comment, share or click—so make sure you give your audience a reason to follow through. That may be via a call to action or an attractive image that leads to a related longer blog post.

Your Turn

There are plenty of Facebook ad optimization resources online, but the most effective tips require you to look closely at your target audience, make sure you’re reaching those people and consider how you can best serve them.

Don’t be afraid to make changes as necessary. When your data shows an ad isn’t reaching the right people, change it. Likewise, if your data shows success, don’t be too quick to modify it.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these tactics? Did you see a change in your Facebook ad performance? Share your favorite tips for successful Facebook ads in the comments below.

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  • Thanks for sharing 😉

  • My pleasure!

  • Great tips Jason! I love the image from Dollar Shave Club. I follow them on Facebook even though I am not their target customer.

  • Thanks Zsuzsa! DSC has a really brilliant overall marketing strategy – I follow them too.

  • KChapman

    For Tip#2, do you mean to use duplicate ads at the same time, directed at the same audience, for the same client? Or did you test them for different date ranges. i.e. Re-use an old ad that was successful in the past? Sorry, but I found this section a bit confusing.

  • Hey Chapman,

    No problem, I see where your confusion came from. In tip #2, I meant to duplicate the exact same ad and run them for the same duration. You might see a significantly different performance for both ads – and I’d recommend that you do this right from the beginning.

    Sorry for the confusion and let me know if you have any other quick questions.

  • Gold Mind Digital

    Insightful article Jason. Any thoughts on facebook new algorithms and how it might impact marketers going into 2015?

  • Neha

    dont the facebook ad guidelines say that you cannot have text anywhere but the very top part of the ad? if you do they reject it. Just wondering how Dolla Shave Club ran this ad when mine has been rejected so many times…?

  • Hey Neha,

    That’s interesting! Where did you come by that guideline? I am only aware of the 20% text rule. Did yours violate that?

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  • Raksha

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for the insightful article! Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on Facebook ads vs Facebook post boosts? I have been working a lot with post boosts and I am considering investing in ads instead.

  • Pamela Richards

    I do not have anything to contribute at this time except to say I just love this site. Always something of value and not just filler. Thank you Jason and SME.

  • Great tips. You are right, just adding the unwanted people( not beneficial to your business) is not a good way of marketing & business promotion.
    Images are always the best fitted element everywhere. People attract more towards as compare to any highlighted words.

  • Hey Raksha,

    My pleasure!

    Facebook post boost is actually a form of Facebook ads. It’s the most basic because you simply boost that particular post to reach more of your fans and friends of fans, with limited geographic and demographic targeting options. The next step is of course to run Facebook ads using ad manager or power editor. But before doing so, what is your business goal on Facebook? I think that is a crucial question you’ll need to answer before starting an ad campaign.

    Hope it helps!

  • Thanks Pamela for your kind words! It’s our pleasure 🙂

  • Indeed James, and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • Brilliant post Jason! I have to say that FB is a struggle lately. The kind of post that you have written- technical, very precise and detailed- really helps to figure out ways to accommodate FB’s latest changes. I really don’t have anything to add here, just that I’ll definitely go over these courses on our FB ads . Thanks a lot, Jason! Have a great day!

  • Hey guys! Thanks a lot for the compliment and do let me know if you have any quick questions!

  • I really like how you can use Facebook’s reporting to see the number of people that was reached based on demographic. A really good perspective in making sure that money is not wasted on people who do not convert. Great article, thank you.

  • Thanks Ricky! Feel free to voice out if you have any questions 🙂

  • yllan

    How do #hashtags factor into Facebook ads? Seems like an easy way to boost the reach without paying for it.

  • Hey Yllan,

    That’s an interesting question, but I haven’t seen hashtags pick up the kind of traction it does on Instagram or Twitter. Frankly I think the use of hashtags has declined even further since the beginning of this year – I don’t think it impacts reach like we hoped it would have.

  • Gina

    Hi Jason! Thanks for the really insightful article and tips! 🙂 I’m just a little confused over Tip #2, when you say to run duplicate ad at the same time, do you mean using exactly the same 2 ad images? Wouldn’t both ads be competing with each other in that case? How does this work?

  • Hi Gina,

    Thanks for your question!

    Duplicate ads don’t really compete with each other – Facebook doesn’t show more than one ad from the same brand to someone on the same page.

    Basically the idea is that we found significant differences in cost that can occur due to “chance”. The only possible explanation I can find is that when advertisers submit their ads for approval, they’re put into different categories, separated by certain algorithm that I do not know of. Then, the ads within each category will compete with one another in terms of bidding – and there is a chance that your ad bids lower in another category to win than the other ad. In such cases, the price of your ad depends not on you, but on this “chance” factor that you have no control over. Hence to eliminate it, you duplicate and run the same ads, and after some time, remove those with very high winning bids.

    Hope this helps!

  • Gina

    Wow this is really interesting and unexpected! Thanks for the quick reply and explanation! Will go test that out on my page and see what the results will be 🙂

  • Do keep me updated, Gina! – @JasonHJH (Twitter)

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  • Jennifer

    I have a question along those lines, why do you think their was such a variance in ad performance? That is helpful insight.

  • Hey Jennifer, I wish I knew the exact reason too. But having spoken to an engineer who built the ad system for another social media network (which I cannot reveal), I can only make an educated guess. If you’re interested to know what it is, here it is:

    There are tens of thousands of advertisers which means millions and perhaps billions of ads running on Facebook at any point in time. This means that Facebook needs to use some method to sort through all the ads and run them in a systematic manner.

    How would they do that? They’ll probably have different “buckets” for different ad types, like ad objectives, bidding option, etc. They can’t put 2 ads with different bidding options to bid against one another right?

    Okay, so what about ads that have the same settings? There’re probably still a million of them at least. If I were to look at every ad inventory I can sell, does it mean that every one of the million ads will bid against one another for that one ad space? Highly unlikely, given how inventory is real-time – Facebook only gets inventory when a user serves an additional Facebook page.

    Okay, so there’s a problem of too many ads bidding for the same ad spot and I don’t have time to go through the bids of all ads before choosing one to show to the user. How can I work around this in a fair way? Maybe Facebook separates these ads by creating “buckets” of ads with a number limit, like 100 per bucket, and randomly assigns each ad into a bucket. So when an inventory show up, a bucket of ads will probably hold the bidding auction within itself, and the highest bidding ad will show.

    And how does this answer your question? Well, when something like this is done randomly, it could mean that your ad could be thrown into the same bucket as another ad that has a big and fat budget. Imagine your ad competing with Coca Cola’s (assume that they advertise on Facebook), can you see why your CPM for that ad could be very expensive?

    Again, I have no sure proof of this, just an educated guess based on what my friend has told me about another social network’s ad mechanism.

  • Thank for your share.

  • Owen Hemsath

    Fascinating info about duplicate afs getting diff results. Thats very interesting

  • It is, Owen! In fact I’m going to spend a couple of hundred bucks to test this out and see if it’s indeed consistent. Hit me up on my blog if you’re interested 🙂

  • Sharon Lim

    Hi Jason, great article! Thank you for sharing it. I do have a question though – I am currently running several ad campaigns, but I would like to increase the reach of my campaigns. How can I achieve this? Facebook tells me that the potential reach of my ad campaign is 7 million people, but after almost 3 weeks of running the campaign, the reach is only about 10,000. Would appreciate any help on this!