I recently wrote an article on optimizing Facebook ads which gave me additional insight into how completely different Facebook advertising is from search engine marketing. Around the same time I wrote that article, Facebook revealed it’s new Ads Manager, which as far as I can tell, is a great improvement over the previous version and it might give some feeble third party Facebook ad platforms a run for their money.
The new Facebook Advertising Manager is a lot more visual and feels like a proper analytics platform… it looks more substantial although the data it provides is essentially identical. Facebook’s Ads Manager has come a long way in a few short years – this is good and bad for Facebook advertisers as it makes analysis within Facebook more intuitive, but the improved user interface creates more informed users. More competition = higher prices. There’s the rub. Anyhow… I’ll choose better tools even if that means fewer barriers to entry and more competition.
If you’re coming to Facebook advertising from Google AdWords for the first time, guess what? Targeting the same people in the same way over and over and over again doesn’t work very well at all! Even your best performing ad’s CTR will decrease surprisingly quickly! This is not the land of search where every query brings a fresh face.
Facebook’s new analytics platform addresses this issue head-on by attempting to entirely reframe the objective of social ads. The focus is on reach, not on long-term CTR trend lines. I can’t say the old Ads Manager completely focused on long term CTR, but it visually emphasized a theoretically endless horizon of clicks and CTRs the way Google AdWords and Analytics do. With the new Ads Manager, there is none of that. In fact, Facebook now restricts viewing trend data to a 28 day maximum with a 7 day “default”. You have to export data to excel or use third party software if you want to look at longer time periods.
Not only does Facebook’s new Ads Manager emphasize reach, but it also gives reach an implied expiration date – expressed in the prominently featured target market circle, the major premise here is that a target market will eventually saturate unless the ad or targeting changes. Facebook’s reframing and emphasis on reach implies new ads are empty vessels that can be filled only so much before they overflow. Webtrends often refers to this overflow problem as “ad blindness” .
Here’s an example of a new ad campaign I started yesterday. As you can see, the ad still has a lot of untapped reach – which is great for now. But over time, the circle will fill up as more people view the ad. The frequency with which people see the same ad over and over will also increase. Eventually, showing the same ad to the same non-converting customer is somewhat akin to a horribly ineffective re-marketing display ad campaign.
Below is an example of an ad I had been testing for a while on a tiny budget. Over time, with some creative and targeting optimization, I increased my CTR and significantly decreased my actual CPC. Once those factors were in place, I was ready to scale. (Note: scale in this case is a relative term as I work with small businesses and small budgets). After five days of squeezing everything I could out of the ad, it started to die on me. As you can see below, the circle is pretty much full and I’ve entered the land of diminishing returns. That doesn’t mean the social advertising opportunity is over, it just means that single opportunity to connect with those people in that specific way ends. I decreased the daily budget and eventually paused the ad and moved on to new targets – back to another empty vessel for a day or two.
Another significant change to the Ad Manager layout is that you no longer get to choose CTR as an option on the big, campaign level graph. This was always my immediate go-to information and Facebook buried it in a bunch of drop-downs in the ad creative library. The default (and only) setting for the big campaign level graph now is “Clicks” and “Connections”. This is another way in which Facebook is reframing performance criteria. The idea is basically “get more clicks or connections by filling empty circles, then rinse and repeat with new empty circles.”
In my opinion, the big takeaway from these changes to Facebook’s Ad Manager clearly demonstrate how Facebook desperately wants to reframes the objectives of what social advertising is and what it isn’t. In 2008 and 2009, marketers slowly dipped their toes in the waters of Facebook advertising. By 2010, everyone was accumulating fans with blind faith and reckless abandon. Now its 2011 and everyone’s wondering what to do with all these fans? How do we monitize? How do we measure micro-transactions? How do we track ROI?
All these questions inevitably lead back to comparisons with what people already know really well… which is Google. Marketers know exactly how Google generates their ROI, and it’s clear from the recent changes to its Ads Manager that Facebook hates this comparison – which, to Facebook’s credit, is valid. It will be very interesting to see what innovations Facebook brings to their advertising platform over time. After all, Google’s Conversion Optimizer beta program was introduced nine years after Google launched its search program. I have no doubt that Facebook is solidifying their own version of conversion optimizer… wherever that Facebook conversion takes place, which is certainly a different kind of conversion than Google.