In a Word, Facebook

This week marked the first of hopefully many Facebook Heavy Hitters meet-ups, hosted at our office in downtown San Francisco. Attendance was light, but the conversation was heavy, and we bounced some great ideas around the room over some beers. It’s easy to get stuck in a trap of doing things the way you’ve always done them, so it was great to get fresh perspectives on the pros, cons, tips and tricks for advertising on Facebook. Attendees ran the gamut from freelance consultants to in-house marketing leads. We even had one ex-Facebook employee on hand!

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Inaugural Facebook Heavy Hitters Meetup

As an ice-breaker, we started off the discussion with an interesting thought experiment: describe Facebook Ads using only one word. The answers were as varied as the backgrounds of those involved, and what follows are some of the words that were chosen, as well as the rationale behind the choices:

Mysterious – this was my choice. Much of my days for the last year and a half has been spent in Facebook’s Power Editor or Ads Manager, yet there are still dozens of things going on behind the end-user interface that are complete black boxes to me. For example, Lookalike audiences have proven to be quite powerful – but who are these people, and why do they convert? We’ve asked this question before on this blog, and it’s certainly something every marketer would love to know. Facebook’s anonymized audience generator engine makes sense at the user level – we could never expect to see individual profiles from the Lookalike – but it would be great to know what it was exactly about that audience that is driving the performance (common interests? Education level? Relationship status?), so that we could use that information to build even more new audiences from the ground up.

Powerful – fairly self-explanatory, but true. Facebook has grown from a peripheral channel into one of best-kept secrets in the marketing world, and that cat is quickly making its way out of the bag. It’s no surprise that Facebook offers an invaluable tool for advertisers – they know everything about everyone and their mothers (quite literally), and they’ve got eyeballs on the Newsfeed all day, every day. While there will always be hang-ups and negative experiences with any self-service ad platform, it’s hard to argue with the numbers we and others have seen. Today, this much is clear: nearly every type of business can benefit from adding the high-octane performance of Facebook Ads to their marketing mix.

Experimental – in a very loose sense, Facebook incorporates experimentation into its interface to enable ad tests of various usefulness. However, what “experimental” means here is that the best way to approach advertising on Facebook today is to experiment with the experiments. For example, it’s well known that the ad rotation algorithm that dictates ad serving within an ad group is no good – Facebook will pick a winner seemingly within an hour, and not give a fair shake to the loser before shutting it down. So, with some futzing around, many campaign managers (including us) have come to the conclusion that it is best to run one ad per ad set, and let the reports do the talking once both have seen enough impressions to make a scientific decision. Big strategies are another thing we toy around with. CPC seems to work better in some instances, while oCPM for clicks outperforms in others, and oCPM for conversions is great when you have enough data for Facebook to work with… but how much data is that? We are constantly experimenting in Facebook to navigate our way through the ecosystem, and over time we have honed our process to fit within all of the quirks and inconsistencies of the platform. If your budget allows for ample testing, we suggest you do the same as you work toward campaign optimization.

Dazzling – Facebook dazzles our clients. We spend every day witnessing the power of audience targeting, oCPM bidding, newsfeed mobile app install ads, and all of the other unique selling points of Facebook, so we tend to take many of them for granted. On client calls, however, it’s easy to WOW less-savvy marketing leaders with targeting suggestions they didn’t know were even possible, or by coming back from an ad test with fantastic results that could never have been accomplished on search.

Amazing – Facebook amazes our friends. Our clients love to see conversion numbers go up and CPA’s go down, but just the sheer concepts of advertising to hyper-targeted demographics, generating Lookalike audiences from existing customer data (“they Look Like your customers!”), or retargeting users across devices can make heads spin if you’re talking to some smart and interested party guests.

Frustrating – this one also virtually goes without saying. Facebook is a powerful advertising channel, but it’s not without its glitches and setbacks. Power Editor is wonky… always. Ad reviews can come back with arbitrary decisions, like when the same image is approved in some ad sets and not others. And certain little things that Google has been doing right forever are creeping on to Facebook’s interface at a snail’s pace, like total rows in Reporting. While these things are frustrating, it’s really just another reminder that as perfect as the internet seems at times, in the end it’s a series of products that are constantly evolving and improving. It’s also worth nothing that, if it were too easy to work with Facebook Ads… we’d all be out of a job!

What one word would you use to describe Facebook Ads? Let us know in the comments!

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