I often hear from new clients "I've tried Facebook ads and they don't work. It's a waste of money". And the truth is, they don't work because they are done wrong.
I'm not talking about the settings and correct targeting. That's also crucial, but there's something fundamental you need to understand first.
Facebook ads don't work unless they are done in a funnel. Yes, each single ad may boost your reach and engagement, but when when it comes to conversions, you'll be out of luck.
What is an Ads Funnel
The structure of Facebook ads and how they are organised in categories is the frame of your funnel.
You start with awareness. These types of ads don't guarantee any sales or new fans, comments, video views, anything whatsoever, except for increased reach. Their job is to put your brand in front of people's eyes. They are your introduction to your audience. So, needless to say how essential a clear message and an eye-catching visual are.
The second stage of the Facebook Ads funnel is Consideration. This is where you can create engagement ads - more fans, post likes, comments, shares, video views, more messages or lead generation. All these types of ads warm your relationship with your initial targeted audience.
At this stage you can use both targeting based on Facebook's interest, demographics and behaviours, and custom audience.
The third and final stage of the ads funnel is conversion. At this point you are creating ads for people who are already well familiar with your brand, your story, your products, services and offers.
This can never be your starting point with Facebook ads, unless you are only retargeting your existing customers on Facebook.
Conversion ads work strictly with custom audience.
What is Interest-based Targeting
Facebook has one of the best consumer interest and behaviour database. Of course, this is quite controversial, especially from a consumer point of view. But it has been a gold mine for most marketers over the past 5 years.
When you create awareness or engagement ads, you can target people based on the things they like and talk about, both on Facebook and off it. It's only recently that Facebook made an option available to users to delete their off-Facebook browsing data. But that shouldn't make a dramatic difference in the way Facebook interest-based targeting works. At least, not yet.
You can also select the age, location, language and other demographic features for your audience to build a profile of your ideal client.
Interest-based audiences are cold audiences. They wouldn't bring great results on ads in the conversion stage of the funnel.
What is a Custom Audience
A custom audience is one you have already built and want to retarget. There are several ways you can do that on Facebook and outside of the platform.
One of the most popular custom audiences big brands use is email addresses. If you have a large email list, all you need to do is put it on a .csv file and upload it to Facebook. The platform will then find and match the emails with existing Facebook accounts and show them your ad. Similarly, you can use phone numbers and other data you have personally harvested from your audience.
Another great way to build a custom audience is through using the Facebook Pixel. This is a small piece of code, which needs to be installed on your website. It allows Facebook to receive information on who visits your website, the pages they go through and the time they spend on there. Then Facebook uses this information to match the existing accounts on the network and distribute the ads. This is probably the best way to create retargeting ads.
Example: You have an online clothing boutique. Someone visits your website and clicks on a few dresses, adds 3 of them in the basket but then leaves the website. Luckily, you have the Facebook Pixel installed and Facebook now has the information that this person visited your website and added specific items to their basket. You can create a conversion ad, which aim is to use the pixel data of people who left items in their baskets. You can then offer a discount code to encourage them to come back and buy those items. In most cases it works!
Important thing to remember - you need at least 1,000 unique users visiting your website to build a custom audience based on website traffic. But that's why you could start your campaigns on the previous stage of the funnel with traffic ads!
There's also the option to build a custom audience out of events that have happened locally, i.e. on Facebook. For instance, people who have watched your videos, people who like your page, people who have responded to your events and more. Usually, this starts as a cold interest-based audience and when it reaches high numbers can be used to create a custom audience, which is now warm.
Custom audience is either warm or hot, because these are people who already have some sort of relationship with your brand and products. You have their emails and contact details or they visited your website or engaged with your content and offers.
Hot audience is your existing customers, who you would like to encourage to buy from you again - the very bottom of your sales funnel. And the ads funnel, of course.
How to Create an Ads Funnel
I'll give you an example of a very simple ads funnel, which everyone can do, even if they are just starting.
Step 1. Brand Awareness ad with interest-based audience
Step 2. Traffic ad to your website or blog with the same interest-based audience
Step 3. Building a custom audience out of your website traffic data (you have the Pixel installed). You will need to have well above 1,000 unique visitors for your audience to be effective and your ad to use a smaller budget.
Step 4. Creating a conversion ad with the custom audience built on website visits and choosing a targeting event, e.g. visits on a specific page, product views, placing products in basket, initiating checkout or completing checkout.
In terms of time, the execution of a funnel like this takes about 4-5 months with a monthly budget of about £500.
So, the reason why your Facebook ads don't work is because you haven't created an ads funnel. Individual ads with no clear continuation strategy will bring you nothing more than higher reach and likes and comments. Occasionally, you may sell something, but in most cases, it won't be worth the money you had spent on advertising.
When you do have an ads funnel, though, your success is guaranteed. And the warmer your audience becomes, the less you pay for your conversions. Like I said, gold mine - if you know where and how to dig.