What I learned after spending $ 5,000 experimenting with Facebook Ads

Last year, I rolled out a new digital product to a niche audience of contractors. I first released a product for my existing customer and subscriber list. With promising results, I decided to scale up and run Facebook Ads campaigns to attract new customers.

From June to November 2020, I spent over $ 5,000 on various small campaigns. I’ve run hundreds of experiments testing copy, images, audiences, and incentives. The plan was to celebrate the most successful experiments and create a new marketing campaign based on them.

The most valuable fruits of these experiments were the skills and knowledge that I gained in just a few months. I learned the importance of testing and trying out different titles and images. I found that all the assumptions about my audience turned out to be completely wrong. If it weren’t for Facebook ads, then I would still be holding on to these misconceptions.

By the end of the experiment, I had learned fundamental lessons about how Facebook works and what it takes to get good results with it.

Facebook will do what you ask

When preparing a new campaign, Facebook wants to know what your goal is. Do you want to get more sales? Facebook will serve ads to people who shop online.

Do you want people to like your posts and be interested in them? Facebook will do just that: it will show your posts to people who like everything. I was impressed by the number of people who liked my posts, but I soon realized that they were not very useful. These people are unlikely to click on your website link or take action.

After spending $ 150 on one of my experiments, I also found that optimizing for clicking on links and optimizing for landing page views are not the same thing. In the first case, Facebook targets people clicking on an image or clicking to deploy an ad. But if you want people to go to your site, then you need to optimize your ads for landing page views.

Trust the algorithm. He knows more about your audience than you do.

When we start a Facebook ad campaign, we make a common mistake of trying to keep the ad as focused as possible. For example, I can tell Facebook to show my ads to men in their 30s and 50s who have a job listing as “contractor” and live in London. We think that by narrowing the focus of the audience, we will get better results.

However, Facebook’s machine learning has become so sophisticated that it is usually best to target all men in their 30s and 50s living in London, regardless of their interests. A few days after the start of the campaign, Facebook will collect enough data (usually a sample of 100 people who performed an action) and begin to do a great job of finding similar people.

Studying for your money is the fastest, but also the most painful way

In five months, I read many good books about Facebook advertising, reviewed a course I bought, and participated in discussions in Facebook groups. But the most effective way to truly learn Facebook Ads is with your own tools.

Trust me, nothing is more painful than the realization that you’ve just thrown away $ 100 on an ad campaign because you made a mistake with your targeting or sent people to the wrong landing page. This is a very humiliating experience. In fact, I am very wary of people who call themselves advertising consultants or sell digital courses on Facebook. They themselves have never spent their own money on Facebook ads.

Test constantly

Take two advertisements with similar images and similar text. You might think the differences are subtle. However, once launched, one ad attracts three times as many clicks. A CTR of 4.5% instead of 1.5% means you can drive three times as many visitors, signups, and even sales for the money!

The funny thing is, you never know which ad will give you the best results. The only way to find out is to test images, texts, audiences, and headlines.

Video ads generate engagement, but conversion rates are questionable

Facebook aggressively promoted video ads. Many experts have recommended this method: launch video ads and create an audience of people who have watched most of it. You can then run a retargeting campaign for that audience. In theory, these people are already familiar with your brand and product. Therefore, you can target them again and they are much more likely to be interested.

I’ve tried running video ads for audiences unfamiliar with my brand. For the price of the video, I got a lot of views and fantastic interest. Then I increased the costs because I wanted to create an audience out of those viewers.

After building a large enough audience, I started showing these people other videos and ads to move them further down the funnel. The results were disappointing: the interest of these supposedly “warm” audiences was rather poor. It was slightly better than targeting cold audiences.

Facebook shows ads to people who like to watch videos, but that doesn’t always mean they’ll be interested deeper.

Facebook is great for retargeting and getting your name out there.

Showing Facebook ads to people who have never heard of you can be quite a costly process. As great as your product is, the likelihood that they will like it is almost zero. They don’t know who you are. They have never read your articles or seen you online. These people see so many advertisements and messages every day that your brand can turn into background noise for them.

This is why if you start advertising on Facebook, then start by targeting people who already know your brand. Use the Facebook pixel to capture people visiting your website, then retarget them to Facebook. If you have a large list of email addresses, you can upload it to Facebook and it will match your addresses with the ones they have. People who know you are more likely to click on your ad.

In marketing, there is the concept of “omnipresence” (omnipresence). This means creating the impression that your business and brand is everywhere. For example, someone went to your website. Then he goes to Facebook and sees ads related to your business. In the evening he goes to Youtube and there is also a recommended video there. The next day, he visits a news site and sees another ad related to your brand.

Due to the ubiquitous presence, the client is subconsciously influenced. Probably, this company is good if it is found everywhere! I once had a client from Ethiopia who said he had seen my ad on a major Ethiopian portal. He was impressed with my marketing. But the client had no idea that I was running a retargeting ad through the Google Display Network.

Final thoughts

During the experiment, I was able to get sales related to my ad. However, I did not get the profit. I earned about $ 2,000 on sales, that is, my total loss from the experiment was $ 3,000. However, the lessons and skills I learned showed me many unexpected aspects. I began to apply the principles I discovered in my other business.

I never thought to advertise this business on Facebook, because I thought it was too industrial and too B2B (selling construction chemicals for installing floors). But one day I thought: what the hell, I’ll launch a campaign at a cost of $ 5 a day, and see what happens.

A few days later, at eight o’clock in the evening, I received a call from the building manager. He just saw something on his Facebook feed and wondered if I could help him. In a nutshell, he ended up placing an order with me for $ 12,000. After that call, I made many more new sales with the same campaign.

I realized that selling a digital product through Facebook ads is quite costly (and competition is fierce), but other markets, such as industrial products, are underserved. While I had no idea how to target industrial customers on Facebook, Facebook’s algorithm figured it out for me.


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