Facebook: Nearly a quarter of the entire world’s population uses it, and over two-thirds of those users checks in every day. Chances are good that your customers are using the social media giant. Facebook advertising is a great opportunity for you to connect with your audience. Today we’re going to be chatting with CoSchedule’s own inbound marketer, Rachel Wiinanen, about how to create high-converting ads, how to test your hypotheses, how to organize your behind-the-scenes processes, and how to measure your success. You won’t want to miss it!
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Information about CoSchedule and what Rachel does here as the inbound marketer.
- How Rachel approaches her advertising strategy on Facebook.
- How Rachel gets creative with both the visuals and the text on Facebook ads.
- Thoughts about A/B testing: how Rachel does it, why it’s important, and some surprises she’s encountered along the way.
- Key metrics to measure when evaluating the performance of your ads as well as some tools to use.
- How Rachel works within a budget for her Facebook ads.
- Rachel’s best tips on staying organized, planning, and keeping track of everything ad-related.
- Where a newbie to Facebook ads should start if they want to begin using the platform as part of their marketing strategy.
Nathan: Have you considered using Facebook ads to help you increase your leads? 22.9% of the entire world’s population uses Facebook. More than 70% of those users check in every single day. Chances are, your customers are using Facebook. That means that network presents another opportunity for you to connect with your audience. Luckily for you, CoSchedule’s inbound marketer Rachel Wiinanen has mastered the art of Facebook advertising.
Today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, you are going to learn how to create high converting ads, how to test your hypothesis, how to organize all of your execution process behind the scenes, and how to measure your success. This episode is packed with actionable awesomeness. With that, let’s get started with Rachel.
Hey Rachel, thanks a lot for being on the podcast today.
Rachel: No problem. I’m happy to be here.
Nathan: Yes. You’re our first ever returning visitor or guest on the podcast. That’s pretty exciting.
Rachel: Yeah, definitely.
Nathan: Alright. Let’s kick it off. For those who may have not caught your previous episode, tell me about CoSchedule and what it is that you do here.
Rachel: CoSchedule is a marketing calendar platform. It’s designed to help marketing teams work on a variety of elements within their marketing strategy all in one place. Team members can cross-collaborate, have their discussion there. It gives a whole workflow to every element within the marketing strategy, I guess. Our target customers are teams that just have a lot going on; whether it’s content, social, they can work on all of their projects within this one calendar platform. It reinforces deadlines. You can plan ahead. Things don’t fall through the cracks that you avoid. Email strings, all of that good stuff.
I’m on the demand generation team. Our goal, I guess, is just to bring in new leads for sales to qualify. That comes in the form of a lot of trials, sign ups, demo sign ups. My role is inbound marketer. I work with the paid ads, whether it’s Facebook Ads, AdWords, video ads, Twitter. Lot of different platforms, lot of different purposes, whether it’s new features, courses, downloads. Different things just to bring in a variety of people so that sales can do their job.
Nathan: Yeah. You mentioned that you help us out with ads. I wanted to talk about Facebook Ads specifically. Could you tell me a bit about how you approach in audience on Facebook or on that platform?
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. Facebook is very unique where it’s just got a crazy amount of information. They got gender, they got age, they know everything about you pretty much on there. It’s become this very elaborate directory of people on the internet which gives people like me, who run the ads, really this unique ability to target people very specifically.
It’s different than a search ad because you have to keep in mind these people are on their social profile, they’re just scrolling through, looking at pictures of family members or whatever. Your ads are a disruptor to these people. They’re not really searching for your solutions. Because of that, that targeting is incredibly important because you still want to be relevant to these people.
With CoSchedule, we have a unique… Since we’re in this fast industry, we can reach anyone. A lot of people will target more locally, depending what kind of business you run. But for us, we can target globally and get real nitty-gritty on the specifics of people’s interests, what their job titles are, etc. But yeah, I think it’s a huge opportunity that a lot of marketers aren’t necessarily taking advantage of to the level that they could. We’ve ran campaigns with events where you can do a radius around an event area. You really can play a lot with it because there are so many elements to everyone’s profile that you can target very specifically.
Nathan: Okay. Tell me about the ad itself. How do you do really great creative there?
Rachel: As I mentioned with Facebook Ads disrupting the flow of somebody’s experience on Facebook, you have to consider what’s going to stand out and what’s going to actually grab their attention. Video ads do really well. Facebook seems to prefer those over just visual graphics or other ads. But ideally, you can’t always run video ads. They’re a little more expensive. Not everyone can take the time to create a video campaign.
For the sake of this, let’s consider single image ads. There are a ton of different options with Carousel, and etc. But if you think just at the basic level of single image ad, anyone can create this. I think it’s something that a lot of people need to take advantage of. I guess just ensuring that they stand out a little more. We have a wonderful graphics team here that can design whatever I ask them to design. I’m very lucky that way where they can create new, really interesting graphics for me. But not everyone has that ability. I think it’s important that you do take advantage of the tools that are out there. There are tons of different, like Canva is one of them that I know a lot of people work with that can create really visually appealing stuff.
But I guess the main thing to focus on with visuals is just making sure it stands out. Maybe don’t make it blue and white, exactly like Facebook’s background. People might just scroll on by without even realizing you’re there. Just really something to play around with. Have some fun with it. Test against your various audiences. Maybe one gender prefers a color over the other, I don’t know, something to test.
Nathan: Interesting. You mentioned a lot about design or the visual side of it. What about the ad copy?
Rachel: That’s definitely something to continually test as well. We definitely talk around here that we haven’t created our highest performing ad yet. Because you’re always going to create something new and test it against something else. Ideally, we’re going to continue to get better and better and better. Some of those things that we’ve run with in regards to ad copy are quotes, common phrases, testimonials. Everyone likes good stats. Increase your traffic by x%. For other businesses, whatever percent off, like sale. People like free things. The word free tends to do well. But definitely just test. AB test every combination that you possibly can because you’ll never know what people are going to like.
Nathan: Nice. You mentioned AB testing, some different stuff with targeting. Could you tell me a little bit about your process behind that?
Rachel: I guess I usually run an ad and just tweak one little thing on it and see which one has a higher click-through rate, just performs better. Then I can shut off the underperforming one. Then I can test again maybe a different quote, maybe a different visual with the same exact language. It’s definitely just worth trying out. Because you never really will know which element of an ad grabs someone until you test. It really could be anything. It could’ve been the call to action. It could’ve been the header, the title, the image itself. Often it is the graphic, it’s the first thing that grabs somebody. It’s definitely worth trying out.
Nathan: Yeah. When you do those tests, I think a common question would be how long should I be testing these things?
Rachel: Oh, yeah. I think people ask me that all the time. How long do I run this? I don’t think it’s a magical number. I wish it was that you could just say two days flat. But it really just depends on how much money you’re throwing at this ad, the amount of time, how large your audience is. If you have a really small audience, it might take a little bit longer to see how they’re reacting to your ad.
I usually start pretty small when I’m testing things and just throw a smaller budget at it. Then take a few days and you’ll see that Facebook starts favoring one of the ads. It’s pretty noticeable when that starts happening. It served a higher percent of the time. You can start shutting off the underperforming ads and testing your higher quality ad I guess at that time, and really pumping your money where it counts. Continue testing because you’ll never know which one will do better. Sometimes it’ll surprise you. It’ll be the one that you’re batting against. I quit guessing which one would perform the best because I’ve always been surprised.
Nathan: Tell me about the surprises. What surprises have you found through testing?
Rachel: I think the biggest one that gets me is some color combinations within the graphics that, at least for me, aren’t the most visually appealing. But for some reason, they seem to stand out. I think that’s it. I think it gets people’s attention and it draws their eye there because it’s something that they’re not used to seeing. I do know it’s been found that images of people actually working do really well. I think it just humanizes it a little bit. If you have a basic skill in photography, taking some images that are relevant to your own business could really work out.
Nathan: Rachel as you’re testing this stuff, obviously you’re measuring it to know which one’s winning. What are some of the key metrics you’re measuring? Can you explain how you track that stuff?
Rachel: Right away a lead indicator would be just the number of impressions and the frequency an ad is being served to your audience. As I mentioned earlier, Facebook will also serve an ad a higher percent of the time so you’ll notice that. But if frequency as well, that’s the number of times a person sees your ad. You may want to spend a little more or narrow your audience. For me, I like to serve it to people probably two or three times. Otherwise they might just miss it. You never know. But yeah, another thing to test for your own self. Everyone’s seen it five or six times. In my point of view, that’s too high. You might want to consider reducing your spend or switching up the ads. Maybe they just need to see something new that will grab them instead.
I guess aside from that, it depends on your campaign. What is your goal in creating these ads? For me it’s often trial sign ups. The click-through rates are important. I want to get people to our page. Then I track trial acquisition cost as well, those are kind of my main metrics that I use.
I do like to keep track of even what campaigns led to a purchase of our product later down the funnel. Because then it means that was the correct audience, I’m serving this to the right people. There are times when you get a ton of trial sign ups that will never convert to a purchase. Although we’re providing some value and they’re interested, it might not be the right audience for our product specifically.
Then I guess finally I track return on ad spend. Because that tells you I’m doing my job correctly. For every dollar I spend, I’d like to receive four plus in return. It could be different for every industry product. That’s something for you to see where you’re at. Then track and set goals. I think it’s important so you know at least that you’re providing value. A lot of times people look at the marketing department as this department that’s spending a lot of money. But if you were able to track like no, I’m bringing in this much for every dollar I spend, then that just shows how much value your department really is bringing.
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. What kind of tools do you use to understand and measure that process? How do you actually find these numbers? Anything you can share there.
Rachel: Great. A lot of it can be on the platform itself. Within Facebook they can give you a lot of information. For us at CoSchedule, we use Kissmetrics. I really like using Kissmetrics because I can track all of my different ad platforms. But if you want free tools, there’s a lot. You can get from Google Analytics, a lot of information you can get there. Really it’s up to you.
But I think the biggest thing to note there is finding your one version of truth, the one tool that you’re going to trust. Because every tool will give you slightly different results which as marketers that can be super frustrating. But yeah, just finding your tool that works for your team, the one you want to use day in and day out, and trusting it and going with that. For us that’s Kissmetrics.
Nathan: Yeah. Let’s tackle just a little bit about budget. I think you have an interesting approach there. Could you share how you work with the budget on Facebook ads?
Rachel: Yeah. Like I said, I start small with anything and test. But I guess our theory on budget is backwards, I think. I have a feeling just a lot of departments are handed like, “You can spend this much this quarter,” or month, or week, it probably depends for everyone, year even. But for us it’s how many trials or how many purchases do we want to see and what is it going to take for us to get there. I think that’s incredibly important. If your business is able to do it, you should. Because it’s definitely a goal first mentality.
I think a lot of teams probably don’t approach it that way. They might say, “Why didn’t we hit those goals?” But I think if you have that goal first mentality, you are setting yourself up for more success. Really, budget shouldn’t be your limitation. You should know pretty much the success of your campaigns once you’re keeping track of all of these numbers.
Nathan: Yeah, definitely. I know you keep a spreadsheet to help you with that. Do you have any tips for other marketers who are going to be getting in the Facebook ads who might need a resource similar to that?
Rachel: I would recommend for the most part of it, my spreadsheet is mine. It’s something I created, I worked on. I understand the ins and outs of all of it. I think that’s incredibly important that the person running the ads has control over this. It’s really hard to work out of somebody else’s standard. If you can create your own process, that’s beautiful. It’s most important that it makes sense to you. It’s really hard if somebody’s like, “Hey, work out of this,” and you just can’t understand the basics of it. Just really being able to track it on your own is incredibly important.
Nathan: Yeah. I think you do an awesome job with that. You just mentioned process, something that I wanted to circle back on just a little bit. How do you actually plan all this stuff? I know you collaborate with the design team, you collaborate with the demand gen team, you collaborate with the PR team. How do you actually plan these Facebook ads?
Rachel: That’s a huge point, definitely. It’s not just one person creating a single ad. It stems from an idea that comes down from a new wing of the product marketing team who is doing feature launches, we have PR doing events. Really it can get very scattered. Nobody wants to sit in meetings five times a week, touching on the same thing over and over.
It really is handy to use CoSchedule for this reason. It’s not even built specifically for me in this case but I’m able to go in. I can see the main talking points that product marketing is using. For a feature launch, for example, I can see the graphics. I can give feedback to our design team like what I’m looking forward for ad graphics to complement it. When is this going live? When would you like ads to push?
All of the discussion can happen within CoSchedule, which is amazing because sometimes I can pop in and I don’t even have to be part of the discussion. I’m just looking on the calendar I’m like, “Oh, okay. Now I know,” without even having to either email or go across the room and ask so many things. It’s like everything is there for me within the calendar itself.
Nathan: Rachel, I think that’s really great advice for a collaboration, communication, makes sense to have everything organized at one spot. I’m wondering from you because I know that you manage not only Facebook Ads but AdWords and retargeting and a bunch of other things too. What’s a personal organization tip from you? How do you stay organized?
Rachel: I have what I call a sprint backlog. I plan out campaigns months in advance. Then I can get those on the calendar. Then for me it’s like design knows when they have to jump in, I know when it’s going live. I don’t have to keep a notebook or a sticky note of like, “Hey, remember this is going live on Monday.” Because it’s all within my calendar. Then the spreadsheet itself is a really nice way for me to track success. It tracks, I guess, each campaign down to the ad set level. Really makes it simple so I can see what’s successful and what’s not.
Nathan: Nice, nice. Rachel, just to wrap this up, let’s say someone is new to getting to Facebook ads. Where should they start? Where should they focus? What’s your best advice for someone who is a newbie at Facebook ads?
Rachel: Great. I guess my number one thing is with Facebook being such a social platform, it’s all about the individual on really hitting down who your target persona is. Start there. Then that way you can nail down your first audience and test against that audience. That way, you have at least a baseline for your future campaigns and testing out new audiences. I think people often don’t start running ads because of the costs associated. Until you do have a baseline of what your goals are, you won’t know what’s successful.
I think a good option could be boosting a post for the first time. Find a post that was successful and boost it. See if a new audience performs well against your boosted post. Then maybe double with an ad and create an audience there. Definitely just keep testing. Don’t get discouraged because not everything is going to be successful. Keep track of it. Turn it off when it’s not. Continually testing. I think there’s so much opportunity for people out there with Facebook Ads that they aren’t taking advantage of.
I guess my thoughts on that are think about your time. Ads can reach brand new audiences that you probably may never have been able to reach organically, no matter how much effort you put into it. Really it could be a huge opportunity for success. Just be intentional with your targeting. Make sure you’re providing value to your audience. Just targeting people that will actually benefit from your product.
I’ve been targeted, just personally, on my own Facebook by ads that I’m like, “This isn’t relevant at all for me.” Maybe it’s because I’m a marketer that I get extremely frustrated with that. But the brand leaves a negative impression on you. It’s disrupting your social time, I guess. Just really be very intentional with your targeting. Because on the flip side if you provide the right kind of value to the right people, say in your ads, you will likely see a positive return.
Nathan: Rachel, that is awesome advice and seems like a good place to end this episode. I just want to say thanks again for being on the podcast today.
Rachel: Thank you for having me.