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Insights: Ad Creative that Drives ROI on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook Advertising

Running effective Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns requires excellent marketing choices and ad creative. Choosing the right visuals, ad copy, and calls-to-action will offer you the best shot at achieving campaign performance goals. In the market, there’s a lot of hype out there about quick, easy success on Facebook – first off, don’t buy it. Facebook marketing works extremely well, but it requires a scientific approach on managing and optimizing campaigns all day, every day. It’s easy to fail in Facebook marketing if you don’t take the process seriously and go in with a willingness to work extremely hard, to test and refine non-stop, and to fail 95% of the time.

From our years of experience, here are some key tactics to achieve that hard-earned success on social media channels:

Developing a Creative Test Plan and Continually Executing

Step one to creating a successful campaign is understanding the environment in which you’re advertising: in this case, we’re talking about ads in the Facebook news feed. If you are advertising in Facebook, your ad will appear in between posts from friends and other content, which is highly interesting to the audience, so gaining attention will require creative that fits with content from other users. To stand out from vacation photos, cool pictures of friends and family, and other socially topical posts, Facebook ad visuals must be highly compelling, but look like something you or a friend would post.

Images are responsible for 75-90% of ad performance, so this is the first area of focus.

The process of identifying the optimal images begins, not surprisingly, with testing. We recommend initial testing of 10-15 images against one audience. Don’t worry about ad copy, and keep copy the same for each image tested, so you’re working on just one variable at a time. We can’t emphasize this enough. You will never find out what works if you start testing multiple variables out the gate, and you’ll waste a lot of time and money. Getting the right image is enough of a challenge — don’t muddy the waters so the winner isn’t clearly visible. Only AFTER you have a winning image will you test copy, to drive an additional 10-25% of an ad’s performance. We typically see only a 3-5% success rate when testing images, so it takes a lot of trial and error to lock in on success, but testing will help you identify the strong images to achieve the optimal conversion rate.

Which Photographic Images Work Best

User-generated photos tend to outperform professional photography when it comes to social media channels. Why? Because Facebook is a user-created content environment, where users are more likely to trust ads that feel like what they’re already finding in their newsfeed. In other words, successful ads feel organic. Think “selfie,” not professional magazine ads. Try to mirror the selfie quality of the rest of the content in the newsfeed, with a more home-grown vibe. This is less applicable on Pinterest, where the visual quality of the postings tends to be superior.

Facebook Ad Images

Similarly, when it comes to photos of people, use images of people that seem attractive and accessible, but not supermodels (i.e. featuring people that seem like people one might meet on the street). In general, happy women and children are always a strong bet. Finally, take your own pictures with your smartphone or other camera, and whenever possible, do NOT rely on stock photography. Stock photography usually feels too “professional” or canned and less impersonal, and it carries the additional baggage of potential legal and rights issues for commercial usage.

What Happens After You’ve Developed a Successful Ad

So you worked hard, you followed the rules, you created a “killer ad” and you got good conversions — for about a week, or maybe even for less time. Then your hard-won victory started to slip away, as the ad started to feel familiar, and hence less compelling, to your audience. This is very typical. Facebook ads have a short life, and they stop performing after they’ve become over-exposed and lost their novelty.

Facebook Ad Creative

What now? Don’t despair — tweaking a successful ad is easier than starting from scratch. You’ve already identified a successful format, so don’t change that. Change small components like different models and different colors, but don’t tinker with the underlying structure of the ad. The only way to identify a clear hit is to perform small tests. You may have to keep looking for images after testing a small sample like these because this is a numbers game. You can expect to try hundreds of images before identifying a strong performer.

Keep Optimizing to Reach Your ROI Target

As a Facebook or Instagram advertiser, you will need continue testing — 7 days a week, 18 hours a day — because your ads will quickly become outdated, you’ll always be testing, and realistically, you should expect to spend 10-15% of your monthly budget on testing.

Competing and succeeding in social media advertising take hard work with a focus on continuous, iterative testing. In our extensive experience, only 1 out of 20 ads tested will work, so the odds are that being lazy will cost you 95% of the time. Only about 5 images out of every 100 tested work, and that’s before you’ve started tweaking other elements.

Mastering the art of Facebook advertising involves patience and a thorough, step-by-step, quantitative and analytical approach. Keep in mind that change is incremental, and a consistent amount of small improvements can lead to huge increases in ROI. Steady progress and small wins will very quickly create large impact for your brand and budget.

Facebook Ad Testing

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