A successful Facebook ad campaign can drive tons of traffic to your site, or boost your social media channels with thousands of new subscribers. But there are a lot of elements that you need to get right to make a campaign succeed.
To start, proper targeting and demographics are essential. You need to show the ad to the right people if you want to make money.
Then there’s the copy and design of the ad itself. Everything from the choice of images and colors to the font used in your captions can have a bearing on your results.
Next, the call to action is vital. If you want people to click or like, you have to tell them to do it!
And finally, if you’re directing people into an opt-in list building campaign, your lead capture offer has to be set up right, too. All of these factors have to fit together like clockwork.
If you get any of these factors wrong, then your campaign will lose money. At best, it will make only a fraction of what it should.
Hard and Fast Rules… and a Shortcut
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for setting up an ad campaign that works in every market. Different groups of people respond differently, and you have to try different ideas before you find out what your particular market will respond to. And that can be expensive.
But there is a shortcut. You can let your competitors spend all their money trying out different ideas, and then swoop in and (legally) steal the ones that work!
The way you do that is by reverse engineering your competitors ads, using Facebook competitive research. It’s an idea that’s been around for decades – it’s how print and TV advertisers work. The only problem is that Facebook makes it tough.
You see, there’s no easy way to access all of your competitor’s ads. When it comes to search advertising, services like SpyFu and SEMRush make it easy to check out your competitors ads and steal their best copy. But Facebook ads are hidden from Google and other spiders. They’re only displayed to particular people based on their demographics and interests.
There are a couple of tools that you can use to perform competitive ad research – and then there’s the manual way. I’ll start with the manual way so you can appreciate what the tools do for you.
The Manual Way
To see your competitors’ ads, you’ll have to:
1: Create a new account using a new email and a made up name. Set your location to the geographic region that you are attempting to target, and the age, gender, and profession. You’re trying to match the demographics of your ideal customer.
2: Start liking interests and things that are relevant to your target market. For instance, if you sell SEO software, you would like interests such as SEO, web design, Internet marketing, and website promotion.
3: Join some groups in these target areas too.
4: Comment on some posts on these groups, and like some others. Send out some friend requests to people in the groups (not too many, you’re not trying to build an audience here!)
5: Now you should have status updates and posts in your newsfeed. Here comes the un-fun part! Scroll down the page, looking for ads in the newsfeed and on the right. For each ad, take a screenshot, and click on it. Record everything in a spreadsheet or a Word document.
6: Keep going until you have dozens of relevant ads to analyze.
As you can see, it’s a painful process!
Now you’ll have to repeat the same process several times – what you are looking for is ads that keep running. Lots of people try to run an ad campaign, find out it’s losing money and quit. The successful ads are the ones that keep running! So you have to update your spreadsheet to show which ads are running over several days and weeks.
While you go through this process, there is one issue you need to be aware of. Facebook uses your user id to track customers, for retargeting ads. So you’ll have to create a new user and avoid being served the same ads over and over.
If you have access to a second profile that Facebook has not banned, then you can use this to find new ads based on retargeting or your interests. If you don’t have a spare account lying around then, you need to go through the process of making a new account.
Once you have made the new account, you need to get a minimum of 50 friends to add you, and a portion of those friends need to interact with the content that you share. Now that that is accomplished, it is time to start bouncing from your competitors sites and hope that they retarget you. You also, need to start liking the interests of your ideal customer. Now you should be able to start collecting some ads.
The tough thing about this process is that you need to look natural and hope that Facebook’s clever algorithm doesn’t catch you in the process of building out this fake profile. Manually performing Facebook competitive research is certainly a tedious job, but you’ll get some good examples if you stick with it.
Isn’t There a Way to Automate This?
Now you may be thinking, if there are companies who spider search engines, like SEMRush, why aren’t their businesses who provide the same service with Facebook? In fact, there were. Even SEMRush was in on the game for a while.
But no one has been able to figure out how to index these ads in an efficient manner. Google is much easier to crawl than Facebook because it’s anonymous. As long as you have a variety of different IP proxies, you can crawl it heavily without getting caught. But crawling Facebook requires a user account for each crawler instance. And this makes it easier to detect unnatural behavior and shut down the accounts.
But it’s not entirely hopeless. There is a service you can start using called Compass (http://getcompass.co/). Currently, it is in private beta testing. You can apply to become a part of the group of testers, and you may be invited.
Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until it is officially launched, which should happen sometime soon (no exact date set).
So, assuming you have a list of competitor ads, what are you supposed to do with them? Well, by looking at their persistence over time, you can work out which ones are successful and which ones failed. Both types of ads have something to teach you.
Testing Your Ads
The poor performing ads will tell you what to avoid. You can work out where your competitors are weak, and make sure that your ads are strong in those areas.
The winning ads show you what works well. They contain successful design and copy elements, and they have strong calls to action. And the sites that they link to must be working too!
Compare the winners to the losers, and the differences will stand out like a sore thumb!
Do the winning ads use images of people, whereas the failing ads use abstract images? Then you know that you should use pictures of people, too! Are the colors bright and appealing? Does the text look professional? The small differences are important, so look at everything.
Work out every way in which the winning ads are different, and count up the common denominators. Very soon, you’ll crack the code, and have a formula that you can copy to create winning ads in this marketplace over and over again.
Make sure you change things up on your landing page, too. The ad and landing page work together as a team, and so they must both be optimized to drive conversions.
You’ll still need to apply split testing and continue tweaking your ads to get the best results. And you’ll need to keep an eye on your competitors, too. Your success will send shockwaves through your market space, forcing them to change their ads. Which will have an impact on your results, and so on?
But the more changes you make, and the more tests you run, the better you’ll understand your target market. By analyzing your competition, you already gained greater insight than any of your individual competitors. Combined with the results of your testing, you should be pretty unbeatable now.
Other Ways to Win With Facebook
Don’t forget that Facebook can be used for retargeting. You can use this to get a “second chance” with people who didn’t sign up for your email list on your site, or buy your product. It can take up to 8 contacts before a person converts, even if they’re interested in what you have to offer.
Retargeting can be more efficient than the initial ad because these ads build on the work you’ve already done. If you craft a special offer that’s even more attractive or target them with persuasive copy to convince them to get off the fence, you can dramatically improve the results from your advertising. The secret is to be persistent and confident and keep emphasizing the benefits of your offer. Use split testing to improve the results of your split testing, too.
A lot of people are looking for passive income in Internet marketing. If you set up your advertising campaigns well, you can get great results that are easy to maintain with minimal work. But you’ll never reach the point where you can walk away from your market space and ignore your results.
All ad campaigns reach a point where they slow down, and stop working. It could take months, or even years. But one day you’ll need to give your ads a complete overhaul to get them back into a profitable range again.
You should spend at least a few minutes every week checking your ads performance, and checking up on your competition. Maybe they’ll work out a different approach and steal your position as the market leader. If that happens, you can move quickly to counter them.
Also, remember that there are other market segments that you can target. You can try your existing ads for these new target audiences, to see if they work here as well. If not, then you can start the process of reverse engineering the competition all over again.
To get an idea of new audiences, it’s a good idea to monitor your competitors using tools like BuzzSumo, which measure audience engagement. You can find out when people share or like their content on social channels, and use that information to work out which target groups you are missing out on. You’ll also get an idea of the copy that appeals to these people, as well.
You can use these tools to improve further on your ads and social content – but in the beginning, concentrate on the ads. Long term ads have a proven ROI. On the other hand, content can go viral and get millions of shares without making a penny for the publisher. So insights from analyzing successful ads are about a hundred times more valuable than anything you can learn from viral content.
There are many people who think that Facebook advertising is too difficult. Unlike you, they don’t know the power of Facebook competitive research, and how to use testing to get the best possible results.