How Do Facebook Ads Actually Work?
So many people and businesses run social ads without actually having a basic understanding of how the ads work.
I don’t mean in terms of features, what makes good copy, and that sort of thing. I mean at a foundational level, how are the ads being served? Why you pay per click, what the “algorithm” is, why does it matter?
What we’re going to walk through now, is a top-down view of how these platforms actually work, when it comes to running ads.
Why is this important? Because I believe it gives you a massive edge over your competition on the platform, if you actually have an understanding of that platform, and how the ads are served.
We don’t need to get too bogged down in the techy details, that isn’t really my cup of tea personally, and I suspect it isn’t yours either, so let’s keep to plain English.
The first thing to understand is that FB and IG are businesses, and they want to make profit. Just like anyone else, they have their own goals, and they have their own targets, shareholders, stakeholders, and need to make money.
The PRIMARY way they make money is through ads. To the tune of billions. The only reason they’re able to do that, is because of how widely used their platforms are. This is important to understand, and is something you should bear in mind, and can benefit from when you’re running ads, because USER EXPERIENCE is EVERYTHING on FB.
They want people to spend as long as possible on the platform. The moment someone logs out, or isn’t online, they aren’t making money from them. So FB has a delicate balancing act of serving ads to people at the right price, so that they make money, but also don’t lose all their users because they’re left the platform, had a bad experience, or are sick of seeing loads of ads!
This is why FB is very strict, but it is also why they heavily reward advertisers that provide a positive experience, and punish those that offer a negative experience…
Look at it like this. Let’s say you’re running an ad that people aren’t interacting with particularly well. FB is going to interpret that as it being weak content, and not a positive user experience. Your ad will be served less favourably, you’ll get less valuable users seeing it, and you’ll have high CPCs. In this situation, FB couldn’t give a rats arse about you and your campaign. They wouldn’t care if you stopped marketing it because your costs were too high. If anything, you’d be doing them a favour.
This is not the situation we want to be in.
Second to this, let’s say we’re running an ad for an app, and we have an ad that’s killing it, getting tones of engagement, and people are landing on the app store and downloading at a 50% conversion rate. Crushing it. But, let’s say once people have downloaded the app, they’re using it for 2 minutes on average, and never opening it again, or even deleting it after downloading. Facebook will be tracking all of this if we have our pixel set up, same with our websites. We could be getting tonnes of people to our website, but no one buying our product, or even adding it to their cart.
In this situation, FB once again would interpret this as weak content, and a poor user experience. It doesn’t want its users to be having a bad time, going to places outside the platform that they’re evidently not happy with, so again, you will get bad ad placement, high CPCs, and FB won’t be doing anything to try and ensure the success of your campaign, because it doesn’t want to.
Now, on the other hand, lets say you have a great ad, and a great website/experience that people are spending time on, having a proper look about, buying things, completing contact forms, using your app, whatever it may be. FB interprets that as good content, and a good user experience. So in this instance, you will get good traffic costs, and favourable ad placement, which can translate into profits. If you have a campaign running profitably, what are you going to do? Scale it right? Spend more each day to keep getting results, you’ll probably spend as much as you can, strike whilst the iron is hot, make hay whilst the sun shines. FB knows this, and FB wants this, so in in this instance their algorithm will do whatever it can to keep you spending money, and engaging their users. Everybody wins. This is where you really benefit from the intelligence of FB ads manager, and can run massively successful campaigns.
See, no one is going to tell you this stuff because it isn’t sexy and exciting. Everyone wants to talk about how you can target people based on their post code and what colour pants their wearing with dynamic contextual bullshit. But I am telling you, forget all the flashy nonsense and secret strategies, because the real secret to marketing on FB is just having a proper understanding of how the platform works…
Let’s dig into this just a little deeper. The way that this actually works is by very clever machines/computers, commonly known as the FB algorithm (#QuickMaths). The actual ad platform is run by what you could call a bidding marketplace. The space on the platform, is what we as advertisers are bidding for.
Your bids for the best part are all done automatically, but there is some smart stuff you can do by manually managing your bids, which is advanced stuff and often not worth the hassle (certainly not these days as the algorithm is so bloody good), but generally speaking in most instances you are best letting your bids be managed automatically by Facebook. This is all done by the process we just talked though. If you have a good ad, good offer, then you will get a good audience at a good price, and vice versa.
It’s also important to understand is that the users on FB have different values. What do I mean by that?
Well, certain users on the platform have a lot more money than others, or some people are more likely to buy pet-related items, some are more likely to book flights, there are many factors that contribute towards this, and what you are trying to market to them, will impact your costs. Low-value users are people on that platform that don’t really take action on ads, but they will snap up free stuff, comment on videos, like posts, that sort of thing.
A good example of a high-value user, could be someone that is a business-owner, that likes buying luxury brands, and spending lots of money on personal development programs. People that fall into that bracket, are going to cost a little more to market to than someone that sits on the platform all day every day at home but never buying anything.
Where as it’s important to understand this, it doesn’t mean to say that it will have a negative impact on your campaigns. Not if we follow the methodology we laid out earlier. Regardless of user value, if we are providing people with a great experience, a great offer, and our ad converts, then FB will keep our CPCs as low as it can.
Obviously, there are some differences between FB and IG. IG generally has a slightly younger crowd, where as FB has a slightly older crowd. But it’s a complete myth that young people these days don’t use FB, because the data shows they’re still a growing audience on the platform.
So, I’m hoping now you’ve got more clarity on how these platforms operate when it comes to ads, and what we need to have in mind when creating our campaigns. Having this understanding allows us to be better marketers. You always need the fundamentals!