Quit going with the flow: 5 Facebook mistakes that are killing your ad campaigns

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There’s an endless amount of information and tips we could give you about using Facebook ads, but most small-scale advertisers seem to struggle with the most basic principles of using the platform effectively. We have 5 simple rules here that you must always follow and can be summed up in one important message: quit going with the flow.

This might be what you look like on Facebook now, but don’t worry, there is a solution to get you turned around and aimed at the target. Maybe we can even remove that blindfold for you.

First of all, you deserve credit just for having the initiative take your fate into your own hands and advertise your business on Facebook. The first step is to seek advice and maybe read a few guides and tutorials. Most of the tips you find will be technical: how to access the ad manager, what to do in each step, etc.

After you’ve mastered the technical stuff, you run up against the biggest problem for private advertisers: you don’t always know who you target audience is and how to reach the people in it. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You go with the flow. Sometimes you do something that works and you probably don’t even know why. But in most cases, advertisers pay a lot of money, get frustrated at the lack of results and abandon the platform all together.

It’s important to understand that Facebook’s model and purpose is to get its users to spend as much time as possible online by showing them content that will keep their eyes glued to the screen. Therefore, Facebook wants most people who see your content to express interest in it. When that doesn’t happen, Facebook understands that the content you uploaded doesn’t interest the audience you selected and your ad gets a low-relevance rating, meaning that it’s shown to fewer and fewer people. Needless to say, this kills any traction you hoped to gain through your campaign.

Here are 5 ways advertisers are likely to just go with the flow, exactly when they need to be as precise as possible.

Wait! An important note before we begin: Pay attention that you don’t confuse “going with the flow” and trial and error. A large part of working with Facebook is based on trying things to see what works. But these attempts have to be focused, not random shots in the air.

Mistake 1: Firing in every direction

You know everything there is to know about your product. Who likes it is something else altogether. As far as you’re concerned it’s a perfect fit for everyone, so why select a target audience before advertising? The temptation is to choose a broad audience and see what happens, assuming that at least a few among the large group will show interest in your content.

But after uploading the campaign, Facebook schools you in its system the hard way, showing your content to a small portion of the audience to test the level of interest and engagement. According to the results, Facebook decides what level of exposure to give your campaign. In this case, having just a small percentage of people take interest in your content out of everyone who saw it is the worst thing that could happen to you on Facebook, even if those who expressed interest were super-duper interested.

That’s why it’s better in many cases to choose a smaller, more specific audience rather than a bigger, less-defined one. Dividing up your audiences and the segments within your them often requires a lot of thought and creativity but is absolutely necessary for the success of the campaign. We say “often” because there are always exceptions to the rule (too many to list) and the second extreme of choosing too-small an audience isn’t always the right choice either. The middle is always the best.

It’s very important to remember that the exposure you get depends on the budget you set as much as the size of the audience. That means that if you set an audience of one million you won’t necessarily reach more people than if you selected an audience of 200,000. The opposite is true, in fact. In many cases, you’ll pay less for exposure when reaching out to a small, targeted audience (stress on targeted) than you would for a large, general audience.

With us so far?

Mistake 2: Generalizing content

A lack of precision in your targeting, or the decision to target everyone, manifests itself in messaging as well. What relates to a farmer in Texas doesn’t necessarily work for a startup programmer in Berlin and one thing is for sure: generalized content won’t don’t anything for anybody. That’s why, after dividing up your audience into segments, it’s important to customize messages to each segment, in essence, tone, and language.

Mistake 3: What’s good for me is good for everyone

Great things can happen when you go with the flow, but sometimes the opposite happens. One thing that happens when you don’t choose and get to know a specific audience ahead of time is that you become inconsistent or consciously adopt characteristics in your messaging that are more similar to you or those around you than the audience you are trying to connect with. This is true on the technical level (Facebook’s targeting) and in the content itself (customizing messages). Unless you’re lucky enough to have an audience that’s just like you, the content will pass by the people you’re trying to reach at best and at worst will inspire them to leave negative feedback. Make sure you aren’t relying on the charm of the text you wrote when your audience won’t even understand it.

Mistake 4: We get it, you’re trying to sell something

In the end, the goal is to sell a product and you need to be the first to believe in it if you want to convince others. That’s great, but just like courting a significant other, you don’t get straight down to business (and scare him/her off), you control yourself and build an intimate connection gradually. That’s the exact reason for the existence of the marketing funnel, the virtual version of a romantic relationship: first you make contact and see that there’s interest; then you have a conversation and get to know one another; in the next meeting you move forward a little and continue this process until… conversion 🙂

Let people get to know you. Post interesting, inspiring, funny and informative content – anything that leaves them with something of substance – and then reach out to those who already expressed interest in you. This applies to your content as well: Make sure that you include posts that are just plain content alongside and mixed in with sales-oriented posts rather than hammering your audience with aggressive sales pitches.

Mistake 5: Not sales-oriented enough

No, we aren’t contradicting ourselves – there’s just a very fine line between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough. After all the thought and consideration of creating valuable content, remember that in the end, you can’t go shopping with Facebook likes. That’s why you need to make sure your posts that are meant to drive sales include a clear call to action with an obvious message that says what you want to say. Give viewers the experience you want to give them but don’t forget the part where you sell them what you want to sell.

Let’s sum up

The best tip for Facebook, and marketing in general in fact, is to carefully customize your message to its audience. That means choosing the most specific audiences you can and providing each one with the exact message that answers its specific needs. To this end, we suggest you come up with a few sets of ads, each meant for a different audience (to understand which audience responds best to your messaging, assuming you don’t have the budget to advertise to everyone at once). For each set, create a number of ads with different messages (to understand which message speaks best to the specific audience).

This separation of audiences and messages requires a lot of creativity and a lot of detailed thought, but it’s the base of every successful campaign on Facebook. We also suggest that you construct the campaign ahead of time, before even opening Facebook. Just sketch out on paper who you’re targeting and how.

The bottom line (for real this time)

There are endless possibilities. And the big secret is that you don’t need to know all of them. Just try a few until you find one that works. Don’t give up! It takes time even for the biggest Facebook experts to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Behind every successful campaign is plenty that fails. That’s the law to survival on Facebook: patience and persistence.

Do you have any questions? Talk to us, we’d be happy to answer.

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