Direct Response Facebook Advertising: Simple Ways to Convert

by | Jul 21, 2016 | Social Media Marketing Tips

by Grant Perry, Social Media Specialist, AIM.


Unless you’re still wearing hammer pants or shoulder pads and using floppy disks you know people are increasingly using mobile devices for their online activity. And it’s not just the kids clutching their iPhones and tablets. The highly coveted older demographic have also embraced mobile for their online search and digital discovery.

So, as marketers and publishers, it’s critical to develop a direct response strategy that capitalises on mobile traffic to help acquire new leads and customers.

Of course that doesn’t mean you should ignore desktop computers. On the contrary; those folks are likely to be more focused, better able, and most likely to enter an email or payment information. If you can’t make your campaigns work on desktop there’s a good chance you’ll find it a real challenge to get acceptable results on mobile.

But for serious scale you need to get mobile working. And by working I’m talking conversions, not “branding” objectives like reach and impressions.

The need for a mobile strategy is especially critical for Facebook where there are over 1.5 billion monthly mobile users and more than half of all users ONLY login on a mobile device.

Your strategy can include organic opportunities, like Instant Articles and easily consumed video. But the focus of this article is on FB advertising. Their platform allows more control over targeting and budgets and gives you the ability to scale quickly while optimising for conversions.

When FB first launched advertising the only option was those small ads to the right of the newsfeed. As mobile use boomed and FB went public, Zuckerberg relented on earlier claims mobile would be off limits to advertisers. They reluctantly released promotional posts that allowed marketers to also reach people on the FB app which the majority use for connecting to the social network.

It was a game changer. Since then the floodgates have opened as FB have continued to innovate with their advertising options. Their toolkit now includes different ad units, objectives and device targeting.

In a world of ad blockers, mobile domination and website ad saturation this form of “native advertising” has become even more important.

I’ll get into the different device targeting and AIM’s recommended techniques shortly (spoiler alert: it involves multiple adsets).

But first, let’s break your objective into two areas – non traditional and traditional list building. Both strategies will utilise similar device targeting tactics but the campaign setup is very different.

Non Traditional (Social) List Building

As a direct response marketer (especially if you live in the Agora world) you may be tempted to groan, mumble and curse about branding before skipping this section.

I get it. And our recommendation is absolutely to focus on being only “one step removed” from what you know, which is to build lists of email readers (leads) or customers. But it doesn’t have to be a one or the other proposition.

There are some valid methods for mobile ad targeting beyond immediate email or purchase conversion.

The most important one is remarketing

The most common technique is to remarket to people who have visited your website or other web assets (e.g. promotional videos or pages, order forms, free reports and landing pages).

So, a valid mobile strategy could involve driving a relevant audience to an editorial article on a mobile device. Later, after they’ve been exposed to you and warmed up to your ideas, you can run ads to those people on a desktop for lead gen or direct sale.

You can think of those visitors as a prequalified list. But remarketing doesn’t end with websites.

You can also create a “list” of video viewers. Consider promoting a short, snackable video on mobile devices where people may be more willing to watch and listen than to read an article. Then follow up with ads to people who watched all or some of the video with a more traditional call to action such as an email signup.

Similarly, FB fan acquisition is a valid strategy for mobile because of how simple the action of liking a page is on a mobile device with one tap of the finger. Building this fan base provides another list to retarget to, organically and via ads.

Event awareness is a similar option to consider. It’s easy for someone on a mobile device to tap that they are attending or interested in an event. You can then reach them organically with updates or remarket to them with other ads. Get creative with your events too. In addition to physical or online events they could be a new product or promo launch packaged as an event.

If you have an app there are some great options to consider. You can choose the campaign objective to promote an app download or encourage app engagement. Obviously, since apps are used on mobile devices, it makes sense to target people while on those devices.

This is the long game. These are all longer term tactics.

That can mean paying at least twice to get the desired final objective of a lead or customer. While they may be more expensive you can potentially reach a more qualified audience who you’re also able to communicate with across multiple devices. So that higher overall CPA may yet prove to have a better ROI.

These alternative “social lists” can prove to be a very valuable channel of communication when your emails find their way to the dreaded spam folder or just go unopened.

But, perhaps you don’t have the patience or the budget to play the long game. And even if you do, you should still be spending most of your focus and budget on generating more traditional immediate lists. That way you can control the experience and have a better chance of turning readers into customers and getting direct sales. Which brings us to…

Traditional Lists

FB offers some great options for acquiring email leads or paying customers. I’ll focus on four key techniques for getting those conversions on mobile devices:

  1. Traditional campaigns
  2. Canvas Ads
  3. Lead Ads
  4. Offers

1. Traditional campaigns

These campaigns are probably what you’re most familiar with already. Your objective is most likely for conversions and you’ll direct people to a landing page focused on an email capture or promotion leading to a sale.

Either way you’ll want to ensure the destination landing pages are mobile friendly – think fast loading and easy to read and take the desired action on. For lead gen you may find all devices can be successful with these campaigns. For direct sale, conversions on smart phones may be more challenging but still possible.

2. Canvas Ads

Canvas ads are a relatively new option from FB that’s essentially the advertising equivalent of organic instant articles. Basically, they are a landing page within FB that loads super fast and therefore provides a better initial customer experience. However, they still require you to direct someone to your own landing page to take the final call to action. We’ve just started running these in limited tests and believe they’re worth experimenting with but only in a small way. You’re better off trying the next on the list…

3. Lead Ads

These have been around a while and were FB’s direct response to help advertisers acquire leads better on mobile. They were latestly rolled out to desktop too but their best use is certainly for mobile devices, especially phones.

Their big advantage is that they only require someone to tap and not have to type details like their email address. FB simply prefills a form with the email address that person uses to login to FB.

The form (which you can customise) is hosted on FB so loads instantly and eliminates the need for your own mobile landing page.

Because of this simplicity you will quite likely see a much higher conversion rate and therefore much lower cost per lead. Typically we often see CPA’s around half of regular campaigns.

But, again, low cost doesn’t always translate to good quality. And there are definite disadvantages to lead ads.

You have less opportunity to explain what a user is providing their email for. This can result in spam concerns and names that will be less likely to convert to a paid subscriber.

When people submit their lead they are not automatically directed to a confirmation page so you miss the opportunity to immediately display an ad for a paid offer. This issue has been somewhat reduced with the latest option for engagement based custom audiences that include lead ad form submissions. That’s currently not available to everyone however and does require additional ad spend.

Perhaps the biggest negative is the fact that you need to manually download leads from FB and upload them to your CRM in order to get them on to your list and trigger a welcome email that probably includes the lead magnet you promised. If your lead comes in on a Friday afternoon that may not happen until Monday. There are some third party tools but they need to be integrated with your mailing system. (For Agora businesses we are working on software that will do this work for you. Watch this space).

Read more about lead ads and see them in action here.

4. Offers

Offers aren’t specifically for mobile but work well because you can just tap to “Get offer”. The offer itself could be anything from a free report to a discount off a paid subscription, as in the example below.

dailt reckoning screen shot ad offer

When someone claims the offer they are directed to a page to complete the offer – like an email signup landing page, full promotion or order form.

A nice bonus is that they will receive an email reminder from FB to act on the offer. So they can potentially respond initially on mobile and receive the email reminder on their desktop where they are better placed to pull out their credit card.

The four optimisations above can also be broken down further by using regular still image ads or video ads.

Placements, Device Targeting and Strategy

Regardless of the strategy employed above, every campaign you launch offers you impressive options for targeting by devices, operating systems and the expanding audience network.

AIM WARNING: the first thing to beware of is the relatively new default option for automatic placements (shown below).

placement selection screen shot fb

It’s the choice recommended by FB and is certainly the easiest option. But it’s not the most cost effective or the one that gives the most potential for scale.

When it comes to advertising FB love to quickly find a winner. For example, if you launch a few different ads under an adset FB tends to find one that is working best for your objective and pretty quickly gives most (if not all) of your reach to that one ad.

In other words, your low-performing ads won’t stand a chance if they don’t perform early. That’s mostly a good thing when it comes to ads and allows you to let FB do the heavy lifting in testing which images or copy works best.

However, when it comes to device targeting it can be problematic. In their section on placements FB explains it like so:

When creating your ads, it’s recommended that you select every available ad placement. Selecting every ad placement will allow Facebook’s delivery system to allocate your ads set’s budget based on performance across the placements. If one placement begins performing better (ex, you can reach more of your audience for less on that placement), then the delivery system will automatically allocate more budget to that placement to help you reach more people.

For example, if your ad is reaching more people at less cost on the Instagram placement than Facebook’s Mobile News Feed placement, the delivery system will automatically allocate more of your ad set’s budget to the Instagram placement.

That may sound good at first glance. But, as a more experienced marketer, you recognise cheaper is not always better.

And if all your reach and budget gets allocated to one area (like Instagram or Android smart phones which is common) you may be missing opportunities on better placements like desktop or tablets. The only way to ensure the right amount of juice flows to the right devices – and to allow you to adjust variables like bids, budgets, targeting and creative – is to create separate adsets with different placements.

Therefore, here’s our AIM TIP: we recommend you click “choose your placements” which opens up a brave new world of options, like so:

placements dropdown selection screen shot fb

You’ll notice the Audience Network is an option.

Historically, this only included apps that opted to show FB ads. App placements can be particularly challenging mobile placements, in part due to accidental clicks. But the audience network latestly opened up to include placements on instant articles and we’re finding better success latestly.

They also latestly added the option to exclude categories (like dating and gambling) or specific websites or apps, as below.

exclude categories

You will also see the option to select specific mobile devices, like iOS (Apple) and Android, as below:

select mobile devices

Further, you can select specific devices (and even versions) like below:

select various mobile devices

AIM TIP: break up your adsets by iOS and Android. And then segment them further by phone and tablets.

If this sounds like hard work, it is.

Potentially it can result in many different adsets segmented by placement and device type. You will typically want to divide it further by audiences too (for example lookalikes vs your own website visitors or by gender to show them more relevant copy and images).

You can find yourself with dozens of Adsets per campaign. But that hard work is worth it to give yourself the flexibility to make granular level adjustments based on results, for KPIs like conversions and for ROI.

If you like the sound of the end result but all that setup feels too complicated and is already giving you a headache, reach out to me. We love this stuff, it’s what we do every day and we’re here to do all that heavy lifting for you.



Grant Perry
Social Media Specialist,
AIM Ireland.
P.S on the subject of mobile FB…if you want to keep an eye on your FB campaigns while on the go, check out their ad manager app.

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