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Blog / Why Building a Marketing Strategy Should Start with Facebook Ads

Why Building a Marketing Strategy Should Start with Facebook Ads

Facebook might seem like a bit of a dinosaur in some respects — but its wide audience and granular data mean that despite this, it’s still a great basis for figuring out who your core audience is. There’s just one problem: not all metrics are created equal. 

As part of our undiscovered metric video series, we’re taking a look at what metrics from different platforms actually mean, and how marketers can get more out of them. So, we sat down with Mitesh Lakhani, Director of Solutions Consulting at Adverity, to talk about the ins and outs of how to read Facebook Ads metrics. 

Read on to find out which metrics we should be keeping a close eye on, and which ones might be giving an inflated impression of the truth.

 

Find out how to read Facebook ads metrics in our video
 
 

Could you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got into working with data?

I work as the Director of Solutions Consulting for Adverity, though my journey in Digital Marketing began back in 2011. I worked for iProspect in an Ad Operations role learning all about display Marketing. Following that, I headed up an Ad Ops team over at MEC before trying my hand at the social and biddable team. That’s where I really got my hands on Facebook, as well as the other mainstream social platforms. I worked as a Data Director on the BMW and Fidelity International accounts, which is where I really fell in love with following the numbers.

Outside of the workplace though, I’m a huge football fan and follow Arsenal avidly. I play in my spare time and I write about Arsenal as well. The majority of my articles are centered around what the data shows and it’s a big reason why my day-to-day role also encompasses data in such a big way. It has always played a role in my world and so makes perfect sense for me to be working in a data-fuelled role today. 

Why is Facebooks Ads still so important?

Facebook is step one of any digital marketer's social journey. It’s the third most visited website in the world, almost 40% of the world uses Facebook, and it’s been used as a platform to win elections. It holds a lot of power as a starting base for advertising. 

The reason it’s so pivotal is that 70% of internet users use at least one Meta platform, which means the cross-targeting possibilities are super high. A lot of people use Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, so there’s a lot of weight that sits behind this one platform.

 

pins and thread in network - 70% of internet users use at least one Meta platform 70% of internet users use at least one Meta platform
 

What metrics are important for Facebook Ads?

Viewing video content is now becoming so habitual, the metrics that jump out to me are not only engagement rate and views, but the length of view. People pay a lot of attention to engagement and video views, but Facebook counts a view as two seconds in the newsfeed, which means it’s a bit of a vanity metric. That’s why it’s so important to understand metrics and what they actually mean, and the real value that they provide.

On a historic account that I came across, in my time in the agency world, there was so much emphasis based upon paying out for the engagement rate that Facebook was portraying. Budget decisions were being made based on this data — but it wasn’t that accurate. If we look at the average across the industry, according to a Hootsuite report, the average engagement rate for posts is around 2.62%. And in my agency days, it sat somewhere between 2% and 3%. But the engagement rate we were obtaining from Facebook directly was around 20%, which wasn’t as accurate as it could have been

What questions can people ask to make sure they’re getting the right insights from Facebook Ads?

The common practice is to look at metrics as a way to secure the next budget, and it’s a risky place to be in because you don’t want your budget to be taken away. I’ve seen first hand in the industry this kind of masking of engagement metrics. I’ve seen end clients take on board face value metrics from Facebook even when presented with more data-accurate and algorithmically qualified versions of the same data. Budgets for the following month, quarter, and year need securing — but if the metrics aren’t accurate, then they can’t drive better decisions. It’s a self-defeating cycle. 

Over the past year or so people have been trying to look after where the value comes from in terms of data. Following accurate data can lead you to be more efficient and targeted in achieving your objective. 

The good news is that the people who are looking after the budget pots are becoming increasingly data-savvy and thereby allowing more nuance into their financial decisions. And if we can look more independently at metrics, and be forthcoming to provide more accurate engagement rates to create more honest budgets, the budgets might end up being a bit smaller — but we’ll be investing in areas that drive value rather than spreading ourselves too thin.

woman at desk working on budget - Viewing data as a means to secure budget is a self-defeating cycle

Viewing data as a means to secure budget is a self-defeating cycle
 
 

Do you have any useful tips and tricks for working with Facebook Ads? Any common mistakes people should know to avoid?

Facebook is seen as the dinosaur of the social ad space due to the number of dormant users. Now while this is a legitimate concern, there are things that Facebook Ads is brilliant for. Reach is the main one in my opinion. 

With Facebook Ads you have the potential to reach 2.02 billion people globally, however, if we take that into the modern-day way of viewing ads in the form of say reels, then the audience is almost 700 million. My point is that it is the perfect place to build the foundations of your ad strategy because you realize and figure out who your core audience is.

Currently, Facebook accounts for around 3.3% of all ad impressions across all platforms, which appears low, but shows that pivoting to more relevant platforms is commonplace. Many brands want to get to the niche platform immediately, however, the groundwork of building on Facebook is required first off. So in a very roundabout way, Reach is the most undervalued metric.

What advice do you have to create a specialized marketing strategy?

My advice is to start your advertising journey with the largest possible audience set, and when you learn from what your advertising is telling you in terms of how people are reacting to it, and what’s resonating, then you learn what you need to pivot to in order to really gain traction with your advertising. 

Even if you’ve been using these ad platforms for a long time, think about it from step one again. Figure out who your audience is and who to target, and the best place to start that journey is Facebook Ads.

Don’t necessarily believe the numbers put in front of you at face value. Facebook Ads will tell you that your engagement rate is through the roof as I explained earlier, however, according to a Hootsuite report the average engagement rate for a post is 2.62%. Scrutinize these numbers and take a step back from trying to suit the agenda of the budget. 

The native platform itself will tell you a much more inflated story, however, it’s our job to question this. Consider coming up with a formula of your own to really understand the value of your ad placements before re-distributing our budgets.

printed marketing report charts - Scrutinize these numbers and take a step back from trying to suit the agenda of the budget Scrutinize data and take a step back from trying to suit the agenda of the budget
 
 

Do you think people expect too much too soon without leaving enough room to experiment?

Sure, especially budget holders. They’ll invest 100k into a quarter for a campaign and if it doesn’t land, the immediate response is to make cuts rather than taking the learnings from the data to redistribute the budget more accurately and efficiently. There are going to be some losses and some painful moments when you’re investing in platforms, but the important part is to take those learnings on board and invest more acutely. It’s about honing in on the right direction rather than taking the scattergun approach.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — they all work differently. The audience is very different across each platform, and they use each of those platforms very, very differently. Because of that, you need to tailor your approach to what the data means differently across each of those platforms and a one-size-fits-all approach just isn't the right answer.

We need to really think about who the people are that are spending time on those platforms and how they're engaging and interacting with those adverts. That is what's really going to yield the most valuable learnings. What you're trying to achieve across each of those platforms needs to be varied, and having the right application and the right content across each of those channels is so, so important because people react and engage with it very, very differently.

Looking forward, what are the top things set to catch fire in marketing data over the next 18 months? 

I think we’ll see more pointed approaches, brands who pick a platform because they know it works best for them. Brands that reinvest their money more carefully into the quality of the content they trust will thrive. Specializing in proven channels and platforms will be the way to thrive in this new market, rather than sticking to the status quo and spreading the budget too thinly across all channels so as not to miss anything. 

That sort of scattergun approach isn’t going to yield as many learnings because the sample sizes become really small. Doubling down on the platforms and on the tech that works best to pinpoint these will be much more beneficial than a one size fits all approach, I think we’ll see a real pattern of this across the next 12 to 18 months.

What do you wish you’d known about data and analytics at the beginning of your career?

The biggest thing is, don’t stop learning. I was lucky enough to take part in the inaugural Google Squared course that ran back in 2011, and I spent three months at Google hearing from industry-leading experts from lots of different platforms. I learned a lot, and it fueled my passion to make sure I never stood still. If you do that in the advertising industry, you’re standing in a river and eventually the current will take you away. 

A colleague of mine, Harriet Durnford Smith our CMO said she lives by a mantra, ABP. Always be paranoid. Now I don’t mean this as a negative thing, it’s a way to keep your ideas fresh on any ad platform. Always expect that the work you’re doing can be better. And then figure out how. It’s not a case of being constantly worried, it’s a case of always being open to learning. 

My biggest fear within the advertising industry is to become a middle manager who pushes paper and is out of the loop of the understanding of the technology in the space. Always continue to learn new technology and deep dive into the elements of technology that you love, but not so much so, that you become too specialized and siloed from the other areas and so get left behind by the industry. Continuing to learn to grow your knowledge base is what will propel you forward with regular progress in your digital marketing career.

Do you have any recommendations, anything you’re reading or listening to that would help people with that?

There’s an Instagram I follow called @digital_chadvertising — it can be a bit meme-heavy. I think it’s hilarious, but also very informative as well. If anything is breaking within the industry, they share thought pieces and reactions from people who work in that space. Beyond that, you’ve got the more traditional TechCrunch and Marketing Week that are good to keep an eye on.

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