Facebook is Sabotaging Your Ads

Digital marketing is a strange and ever-changing field. Best-practices which are written in stone today can get your account flagged and restricted tomorrow. There’s nothing worse than spending hard-earned thousands on a Facebook marketing campaign only to find out that Zuck has penalized you for some obscure transgression. It takes serious expertise to break down these minute but crucial details, so I’ve brought in Brandt’s digital marketing expert Alec Bretton to write this one with me. I hope you’re in the mood for a deep dive: Alec has filled the Letter up with cool tools, helpful links, and hard-to-believe tips you can use tomorrow to boost your facebook ad effectiveness.

A quick note before we dive in: Many of you have asked where you can see Urbach Letter back-issues. They’re available here along with other writing I don’t deem important enough for your inbox.

Let’s get to it. If you’ve read anything about advertising on facebook, you’ve probably been hit over the head with these three half-truths:

  1. The image of your ad is the best place to put copy
  2. The more targeted you can get your copy, the better your ads will perform.
  3. Any engagement is good engagement

I say half-truths because there’s a kernel of correct advice to each one of these statements. This week, let’s break down #1.

A picture is worth … shadowban?

The image is the most visible part of your ad, and it is the best chance you have at stopping someone from scrolling past your ad. However, it is also dangerous to put too much stock in your image to convey everything you need your consumer to understand.

Facebook recognized that they would be granting images additional space in their newsfeed, and put a few restrictions in place — the most notable of which is the 20% text rule.

Put simply, Facebook limits delivery of ads where more than 20% of the available image space is occupied by text. The more text you include past that 20% mark, the lower the delivery of your ads.

Personally, I’ve seen ads cut to 30% of the total delivery they would have had, just because Facebook recognized almost 40% of the image as text. If you want to check your images to make sure they abide by this 20% rule, Facebook provides this handy tool.

So how do we get around this?

A) Visually arresting images

B) Clear Calls to Action

C) Near-Square Aspect Ratios

Back in 2013, Curata published a content curation study that reported a 47% increase in click-through rate (CTR) for articles with images over articles without. Since then, entire ad firms and design agencies have built their careers around the core competency of eye-tracking studies and identifying what design elements will stop the scroll of a potential customer and convince them to click through.

6 ways to 80/20 your visual marketing

The Nielsen ReportVenngage, and Fotor have all written extensively on the subject, and I’d advise you to check out those articles if you want further clarity on image design. TL;DR? Here’s the 80/20:

  1. Use recognizable images. People instinctively anchor to the most recognizable part of a brand they respect. If you’ve built your brand around a single personality or authority figure, make sure they’re present. If you’ve built your brand around a logo, make sure it’s in any image you’re putting into the public eye.
  2. Use darker colors. Facebook is built on a color palette of blues and whites. Black and orange tones will make your image stand out.
  3. Include a CTA button. Yes, Facebook will give you the option to add a “learn more” button or a “shop now” button to the post, but the image is what people will see first, and it’s what people will recognize most. Make sure you aren’t wasting this precious space by not providing people with clear action steps.
  4. Keep your CTAs consistent. This isn’t really about getting people to click through the ad. It’s about what happens once they’ve clicked. On your landing page, once someone has clicked, they’re going to be looking for the next step. Keeping your CTA consistent is the best way to make sure someone follows through. Here’s an example from a recent campaign: The landing page’s CTA was: “Register Now,” but the image read: “Join Today.” Changing the image to read “Register Now” instead of “Join Today” produced a 20% lift in lead conversion rate.
  5. Start using square images. Facebook allows images in several aspect ratios, from 16:9 to 1:1 to 9:16. While 16:9 may be the most common image format, it also takes up the least space on the screen, which means it’s the least likely to stop people from scrolling. 1:1 aspect ratio images can be far larger and will inevitably take up more space in the newsfeed, giving you even more time to get your image in front of your prospective leads or customers.
  6. TEST. I can’t stress this one enough. Nearly everything I’ve written in this article so far could just as easily apply to your business as not. Your audience may be in the extremely small minority of people who respond better to pictures of forests with no text better than they respond to pictures of your brand with clearly denoted CTAs. Before blowing your marketing budget on ad spend, make sure you’ve got properties that convert for you on a smaller scale.

Cool Thing of the Week:

Herschel Packable Daypack

It was a normal Monday afternoon. I had just hit send on the Travel Hacking Letter, and was enjoying a puttering of attaboys coming through my email. Imagine my shock and heartbreak upon being informed that one of the hyperlinks, let alone the hyperlink to my favorite stashable backpack, the ReFactor Deployable SSE Bag, was dead. It couldn’t be true. It must have been a link error. It was my fault.

Alas, it wasn’t. For no discernable reason, ReFactor stopped making their ultralight stashable bag, and the search was on for a suitable replacement. Luckily, Herschel makes this one for 30 bucks. I snapped one up in black, but the woodland camo is snazzy too. It weighs nothing, packs easily into its internal pocket, and carries plenty o’stuff. Heartbreak over.

Get /Giphy With it:

Useful JPEG to send to colleagues:

Mandatory Self-Promotion

After years building startups in NYC, and a stint helping McKinsey & Co. develop their startup accelerator, I’m now leading the charge @ Brandt & Co., a boutique consultancy serving investors and founders in the early-stage ecosystem.

If you like the Urbach Letter, the best way to give back is emailing me copious atta-boys to print out and stick on my fridge.

The second best way is connecting me to your friends at family offices, VCs, and terrific startups. For investors, Brandt & Co. focuses on a class-leading diligence product to shine light on technically complex early-stage investment targets. For founders, we aim to prepare them for institutional scrutiny and provide the tools to help their companies grow and scale.

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