Facebook recently launched a new tool which enables anyone to view the ads being run by any Facebook Page at any given time. The tool is aimed at increasing the ad transparency on the platform, following accusations that Facebook was misused by foreign operatives in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential Election.
As an official Facebook partner, we support the company's decision to shed light on an ad space which has long been operating in the dark. For the first time, Facebook users and marketers have access to full insight into what Pages are promoting across their channels. That’s groundbreaking.
When marketers first found out about the change there was a lot of panic. We’ve become so accustomed to guarding our ads like answers on a test that it was difficult to see past the initial shock and welcome the change. But now that the dust has settled and we’ve been able to explore the update firsthand, we think there are more positives than negatives to Facebook's approach.
Here's an overview of the process and it's potential benefits.
How to See All Dark Posts on Facebook
Accessing the new ad listings is fairly simple.
To viewt a Page’s active ads, tap or click on the menu option in the left-hand function bar titled “Info and Ads”.
From there, you're able to browse through all the ads the Page is running. You can even take it a step further and filter by country to see which ads are running in each region.
Now that you know how to access this new feature, here are four ways that Facebook’s public ad listings are actually a good thing.
1. Uncovering your competition’s Facebook advertising strategy
This is HUGE. Facebook has given you the key to unlock your competition’s paid activities.
Up till now now, it's largely been a guessing game. Sure, there were times where you may have been targeted by your competitors and may have seen a couple of promoted posts here and there, but being able to view all of their active running campaigns adds a whole new layer to your competitive analysis.
Being able to take a look at what your competition is investing in helps you see into their strategy. Since you’re likely targeting the same audience, it can be hugely beneficial to investigate how you can make your ads stand out from the rest.
Maybe, based on your findings, you might want to start promoting the same features your competition is to win over customers in the consideration phase, or maybe you decide to go a different route entirely.
The point is, with access to their ads as an entire package you’re able to clearly understand what value propositions they're using to lure in customers, and use that intel to evaluate your own unique selling points.
Here are some of the insights you can glean based on this information:
- Who your competitors are targeting - This won’t be specifically disclosed, but based on the messaging, it should be fairly clear who their ads are targeted at. What you are able to see, however, is exactly which country is seeing which ads. Knowing what types of ads are running where, can help you understand which parts of the world you competitor is going after and how. Are they further down the funnel? Or are they focusing on brand building? Use these details to inform your own targeting strategy.
- What they're putting budget behind - Are they investing in lead gen activities, or are they pushing content marketing to raise awareness about their brand in a specific region?
- How many ads they're running - Keep in mind that Facebook only allows you to view active ads - past ads will not be archived. That means you can get a clear picture of how many ads are running at present, and compare that to your own ad frequency.
- How many Facebook Ad variations they’re testing - You not only get to see what ads they are running, but you get insight into how many different versions they’ve created. Maybe you can apply some of the same ads test to your own strategy.
- What products they’re promoting - By taking a look at your competitor’s treasure trove of ads you can see exactly which products they're advertising. Are they seasonal? Maybe new entirely? Find out what they're running, and in which regions, so you can develop a counter-attack.
I know what you’re thinking. If you get to see into their strategy then they'll also be able to see into yours. That's true - unfortunately it’s not a one way mirror - however, you should keep in mind that they won’t have access to the most important information about your ads, which is how they're performing. The only thing they will be able to see is the ad itself and which regions you're targeting. Whether or not these ads are successful (i.e. how many likes they receive, how many people have viewed or clicked through) will all remain private.
2. Get inspiration from ads on other Pages
Inspiration is a huge part of the creative process - without it, ads can get pretty boring. Interestingly, finding inspiration for social media ads can be extremely difficult.
With other mediums, finding inspiration was easy. When creating a television spot, you can hop over to YouTube and watch commercials. You can drive by a billboard, or hear the same radio ad the rest of the world can hear.
With social media ads? Not so much. Dark posts made this domain extremely private, which can often lead to a dry-spell of inspiration and innovation. It can be hard to break out of your creative routine if you’re working in a vacuum - after all, Facebook ads are all about testing.
Don’t be afraid to test some of what you see. That doesn’t meet plagiarize, it just means you have the ability to artfully steal what you like, then let the results speak for themselves.
3. Build trust with your audience
Competition can be stressful - but it also makes you better at what you do. Just by knowing that your competitors are watching, or that any prospects or current customers can act as a watchdog, should make you think twice about your ads.
This may sound restrictive, but opening the doors to your workshop could potentially motivate you to go the extra mile. If you’re publishing something that you don’t feel comfortable showing people outside of your target group, then chances are it shouldn’t go live at all.
It’s important to also realize that your competition won’t be the only ones with the ability to view your ads - your current customers, as well as prospective buyers, might also take a peak. But this can really only work to your advantage if you’re playing by the rules.
With so many online scams out there, people are becoming a lot more careful online - they aren’t going to enter their credit card information just anywhere. It’s very likely that your running ads could be used as a way to screen your company to ensure that it’s legitimate, or even as way to see if what you're offering on your website matches what you're posting online.
4. Your metrics will not be skewed
A big concern marketers have when they first hear about this new change is how their data will be impacted. Luckily, Facebook's a step ahead of the game.
If you have visitors checking out your “Info and Ads” section, they will not be able to interact with your advertisement.
In the example below, you can see how Likes, Comments, and Shares are disabled. Views will not be factored into social media metrics such as Reach or Impressions - the only thing that's clickable in the ad is the Call to Action button.
While it’s still unclear if users coming in from an ad clicked on in the “Info and Ads” section will be counted as conversions. It’s very likely that the only thing that could impacted will be your website traffic - although there still hasn’t been much information on this topic.
However, even if users coming in from this pathway are counted towards your website visits, the number would be extremely small, so there is really nothing to worry about.
Facebook's election interference is an unfortunate example of what can happen if there's a shortage of visibility in the social media advertising world. Since the reports were exposed, all social media platforms have been working hard to develop new systems to prevent such practices from happening again.
That said, Facebook’s new policies treat political advertisers a lot differently from businesses, with plans to archive up to seven years worth of ads (starting from now) and more information on targeting stats.
Change is always hard to adapt to, but it’s safe to say that adding a layer of transparency to our Facebook advertising is a step in the right direction.