Tis the season to... get cracking on your Facebook ad planning for Christmas, according to Facebook. In a new blog post, Facebook has outlined the case for advertisers to start considering their on-platform ad efforts for the coming holiday season, offering a range of tips, and even a downloadable guide, to point businesses in the right direction.
From the post:
"As you begin thinking about advertising ahead of this bumper sale season, keep in mind that in Southeast Asia, several markets are on mobile more than ever during this festive season. On average, 75% of people's Facebook posts are via a mobile device and mobile posts increase by 30% during this period"
Over in Australia, 24% of people are planning to shop more online through a virtual shopping cart. And in the US, people are also spending more time on Facebook and Instagram than any other digital media, and more than half of people say Facebook is somewhat or very influential on their holiday shopping."
That's a pretty strong case - so what does The Social Network recommend you do to capitalize on this? Laid out in eight points, Facebook details the key elements brands should be considering in their planning ahead of the Christmas and end-of-year sales period.
1. 'Refresh Your Audience Profile'
Facebook's Audience Insights is an extremely valuable too, and one which all Facebook marketers need to take note of - the data to help clarify and target your campaigns is right there, why not use it? Facebook recommends using Insights to review your audience's demographics, location, psychographics (e.g. interests, attitudes and lifestyle) and purchase behaviors, then put together a profile of your specific target markets for each of your ad campaigns based on this. It's something of a no-brainer, if you're going to use Facebook for advertising, this is the best place to start.
On this front, Kiera Stein recently published a great post on how to get the most out of Facebook Audience Insights over on Social Media Examiner which is well worth a read.
2. 'Identify Key Audience Segments'
After using your Audience Insights to get an understanding of your target market, Facebook recommends splitting your audience into the specific segments you're looking to reach leading up to the holidays in order to create more focussed campaigns that'll best resonate with each group.
This is one of the key strengths of Facebook ad targeting, and one which can often be overlooked - you have the ability, using the audience data available to you through Insights, to be able to hone in on very specific subsets within your audience, which enables you to create ads focused entirely on those groups. This is important, as the rise of the social media empowered consumer has lead to an increase in personalization - and as a result, an increase in the expectation of personalization. The true power of social, from a user perspective, is that it gives everyone a voice - the brands that hear that voice are the brands that win. By creating more focused, more specific ads, that speak to specific people and groups within your target market, you're working towards doing just that.
Facebook's Audience Insights is a powerful resource
3. 'Add the Facebook Pixel and SDK to Your Website and App'
Honestly, the terms 'pixels' and 'SDK' (Software Development Kit) scare you a bit, right? It's a bit more tech-heavy when you're dealing with back-end code, a bit more involved than the average Facebook self-serve ad campaign. In reality, neither is overly complex. Yes, you do sometimes have to muck around with website code, and you may feel more comfortable getting a tech expert to assist, but there's a lot of information and help online that can guide you in the right direction.
Adding the Facebook Pixel and SDK to your websites and apps will provide you with great sources of data for your campaigns - using this info, you can improve the targeting and re-targeting of your ads, down to the specific actions people took when they visited your site or used your app.
Facebook provides this example:
"If someone browsed for watches in your mobile app but didn't purchase, you can automatically retarget them with an ad for that watch next time they visit Facebook."
If you've never considered these options before, it might be a good time, now, before the holiday push, to get them set up so you can see what kind of data they provide.
4. 'Find your Customer Conversion Path'
One element of the data provided via pixel and SDK is conversion path information - a log of the specific track people take on their path to purchase. Facebook recommends using this data to discover which devices your customers use when they see your ads, versus when they buy.
"You may find that your customers tend to see your ads on iPhone and then purchase later on desktop. Use this report to plan which devices to run ads on this holiday season and in what sequence."
Once your data tracking tools are enabled, the information is available via Ads Manager or Power Editor, showing you exactly where your customers are coming from, and thus, where you should be targeting them at specific points in the process.
5. 'Optimize Your Mobile Experience'
We all know by now that mobile is an extremely important element in the purchase process. As noted by Facebook, last year "nearly half of online shopping traffic came from mobile and 56% of in-store sales were influenced by mobile activity". Mobile is a crucial element of the wider shopping experience, so it's important you factor this into your holiday season planning.
While, as Facebook notes, people tend to purchase more on desktops and tablets:
"The better mobile experience you can offer, the more likely you are to increase purchases there."
As more and more people use their phones as a shopping companion - a reference point always at the ready - it's crucially important that you, at the least, consider how your audience is using their mobile devices in the wider purchase process, and work to serve that element accordingly.
Source: "Bridging the Gap Between Online and Offline" - AgilOne (SlideShare)
6. 'Divide Your Budget Strategically'
Facebook recommends allocating specific budgets to specific holiday campaign elements in order to maximize ad performance around key events:
"During holiday shopping season, you'll want some ad campaigns that run continuously and some that promote key events, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and any limited-time promotions you run, like free shipping or discount codes. Allocate your budget accordingly."
It's definitely a good idea to plan your Facebook ad spend in advance so you know where you're at and you have some framework around your strategic costs - and using Facebook qualifiers like offer expiry dates can also help frame your spend to ensure you stay on track.
7. 'Test Creative and Ad Types'
Facebook recommends using the time before the holiday rush to test different types of content and ad formats with your audience segments. This will enable you to get an understanding of what resonates best with your audience, which will then better inform your wider strategy and ensure you're maximizing ad performance.
It makes sense to test on a smaller scale, now, before putting any significant ad spend behind any set plan. It's also important, in this context, to understand that generic guides and strategic suggestions are exactly that, just guides, and as such, they may not relate to your, specific, audience. For example, emoji use is on the rise, but would it make sense for a high-end homewares store to start pumping lines of yellow smiley faces into their Facebook posts? It's possible it would, but you'll only know this through testing, seeing what your audience responds to - testing this now, ahead of the holiday push, will improve your ad quality when you really need to expand your reach.
8. 'Prepare Your Product Catalog'
The last point Facebook emphasizes is for brands to ensure their product catalogs are up to date.
"Retailers with large product sets who want to use dynamic product ads during the holidays need to prepare and upload their product catalog to Facebook. Product catalogs contain a list of products you want to advertise, their availability, product URL, image URL and other product attributes. If you're already advertising your product catalog on other advertising platforms, you can upload the same catalog to Facebook."
Facebook recently upgraded their dynamic product ads offering, which enables businesses to upload their entire product catalog and target certain products to specific audiences (or let Facebook determine the most appropriate targeting for each product). Facebook's reported that many advertisers have been seeing great success with this option, so it's not surprising to see it specifically emphasized here. It may not work for everyone, but it's worth considering the possibilities of the dynamic ads option - the focused targeting of dynamic product ads, based on each individual's browsing activity, has great potential and may lead to improved conversion rates.
Holiday Best Practices
The final element of Facebook's early holiday season push is a new "Holiday Best Practices Guide" for advertisers, which outlines all the key lessons above, as well as what advertisers should be focusing on at each specific point - between August and September, for example, the guide suggests ways to focus on driving momentum before the holidays.
"On Facebook, there are more posts, shares, and comments during the holidays than any other time of the year, and more people using mobile devices to find deals and gift ideas before shopping. It's the best time to reach your audience, drive discovery of your products, and grow your business."
It's an interesting addition, and a good reference point, particularly for businesses utilizing Facebook ads for the first time, or those looking to improve their Facebook ad performance.
While it still feels some way off, the holiday period is, indeed, approaching fast, and guides like this will definitely help brands maximize engagement with their Facebook ad content, if that's an avenue you're looking to take. Even if you're across it already, it's worth having a look at Facebook's suggestions just to get your mind thinking - it might prove beneficial as you go about your holiday ad planning.