Is Interest Targeting Useless? (Facebook Ads)

Are Facebook Ads useful? Are they useless? Am I reaching the people Facebook says I’m reaching? How accurate is Facebook’s targeting? How can I effectively target my audience on Facebook? These answers, and more:

Article Difficulty Level: Beginner

There’s been a lot of debate recently over Facebook Ads. Facebook has been taking flak from almost every direction, and Ads are no exception. Ironically enough, they are currently being simultaneously criticized for collecting too much data on people, and for not having accurate data on people.

Last week, NPR published a very poorly researched and biased piece on the supposed inaccuracy of Facebook’s ad targeting. They only sought commentary from one side of the debate, causing quite a stir in the online marketing community. The article reads more like an attempt at investigative journalism rather than a public interest news story. But is it accurate? When you target people on Facebook by their interests, does it actually reach only those people?

For the beginners here, let me explain what I’m talking about.

Facebook makes its money off of ads. The reason why people spend so much money (over $40Bn last year) on Facebook ads is because of their ability to target specific people using various criteria. This makes advertising much more efficient because it reduces the amount of money you waste advertising to people who aren’t potential customers.

Facebook has over 10,000 data points on every single one of its users, on average. They collect that from numerous sources – information they submit, pages they like – but also from third parties, like public records, credit card companies, etc. Facebook does not have a way for anyone to see all of the data on a specific person, advertisers simply give Facebook a targeting criteria and Facebook goes out and finds everyone that meets it, and shows them the ads. This is their selling point to advertisers: spend money with us and reach ONLY your audience, saving money and increasing your profit margins.

So what is Interest Targeting, specifically? Interest Targeting is what Facebook is facing criticism over, so it’s important to understand what it is. Interest Targeting is when you target people on Facebook by selecting any of Facebook’s massive database of criteria. You can target people who are interested in specific topics, or by their demographic information, or by personal attributes. All of these fall under Interest Targeting. But isn’t this how I just described Facebook Ads overall?

As it turns out, Interest Targeting is only a small part of what Facebook Ads has to offer. It is the original method of targeting users that has been around since Day 1, but it has largely been replaced by more advanced techniques and tools. Personally, it has been months since I’ve used any form of interest targeting at any level. Interest Targeting is still used by beginners as an introductory method, but it is not what professionals use.

Interest Targeting is not as accurate as the general public seems to think. And, guess what? It never has been. Professionals know this. Facebook doesn’t claim anything to the contrary. When it was initially rolled out, it was by far the most advanced and accurate advertising platform ever seen by man – relatively speaking. It hasn’t become inaccurate, our standards for accuracy have simply changed. As the advertising world has evolved, so have our expectations. Even Facebook claims that it’s only around 80 percent accurate. My general estimate is that it’s around 60-70 percent accurate. Ten years ago, that was revolutionary. Now, people are filing lawsuits when a couple of their campaigns don’t meet their expectations.

Lookalike Audiences and Custom Audiences are what professionals use to target people. Interest Targeting is often a good hook for salespeople to use when talking to average business owners because that’s all they will understand, but it shouldn’t be what digital marketing teams are primarily using on the back end anymore. 60-70 percent accuracy in today’s world is amateurish. And that’s why I’m personally a bit irritated at these lawsuits and at the recent NPR article. Not only are they taking for granted and even looking down on a technology that was revolutionary just a few years ago, but they are displaying their ignorance on the topic when they stake their public reputation on something they clearly know nothing about.

Custom Audiences are audiences that you generate – customer lists, your existing page likes, people who have viewed a video you uploaded, people who visited your website, etc. These are 100% accurate forms of targeting, but they take serious time and money to build. It is important to note that you can’t actually see a list of everyone on any of these audiences unless you are the one that directly uploaded it in a spreadsheet.

Lookalike Audiences are AI – generated audiences that are statistically similar to one or more of your Custom Audiences. You can take a Custom Audience and have Facebook find a certain percentage of the people in a country that share the most common denominators with that source audience. Lookalike Audiences are about 90-95 percent accurate when done correctly, in my experience. However, doing them correctly takes a high level of technical expertise. I explain Lookalike Audiences in more detail here.

Let’s be clear: this controversy is just a cry for attention. It is fake outrage. It is a pathetic attempt by a group of individuals to insert themselves into the recent Facebook controversy for the free press. And, shamefully, NPR gave them that attention without even bothering to do any research or seek an opposing point of view. These companies suing Facebook spent a small amount of money on a beginner-level advertising tool, and threw a temper tantrum when the results were ONLY several times more cost-effective than anything else they could have spent that money on. If I was a business owner reading this lawsuit that had never spent money on Facebook Ads, I would imagine I’d actually be very impressed by the results, and would consider purchasing ads. This is actually happening right now – the recent controversy surrounding Facebook has spurred a sharp spike in advertising revenue because it has educated average business owners on what Facebook can accomplish for them. This is also why you are seeing a spike in uneducated business owners purchasing ads using Interest Targeting… It’s all over the news.

Facebook ads should be left to the professionals. When Facebook first opened up their ads platform to everyone, the barrier of entry was virtually nonexistent. It was extremely simple, and anyone could do it. But it has evolved into something far more complex. Since Facebook Ads is a dynamic bidding platform, the increased competition requires exponentially higher levels of expertise in order to achieve a profitable ROI. And if you don’t understand what that means, you shouldn’t be running Facebook Ads.

It takes a long time to learn how to run Facebook ads that are successful. It is very complex and highly technical. The perception that “anyone can do it” is outdated. Anyone can do graphic design, but that doesn’t mean you can create something good enough to sell without months or years of training and practice. If you are a business owner at any level, you need to realize this.

If you are going to run Facebook ads yourself and be successful, you need to be prepared to spend months learning the system, and thousands of dollars in education, testing, and experimentation. If you aren’t prepared to do that, you should hire a professional, someone with years of experience. Don’t hire a brand new “digital marketing agency” with a collective few months of experience under their belt. Vet the team selling you their services, and make sure they have proven expertise. Freelancers are a good option, but you should always demand case studies and client recommendations and make sure they span at least a year or so.

Facebook isn’t easy. Don’t take it for granted. If you invest time and resources into it, it’ll pay off. But if that is your intention, make sure you do it right.

Here is where I’m sure you expected to see a sales pitch. Nah. You can’t hire me. I have a full time job and two side businesses, and my free time is for my family. I’m just a nerd that likes to write. If you like this content and want to support me making more, though, you can join my Patreon.

Target Individual Buildings With Facebook Ads (Walk-Through)

Do you frequently have booths at large events? Do you want to target your competitor’s brick and mortar business? Learn how to run targeted Facebook ads only within a single building or city block. 

Article Difficulty Level: Intermediate. Designed for people with a moderate grasp of the Facebook Ads Manager. This is the detailed walk-through I promised for the concepts outlined in my article about Geographic Microtargeting.

Facebook is a fantastic tool for reaching very specific audiences with very specific messages. The platform has transformed the advertising industry, giving us abilities that we’ve never before dreamed possible. However, if you ask the vast majority of Facebook ad “experts” if you can target people inside a specific building with targeted ads, they’ll give you a resounding “no.”

They are wrong. 

Prominent Facebook Ad Expert Jon Loomer published a stellar and very detailed article on his blog his week on Location Targeting, written by a guy named Lucas Elliot. Generally speaking, I’d recommend Jon Loomer’s stuff to anyone looking to dive deep into the Facebook Ads Manager. However, in this particular article, the statement is made that “You can target very broad (as broad as the entire globe) or very specific (down to a one-mile radius of a pin drop) locations.” This is not technically correct.

The one-mile radius restriction is a common myth. 

When creating an audience, you have a number of ways to narrow it geographically. I’d recommend reading the article on Jon Loomer’s blog that I linked to above for a full list of ways you can do this. I’ll only be going over what you need to know to target individual buildings. For what we are doing, we’ll need to know how to target individual addresses, then how to narrow our targeting beyond the 1-mile radius restriction. Let’s get started.

First, load Facebook on your desktop or laptop. This will not work on a tablet or smartphone – unless you specifically instruct your browser to load the desktop version of a page. Even then, most of this tutorial will be effectively impossible on a mobile device. Navigate to the drop down menu on the top right corner of the page. If you’ve never created ads in the Ads Manager before, you’ll see “Create Ads” as an option. If you have run Facebook ads before through the Ads Manager, you’ll have “Manage Ads” visible as well. Select whichever one is relevant to you.

Note: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is designed for people with an intermediate or higher level understanding of the Ads Manager. I’ll try to explain most steps as I go since I never know what any individual does or does not know, but there may be information you’ll have to figure out by yourself if you’ve never run a Facebook ad before. 

(3) Facebook - Edited

 

This will take you to the Facebook Ads Manager.

If you’ve never run ads before, you may need to provide Facebook some basic information at this point before you proceed. Once you’ve done that, or if you’ve run ads before, you will want to navigate to the Audiences section of your Ads Manager next. You can do this by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your Ads Manager and navigating to “Audiences” in the menu that drops down.

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-18-27

Your Audience Manager should look like this (but empty if you haven’t used it before):

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-21-10

Oddly enough, once you navigate to the Audiences section, it will show up as “Asset Library” on the top left. 

Now, let’s set up your audience. Click the blue “Create Audience” button. From the drop down, select “Saved Audience.”

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-24-05

Always create your audiences beforehand, no matter what strategy you are using. I strongly recommend against setting your audiences up when you create your ad. This allows for much easier editing of multiple ad sets using the same targeting, it allows you to stay much more organized, and it reduces the risk of accidentally deleting an Ad Set and losing your work. It also makes sure that Facebook has ample time to crunch the data it needs in order to have your audience ready when you need it.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I will only go over the Geographic section of this next screen. Facebook Audiences can be an entire college course in and off themselves, there are so many options. Facebook has an average of 10,000 data points on every user, and you can target most of them (well, until Interest Targeting was gutted last week). You can set the rest of your targeting to whatever you want, but I will caution that, using this technique, you will already be working with a very small audience, so narrowing it any further may make it hard for your ads to display.

Right now, you should be looking at this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-35-48

In the middle of the screen, you have a “Locations” box. First, change “People who live in this location” to “Everyone in this location.” Unless, of course, you are intentionally targeting a residential area for roofing ads or something like that.

Next, click your cursor in the box that says “Type to add more locations.” As soon as you do this, a map will appear, with the country you are currently in already highlighted.

Asset Library - Edited (6)

If you know the address of where you are targeting – or even a nearby address, enter that into the box. That will zoom you into the area where we will be working. For my example, I will be using the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama, USA. I attended a convention here once and have actually targeted this facility before. So, I do a quick Google for the address, type it into the Locations box, and hit “Enter.” Once it has selected the location, hover over it in the box above and change the radius to the minimum of one mile.

This is what it should look like:

Asset Library - Edited - Edited

This strategy works best for buildings/facilities that are at least one city block in size. As mentioned in my article on Geographic Microtargeting, there is a margin of error here. It’s not perfect – but it’s a lot better than anything else out there. You may end up catching some people driving by on the road, but that’s life.

Zoom in until you can clearly tell where your building is. If the location pin placed by Facebook is in the middle of the building, great! You can skip this step. If it is not in the middle of the building, click “Drop Pin” and place it in the middle of the building. Adjust your radius to one mile. Then, hover over the first location in the box on top, and delete it. It should look like this:

Asset Library - Edited.gif

Now we get to the fun part! 

I said earlier that the one-mile minimum radius is a myth. Now you are about to find out what I meant. We are now going to shrink your radius down until it encompasses only the building you are trying to target. We are going to accomplish this using exclusion zones.

In my article about Geographic Microtargeting, I describe exclusion zones:

Exclusion zones are a not-as-well-known feature of Facebook’s geographic targeting. It’s not used very often. For most people, it’s really only useful when you’re targeting a radius around a city but want to exclude other states or cities that your radius might overlap, due to the phrasing in your copy.

Let’s get started. 

Roughly measure the distance between your pin and the outside of your building. If you’re not good at eyeballing this, you can use a ruler on your screen. Move to the edge of your radius, and drop a new pin outside your existing radius that is the distance you just measured outside, and set the radius of the new pin to one mile.

Like this:

Asset Library - Edited (1)

Now, set that new zone as an Exclusion Zone by either hovering over it in the top box and clicking the downwards-pointing arrow, or by clicking on the pin.

Like this:

Asset Library - Edited (4)

Now, repeat this step. Set at least 4 exclusion radii around your original radius. I recommend setting around 8. Once you get used to this step, you can create fairly precise shapes around your buildings by adding in a bunch of exclusion radii. When you are done it should look like this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 20-26-41

Don’t be afraid to drop pins. You can always drop another one alongside it and delete the first one. There is no *reasonable* limit to the number of pins you can drop (I think it’ll cap you at 100).

Make sure you zoom in on your building and verify that the exclusion radii don’t overlap the building, but are close enough that they avoid any major highways as much as possible. You can easily spend 20-30 minutes on this step the first few times you set it up.

That’s the hard part! Name your audience, and save it.

Now, create your Campaign and Ad Set. In your Ad Set settings, you’ll select the Saved Audience that you created. Since I’m assuming you are familiar with the Ads Manager, I won’t go over creating ads, but this is how you select a Saved Audience:

Ads Manager - Creation - Edited

VOILA!

A couple notes about content:

  1. This strategy allows you to use VERY specific content. Take advantage of that! If you’re at a convention, for instance, address the attendees directly. This will be very effective, trust me.
  2. Use video. This will make Retargeting and creating Lookalike Audiences MUCH easier and more effective in the future. Click the links above to read my articles on those topics.

That concludes this tutorial. What did you think? I’d love your feedback. Let me know how this works out for you! Post any questions you have in the comments of this article, or send me a message on Facebook.

If you enjoyed this tutorial and feel like it benefited you, I encourage you to check out my Patreon. I just set it up yesterday based on feedback from my last article on Geographic Microtargeting. I’ve got several ways for you to support this and future content on there, as well as some sweet exclusive access for you if you do. Thanks!

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more awesome free content like this in the future!

FAQ:

Q1: “Facebook is telling me that the audience is too small for my ads to display. What do I do?

A1: Ignore Facebook. That’s a caution message, not an error message. It exists because 99.999% of ads being created this way are intended to target larger audiences, so they add that in there in case people accidentally narrow their audience too far. I’ve never had a problem pushing past this message, but if you do have an issue, comment on this article and I’ll see if I can’t diagnose your problem.

Q2: “My ads aren’t displaying! They are approved and my budget is high, but they aren’t running. What do I do?

A2: In my experience, these ads take a while to start running sometimes. Make sure you set up the Campaign and Ad Set that you intend on using well before you need it, and have content already submitted and approved before the event begins. If your ads still aren’t running, remove all additional narrowing criteria that you’ve added in the audience and see if that helps.

Q3: “My CPA (Cost Per Action) is high! What is happening?”

A3: It might be high. That’s fine. The goal is not to get cheap clicks or engagements. The objective here is to get highly relevant clicks and engagements. Don’t get too caught up in metrics, because these clicks are far more valuable than the ones you are used to getting.

I’ll add more FAQ questions to this article as time goes on – have a question? Ask it in the comments! If I get it more than once, I’ll add it and the answer to this post. 

Principles Of Facebook Retargeting

“Retargeting” is the buzzword in social media right now, but what does it really mean? Is it hard to retarget people on Facebook? No, it’s (relatively) easy and effective – I’ll explain.

Article Difficulty Level – Beginner

Retargeting, simply defined, is the concept of displaying ads to people that have already seen or engaged with your ads before. For advanced users, it is the art of displaying specific ads to specific people who have viewed or engaged with your ads in a specific manner.

Ads on Facebook can be targeted in numerous ways, such as Interest Targeting (which was gutted this week), Lookalike Audiences, or Geographic Microtargeting. Each of these methods has their own unique usefulness and effectiveness, but each of them also have their flaws. The main flaw in each of these is that no matter how precise you set your targeting, you’ll always reach people that you aren’t intending to reach. This lowers your Click Through Rate (CTR) and raises your Cost Per Mille/Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM). This is why so much time and resources are devoted towards making these tactics as efficient as possible by the big multi-million dollar corporations and marketing agencies.

Retargeting solves this inaccuracy. By only targeting people who have already indicated an interest in your content, you can potentially raise your ad efficiency by a significant margin. But efficiency isn’t the only benefit of Retargeting.

Retargeting lets you run highly relevant ads to highly relevant audiences. Since you can actually run specific ads to people that have engaged with specific pieces of content in specific ways, you can write your copy very specifically. Sounds specific, doesn’t it? With most ads, you have to write your copy to appeal to everyone in your target audience – using very general language. With retargeted ads, you can speak directly to people, mentioning the specific actions they’ve taken in order to see that ad, or referencing specific things you know they’ve seen or done that put them in your targeting. You have to be careful not to be too specific, though, because Facebook will sometimes frown on that. Given the recent scrutiny, they don’t always like advertising to people just how specifically they are being targeted.

Retargeting also lets you capture valuable people and follow them around. If you know for an absolute, irrefutable fact that someone is in your target audience and is a likely customer, then you want to be in front of them every single day. With retargeting, you can capture people and put them in a totally separate targeting bucket with a separate budget and separate set of ad copy to ensure that your brand is in front of them consistently.

FOR EXAMPLE: Imagine you have a booth at a convention in Alabama. You’re selling, let’s say, vending equipment to elementary school principals. You’re at a convention center where 3,000 of those principals will be at over the next week. You’ve used my Geographic Microtargeting (GMT) tactics to set up a Saved Audience targeting everyone that is physically at that event. You snap a quick video of you standing in front of your booth: “Hey, y’all! I’m so excited to be at the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center here in Mobile* with you guys. If you’re in the main convention room for the sessions today, just take a right when you leave out the main door. I’m at booth #334, about halfway down on your left. I’m giving away FREE vending machines to help with your school fundraising, so come on by and ask me about that. Hope to talk to you soon!”

*This actually happened to me. I did this. It’s a real-world example. 

Video gives you the most retargeting options on Facebook. You can actually send specific ads to people that have not only watched specific videos of yours, but you can filter it by how much of that video they have watched. It’s quite incredible. With Geographic Microtargeting, you’ve narrowed your audience. With Lookalike Audiences, you can expand that audience. But with Retargeting, now you can attack that audience. If Interest Targeting is a shotgun, Lookalike Audiences are a biological weapon, Geographic Microtargeting is a nuke, and Retargeting… is a sniper rifle. Does that make sense? Since you’ve used GMT to narrow down your audience to only people physically inside the building, you are able to use the very specific text and language in the example above that forces them to stop, watch, read, and listen.  Once they’ve watched 3 seconds of your video, you’ve got them. Now, you can retarget them.

The convention is over. What happens? They keep seeing your ads! As soon as you close up shop and get back home, you hop on your desktop and set up your Retargeting. You create a Custom Audience targeting people that have watched 3 seconds of your video but less than 50% (I’ll write a post explaining how to do this in the future), and start running an ad to them: “Did we miss each other at the principal’s convention? I was the booth with the vending machines. In case you thought I was selling anything – I’m not! Our machines are totally free, and we do all the work every month.”

Because they engaged with your content in a specific way, you are able to run more specific content to them. Imagine how much more likely a principal that attended that conference is to stop and read your new ad versus a generic one targeting all principals in Alabama. Your click-through rate will skyrocket! This is great for lead generation, but it also has massive implications for e-commerce and other industries. I can see the wheels turning in your head right now… you’re excited at the potential, aren’t you?

The potential is limitless. Facebook allows you to retarget people using a wide variety of criteria. You can use video views, which are my favorite for building an audience in conjunction with GMT strategies. Or, you can upload an e-mail subscriber list. Or you can use a Pixel – a plug-in that Facebook has for your website that’ll track people on your site and let you retarget them. And that’s where it gets REALLY cool….

You can actually retarget people on Facebook based on specific actions that they take on your website. If someone adds an item to their cart but doesn’t check out, you can send them an ad reminding them to go check out. You can send people ads for specific products based on products they’ve already looked at on your website. And, since I know you are wondering… yes, THAT’S how Amazon does that. If you’ve ever gotten product ads for a site you’ve visited, and the products actually seem relevant to your browsing history – they are using Pixel retargeting.

Pixel retargeting is extremely complicated. You could literally take a college course on the topic and still not know everything. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about it. There are e-commerce specialists out there that could run circles around me. Cat Howell has some fantastic courses and resources on this topic, as does Jon Loomer. I may develop my own some day, if I have the time and money. If you’re interested in learning more about this, or are struggling with implementing it, I’d recommend joining Facebook Ad Hacks or becoming a Patreon of this site.

I don’t have the space here to walk you through every part of Facebook retargeting. I wish I did. I wanted to talk about the basic principles behind it though, and stress how effective it can be. I’ll continue to write more on the topic in future days, so make sure you subscribe to this blog and follow me on Facebook if you don’t already. At the beginning of all of my posts on here, I like to state the difficulty level, so that people can spend time with the content most helpful to where they are at in life. Since this is a beginner-level article, I’ve tried to sheer away from getting too detailed. If you have specific questions though, feel free to ask – either in the comments section of wherever you saw this post shared (if I’m there), or in the comments on this blog article.

I sincerely hope this article has helped you. I’d appreciate any feedback you have, as always. Thanks for getting nerdy with me!

Always remember: Analyze, Test, Optimize, Implement. The strategy for success, on Facebook, and in the rest of life. 

 

You Can’t Rush Digital Success

Yesterday, I wrote an article for the digital marketing company I work for (Addison Technologies). It’s about a topic near to my heart that I don’t feel like is talked about enough.

We’ve all seen the videos of some social media “guru” standing in front of a fancy house and fancy car promising us the world if we just follow his super-special formula that only he knows, which you can learn about for a moderate fee. And if you’re a business owner, odds are, you’ve had some young-gun “social media expert” come along and give you a hard sell on their “viral marketing” services, or some such nonsense.

This is a rampant problem. The barrier of entry into social media marketing is virtually nonexistent, and this has led to a sharp rise in the number of fake-it-til-you-make-it “experts” and “agencies” – all willing to promise you the world at bargain prices as long as you sign their contract. I’m in online groups for digital marketing experts that are filled with these types. I’ll see dozens of posts a day from them – “I just landed my first client in [niche] – anybody got any good ideas?!” These people have bought the lie that digital marketing is quick and easy – and now they are selling it to you.

Success online takes time and hard work – just like success at anything else. The REAL experts know this, and they don’t try to sell you flash-in-the-pan strategies that burn out as soon as the ink on your contract dries. Addison Tech has been doing this for 18 years, and I’ve been doing it for 10. We know what it really takes.

In my article for Addison Tech, I talk in depth about the strategies these people use to trick you into giving them money, and how to avoid doing business with them. I’m not pitching anything myself, here – the odds of you being in Addison Tech’s target market are slim. I just want to share some tips that will hopefully help you avoid the traps set by these snake oil salesmen.

Read my full article here.

How Does The Facebook Algorithm Work?

What drives the content on your Facebook news feed? What types of content perform better? What can you do to improve your reach on Facebook? An expert explains.

Article Difficulty Level: Beginner.

When I’m consulting with or training a business on how to effectively use Facebook ads, one of the biggest issues I run into is that the person running the company’s social media presence usually has either a very low-level understanding of how the Facebook algorithm works, or they believe some popular misconceptions about it. In order to help educate the public and dispel some of these myths, I thought I’d take a stab at explaining what the Facebook algorithm is, how it works, and what that means for you.

You must understand how the Facebook algorithm works if you manage the social media presence for any business, including your own. Otherwise, your entire strategy is nothing more than a shot in the dark. If you’ve ever wondered why some people are able to post content that goes viral while your stuff remains motionless, that’s because those other people understand the Facebook algorithm and they are tailoring their content and strategy to take advantage of it. But first, what is the Facebook algorithm?

The content you see on Facebook is determined by an algorithm called Edgerank. Think of Edgerank as an artificially intelligent being. When Facebook first created it, it was a child – simple in thought and action. The posts on your news feed mostly appeared in chronological order. As time went on, engagement began to affect the content that you saw. Posts that got higher engagement reached more people. This change is what created the concept of viral content, and is what shapes almost everything we do online today.

As time went on, Edgerank grew up. It became more complex, capable of using a much wider range of factors to determine what content floated to the top. It developed a personality of sorts. Just like a teenager, the more unique it became, the easier it has become to predict it’s behavior. Right now, Edgerank is in the process of becoming an adult. It left home and was exposed to the world through the recent political scrutiny it has received. It’s been criticized by it’s elders that don’t understand how it thinks, and it is desperately trying to be “cool” in a world that wants to control its every move.

How does Edgerank work? Well, nobody really knows. But we know enough. When you’ve been using Facebook as a marketing tool as long as I have, you tend to see behind the curtain just by poking and prodding after a while. Just like you can observe a person’s behavior and come to conclusions about their personality and their thought processes, so can we guess at how Edgerank influences our world.

Facebook has explained Edgerank in general terms. Experts with far more experience and resources than I have done in-depth studies and reverse engineered enough so that we have a fairly good understanding of how the algorithm works and what it does. In simplest terms, it attempts to increase the reach of valuable content and decrease the reach of bad content. It defines “valuable” content as content that Facebook thinks people want to see more of, as determined by their past behavior. Facebook studies its users behavior in order to see what they like and don’t like, and Edgerank is adjusted to give preference to the type of content that users tend to prefer. So, if you want to succeed on Facebook, you need to understand what this content is and how to duplicate it.

Edgerank has changed recently. At any given point in time, this statement will be true – because it is always changing. However, it changed much more than normal this year (2018), so if you’ve studied it before, you need to go back and study it again. Reading this article is a good place to start.

Edgerank now has three main factors that it uses to determine what content you see. Each of these factors affects a single score that is assigned to every post that you might see, and that score is completely relative to you as an individual. Nobody else’s news feed will ever look exactly like yours, even if they have only the exact same friends as you and like only the pages that you like. The three factors that Edgerank uses to determine your unique score for every potential post in your news feed are:

  1. Affinity Score (Engagement/Relation)
  2. Edge Weight (Content Type)
  3. Time Decay. (Age)

Affinity Score measures two separate things. First, it measures how close the person generating the content (the “Edge”) is to you. This is why you see more posts from people that you are closest to, and less posts from the people on your friends list that you haven’t talked to in forever. We don’t know all of the ways that Facebook calculates this, but one of the biggest factors is how frequently you engage with that person.

Affinity Score also measures the engagement on that content (the “Edge”). As we all know, posts with more engagement reach more people. It weights each engagement separately too – comments are worth more than likes, shares are worth more than comments, etc. In addition, it also (supposedly) factors in the amount of time since that engagement occurred. If you’ve ever logged onto Facebook and most of the posts on your news feed are about stuff that happened three days ago, that is due to an error in this part of the algorithm.

Edge Weight is affected by the type of content that you are posting. I’ve used “Edge” to refer to pieces of content, but that content can be anything on your news feed – not just a post, but a “Trey Edwards liked this post” type of post that you will see often on Facebook. Each of those posts are considered “Edges.” Edge Weight is a measure of the weight of any given Edge type. So, for instance, when Facebook is rolling out a new feature, they will give it a boost in Edge Weight. Live video, for instance, gets a boost in reach inherently just because it is a type of content that Facebook wants to push. Right now, posts in Groups have the biggest Edge Weight bonus. This is why it is always smart to be one of the first people to use new features that Facebook rolls out.

Edge Weight is also altered on a per-user basis. In other words, your Edge Weight for a certain type of content (say, videos) may be different than someone else’s. If you tend to watch a lot of videos, then videos will receive a higher Edgerank score for you than other types of content.

Time Decay is pretty straightforward. It’s just a measure of how long it’s been since that Edge was created. The older a post is, the lower it’s Edgerank score will be.

All of these factors create a single score for every potential post in your news feed. Your news feed is then simply a list of all of those posts, sorted by highest Edgerank score to lowest. However, nobody actually knows what these scores are, or exactly what weight is given to each factor. Facebook keeps this a closely guarded secret. This is the algorithm that makes Facebook work the way it does, and it is what drives the site’s success. The better this algorithm becomes at predicting what content people want to see, the more time people will spend on the site.

Use this knowledge to your advantage. Study the experts. Go to pages that you know get a large amount of reach and engagement. See what kind of content they are posting and what they are saying and how they are saying it. All of these things are carefully tailored by social media experts in order to intentionally boost Edgerank scores and get content in front of as many people as possible. The only cost associated with this is the time you take to learn it.

There’s no silver bullet. I can’t tell you exactly what to do to succeed, because Edgerank is always changing. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. Today, live video and Groups are the best way to build reach and engagement. Tomorrow it may be something else. Stay on top of the trends and follow the experts. My blog is just getting started, but I’ve been doing Facebook for a long time, so you might start by following mine. I’d also suggest following Social Media Examiner, Mari Smith, Cat Howell, Ad Zombies, and Jon Loomer. All of these pages are no-nonsense, no-gimmick genuine experts. I’d also recommend joining the Facebook Ad Hacks group – a free-to-join group of about 70,000 Facebook marketers as of the date this article was published. It is run by Cat Howell, who I mentioned above. It can be a bit intense at times, but it is a great environment to learn in.

A word of caution – don’t get stuck in the weeds with the gimmicky marketers that run ads of themselves talking into a camera about how many thousands of dollars they make a day while driving fancy cars and living in a huge house… those are scams. Trust me. They rented that car and that house for the day so they could film that video. If they really made that much money with some secret formula no one had ever heard of before, the last thing they’d be doing is giving it out. Those are nothing more than modern-day snake oil salesmen. There is no secret sauce to making Facebook work for you. It takes a lot of study, hard work, and trial and error – just like everything else in life. Just don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks – sometimes you’ll be surprised at your results.

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Hit me up in the comments section. 

Achieving Hyper-Relevance Through Geographic Microtargeting Of Facebook Ads

Can I target people on Facebook in one specific building? Can I show Facebook ads to people at a particular event? Yes! An expert explains:

Article Difficulty Level: Advanced

Ever wanted to run Facebook ads to people in one building, at a convention, or other event? Have you been told that’s impossible by so-called Facebook “experts” or “consultants?” It’s not. I do it all the time for my own businesses and my clients. It is easy and effective once you get the hang of it. Combine it with killer content and you’ll be on your way to success in no time.

Please note: The following article assumes an intermediate-level understanding of the Facebook Ads Manager. I will not be taking the time to explain beginner-level aspects step by step. However, even beginners will benefit from the strategies and tactics discussed below. 

Geographically microtargeted Facebook ads. Sounds like a complicated thing, doesn’t it? It sounds like it costs a lot. It sounds like you need some special third-party program that cost millions of dollars to develop and charges a high monthly premium. If you Google how to do this, you won’t find anything. 95% of the so-called Facebook “experts” charging hundreds of dollars an hour will tell you that it’s impossible. They are wrong. For me and the clients I assist and train, targeting very specific ads to people inside of single buildings or at a local event is a routine thing.

These ads are extremely effective. It’s not just the targeting that makes the difference. Your targeting allows you to run very specific messaging that you normally couldn’t get away with.

Imagine this: You have a booth at a large, important convention. You’ve paid hundreds of dollars to be there and are desperate to make the most out of your time. You take a quick 30-second video of you standing in front of your booth. “Hey guys! It’s awesome to be here at the convention with y’all. If you’re in the main event room, just turn right when leaving out the main door and I’m the fourth booth on the left. I’ve got some goodies to give away to anyone that mentions this video, so come on by!” Now what do you do with it? Armed with Geographic Microtargeting (“GMT”), you can then boost that video to ONLY people who are physically inside the convention center. Not just in their news feed, either. You can insert your video into the websites they are browsing (Audience Network), slide into their Messenger app, and pop into their Instagram. Imagine how effective that would be.

I’ve done this. I have a vending franchise that works with K-5 schools. I was at a convention with approximately 3,000 elementary school educators once. I did exactly what I described above, except it was a photo instead of a video. I had school principals walking up to me for a week during that convention saying “I’m not sure how you got onto my phone, but I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.” We’re talking about a product where my customer LTV exceeds $1,000, so that kind of interaction is invaluable. For approximately $150, I generated about a dozen leads during that convention that I knew for a fact were because of my Facebook ads. I had many more that I suspected were due in part to the ads I ran. Once I pulled that off, I began integrating the strategy into my training sessions with other business owners. I love seeing their eyes light up when they realize the potential!

The potential is incredible. People respond best to content that is hyper-relevant – content that forces them to stop scrolling. “We make great sandwiches!” Doesn’t make you stop. “Stuck at Helen Keller Hospital for lunch? We’ll deliver a delicious sandwich straight to your room.” Now, THAT makes someone stop. It makes you think, and it makes you react. It makes you wonder – how did they know?! If you don’t know how Geographic Microtargeting works, you are left with the assumption that this restaurant is running ads across your entire area that conveniently seem relevant to you and pretty much ONLY you. I guarantee you – whether you order lunch from that restaurant from that ad or not, you’ll remember them next time you’re in the area.

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 20-04-26

 

 

HOW DO YOU ACCOMPLISH THIS?

Now, I mentioned at the beginning of the article that I’m going to assume that you have an intermediate-level understanding of the Facebook Ads manager. Therefore, I am not going to waste time explaining how to create an ad. There are thousands of free tutorials out there for that. I’m here to talk about something unique. All I’m going to address is how to create an audience that is Geographically Microtargeted. I’ll also note that this is only accurate to an extent. By my rough measurement through trial and error, I estimate the accuracy to be somewhere from 100 feet to about 1/10th of a mile. So, you can’t target one house in the middle of a crowded neighborhood, or you’ll get the surrounding houses and roads as well. But it works great for a building the size of one city block or larger – like any convention center. The main goal is to get your radius FAR below the generally accepted minimum of 1 mile.

The concept is simple. We’re going to take some basic elements that most Facebook Ad managers know exist, and use them in an unexpected manner to deliver unprecedented results.

Let’s start by creating a Saved Audience. Go to your Audiences by clicking the menu in the top left hand corner of your Ads Manager. Click “Create Audiences” and “Saved Audience.” Now, ignore everything else and go straight to the geographic section.

You have a couple different options to start. If you know the address of where you are targeting, you can enter that as your target. However, if you are dealing with an extremely large facility, your pin may not be in the center of your target, which is not ideal. In that case, you can manually drop a pin on the map, which is what I generally do. Find your building, and drop a pin on the center. Set your radius to the minimum: 1 mile.

Now, we’re going to do something a bit different. Roughly guess the distance between your pin and the exterior wall of the building you are targeting, and drop another pin outside your radius by that exact amount. You can use a ruler if you aren’t good at eyeballing this type of stuff, but you can also edit it later so it’s not that big of a deal if you miss. Drop a number of these pins (at least 4) around your main pin, each one just as far outside your radius as your middle pin is from the outside of your target building. When you finish, you should have one pin with a 1-mile radius surrounded by a bunch of other pins with 1-mile radii around that pin, none of which should overlap the original pin.

Next, hover over one of your locations in the location list. You’ll see a little dropdown arrow appear. Click that, and select “Exclude location.” You can also accomplish this by clicking the pin on the map. Do this for all pins except your original one.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 20-20-28

 

WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?

Exclusion zones are a not-as-well-known feature of Facebook’s geographic targeting. It’s not used very often. For most people, it’s really only useful when you’re targeting a radius around a city but want to exclude other states or cities that your radius might overlap, due to the phrasing in your copy. What we are doing is creating a complex Venn Diagram consisting of exclusion and inclusion zones that ultimately result in only one single building being targeted. At first, this takes some time to set up. It takes a while to get used to, and it took me quite a while to get to the point where I was confident enough in the accuracy to get the distance around the building just right. But it works.

Is this accurate? I’ve had some people question whether or not this actually works. Trust me, it does. Facebook tracks your location using your cell signal, your GPS, and your Wi-fi. They have your location pinned down to within 30 feet. The potential inaccuracy up to 1/10th of a mile comes primarily from people that are moving – like in a car. It just takes a minute or so for Facebook to update your location, so you may see ads a little ways away from the facility if you just left it or drove by it. It may catch some people driving by as they briefly enter the radius, but it’s still pretty accurate. I explained this tactic to a group of clients once, and I saw their minds explode as they processed what I was saying. The very next day, one of those clients sent me an excited text with a screenshot of an ad very similar to the one I posted above. They were in the parking lot next to a building I was targeting and saw my ad mentioning the building. Since they knew I worked with that business and since I had just explained it to them the night before, they knew exactly what was happening for the first time, and they were absolutely thrilled to see it in action.

It’s not complicated. We are taking some very simple features of Facebook Ads and combining them in unusual ways, that’s it. I honestly didn’t think too much of it at first, I thought everyone knew how to do it. But as I began mentioning it to my clients and other people running Facebook Ads, I realized how few people know how to do it.

This has the ability to transform your business. Not just on the reach of these ads themselves, but through the use of Lookalike Audiences (LLAs). You can use GMT strategies to build extremely precise and well-filtered Custom Audiences (CA) to base your LLAs off of. I recently showed a boutique jewelry company owner how to use GMT to identify high-relevance potential customers at a convention and then use an LLA to dynamically expand that group to begin advertising to similar high-relevance potential customers nationwide. You should have seen the expression on her face – she knew the potential of what I was talking about. Interest targeting is better than nothing, but it’s nowhere near as effective as an LLA based on a high-relevance CA. You can target people who are interested in the topic Jewelry all day long, but nothing beats taking a group of well-established wholesale jewelry purchasers and creating an audience of everyone like them in the world – and ONLY people like them.

Don’t forget to subscribe – use the options on the right side of this site to sign up for future articles like this and follow me on social media!

What Is A Lookalike Audience (LLA)?

What is a Facebook Ads Lookalike Audience? How is this targeting option transforming the digital advertising landscape? How can you use it for your business? An expert explains. 

Article Difficulty Level: Intermediate

I do a lot of one-on-one Facebook Ad training sessions with business owners, and one of my favorite things to do is go over the ads that they have already run before they came to me. I have yet to see a single business owner using Lookalike Audiences  (also known as an “LLA”) when I first review their performance to date. I love seeing the gears turn and their eyes slowly widen as I explain what a Lookalike Audience is and what they can do with it.

Lookalike Audiences are a very complicated animal, but they can be explained fairly easily. Basically, you are taking a core group of people that you’ve generated through an online activity, and telling Facebook to find a certain percentage (between 1 and 10%) of all people in a specific country that are MOST similar to that core audience. Then, you can narrow that down further with other forms of targeting, such as geographic.

FOR EXAMPLE: You have a booth at a large convention. You use Geographic Microtargeting to target ONLY the people inside the convention with a short live video of you in front of your booth inviting them to come check you out. 200 people watch that video. Using Lookalike Audiences, you then begin to run ads to the 50,000 people in your state that are MOST similar to those 200 people. The best part? All of this happens automatically. No more guessing what your ideal demographic is.

How does this work? 

Facebook has an average of 10,000 data points on every single one of its users – including you. They don’t just have what you give them. They buy large amounts of data from third party groups – like credit card companies. They attach your info with those companies to your info on Facebook to build a comprehensive profile on you. Lookalike Audiences takes the common denominators in your core group, and finds everyone else in the country with those common denominators.

You can easily create Lookalike Audiences. Simply go to your Ads Manager on Facebook on your desktop by clicking the drop down menu on the top right of your page and selecting “Manage Ads”. If you’ve never run ads before, you’ll need to select “Create Ads” instead and go through some basic setup steps before being able to run ads. In order to keep this post as relevant as possible, I will be assuming that everyone reading this article has a basic understanding of how the Ads Manager works. In the top left corner of your Ads Manager, click the drop down menu and select Audiences. You’ll need to create a Custom Audience first – this is your core audience. Select “Create Audience” and “Custom Audience.” You should see this pop-up:

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 18-23-50

You have several options for creating a Custom Audience. You can use a customer file, website traffic using Pixel data, app activity, offline activity, and engagement. Most people will only ever use the customer file, website traffic, and engagement options. Offline activity is still being rolled out as of the publishing of this article, and app activity is only useful for developers. I’ll refrain from going through a detailed step-by-step instruction at this point, although I’ll try to come back and do that later when I have more time.

Once you’ve created your Custom Audience, go back to your Audiences section, select “Create Audiences” again, but this time select “Lookalike Audience.” In this screen, you’ll select the Custom Audience that you just created as the source, and pick your geographic area and how wide you want the audience to be. Always start off with a small number and exhaust that audience before expanding. You can always come back and create a larger audience later, so I recommend starting with 1% or 2% for your initial test run. However, the exception to this rule is this: if you plan to run your ads to a very small geographic area, you should raise this number higher. Otherwise, you may not have enough people in your target audience to have any significant impact

 

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 18-29-34

Don’t worry about the lack of detailed geographic targeting. You can still set that at the Ad Set level. Keep in mind though, that when you narrow your audience down geographically in the Ad Set level, or by creating a Saved Audience, this will select the people that are in your Lookalike Audience that are also in that geographic area. It will NOT select the 1% (or 2% or whatever you set it at) of people in that geographic area that share common denominators with your Custom Audience. I say this so that you won’t be confused when the numbers of people selected in that area are far larger or smaller than the percentage that you set in your Lookalike Audience relative to the number of people total in that geographic area.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say that you have a well-established plumbing business with 2,000 customer e-mail addresses in your database. Now, assuming that all 2,000 of those have opted-in to receiving communications from you, you can upload that list to Facebook and create a lookalike audience off of them. Since you’re a local company, you set the LLA at 10%. You drop a pin on your business location and say you want to advertise to a 50-mile radius. Now, instead of 1,000,000 people, you are targeting the, say, 120,000 people who are most like your existing customers – without having to do any research into who those customers actually are. You can now run ads to those people without wasting any money on the rest of the population – only spending your resources where you know they’ll be the most effective.

Lookalike Audiences are powerful. They allow you to dynamically expand your current customer, engagement, or visitor base into a larger group of potential customers. This ensures that your digital advertising budget will be spent efficiently and that your engagement rates will be high – providing, of course, that your messaging is on point.

Questions? Feedback? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you.