How Ad Testing Can Combat Facebook’s Slow Ad Growth

Facebook’s new ad load policy makes an even more compelling case for an ongoing commitment to testing.

In its third-quarter-2016 earnings call, Facebook reported that 1.71 billion people used its service in June. That’s nearly one-quarter of the earth’s population! Yet in spite of these impressive numbers, Facebook is expecting much lower ad revenue growth over the next two quarters.

The reason? Facebook’s advertising volume has reached a point of diminishing returns. In other words, it has maximized ad loads–the volume users will tolerate before they feel their experience is degraded. The evidence is compelling. Bombarded with ads, nearly 200 million consumers have turned to ad blockers to control the onslaught.

This means companies that have been relying on Facebook ads should be cautious. As Facebook has hit its optimum ad load, its focus is turning instead to alternative sources of revenue like video ads, bots for its Messenger application and its audience on third-party apps and websites.

What Facebook’s changes mean for advertisers

Digital marketers, take note: Zero growth in ad load means that it’s more important than ever for your ads to be relevant, engaging and shareable. Marketers need to be creative to captivate consumers who are already saturated with content. How will your ads stack up? The best way to find out is to test them. Here are a few tips to ensure that your Facebook advertisements are making the maximum impact:

  • Articulate your objectives: Before you begin, define the specific questions that the test will need to address. This is a critical point for me as I test my staff members. Testing ideas without intention is wasteful. I want my team to learn to test through a strategic, iterative process. For example, if I want to run a test targeting parents, I literally write down how I define the test: “I am testing parents because I think they will provide converting leads.” Once you’ve documented your objectives, test it. Ideally, you’ll want to test one element at a time, and then compare the results.
  • Plan for constant testing: Our team’s term for this is “ABT,” which stands for, “always be testing.” While Facebook ads help smaller businesses reach a widespread audience, especially because 84 percent of Facebook’s total ad sales are mobile, it’s important to make sure that consumers are getting the right message. Carve out a test budget that allows your team to constantly test ad copy, placements, targeting and imagery. With so many ads and so little space to capture the attention of your audience, you can’t afford to waste a single word or image. Varying placements can also affect the interest your ads receive. The conventional wisdom is that Facebook users ignore sidebar ads and engage more frequently with native ads. But users might be resentful of ads masquerading as real content in their News Feeds. Experiment with different placements to see which option attracts more clicks. A/B testing, or split testing, is one of the best ways to discover which ad works best. Facebook’s ad splitting tool makes it easy to segment your audience by age, gender or many other attributes. Comparing the results from multiple variations of an ad provides the hard data you need to make informed decisions.
  • Analyze test results: The most important part of this entire process is conducting an analysis on your test. Did it accomplish your defined objective? Did it reveal other information to you? Compare your documented results with the objective you wrote down prior to the testing process, and then share your findings with other members of your team. I train my staff to be open to test anything; Facebook is a great place to enact this policy because of its generally clean traffic. The cycle of testing and communicating our findings has helped us develop new advertising ideas that are deserving of tests of their own. I’ve conducted thousands of tests like this over the course of my career and have found that there are endless possible tests; the trick is to analyze the findings to ensure that your tests are productive.

Facebook’s new ad load policy makes an even more compelling case for an ongoing commitment to testing. It’s the only way to ensure your Facebook advertisements will be relevant, timely and impactful.

Lauren Alexander is executive vice president of marketing at Underground Elephant, a performance-based provider of online marketing technology and customer acquisition solutions based in San Diego.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.