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Why Facebook Ad Experiments Are a Marketer’s Gold Mine – Here’s Why #134

In order to find the right prospects with the right message, marketers need to be able to run fast, efficient tests and experiments.
In this episode of our Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Mark Traphagen explains why Facebook advertising is an ideal laboratory for marketing experimentation.

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Eric: Mark, you and I are both huge science geeks, and maybe that’s one reason why we love marketing so much.
Mark: Yes. I mean, science is all about experimentation, and so is marketing when you think about it.
Eric: Right. I mean, we can have certain intuitions about what will influence purchasing decisions, but we can’t rely on those entirely.
Mark: I agree. I mean, any experienced marketer knows that even your most cherished intuitions and guesses can turn out to be wrong once you actually put them out there in the marketplace. So, just like a scientist, you’ve got to experiment and test to see what works.
Eric: But setting up valid experiments can be time-consuming and you can’t always be sure you’re getting the right data.
Mark: That’s so true. I mean, for example, it’s pretty easy to test which wording on a call to action button converts better, but when it comes to a question like which type of content most helps buyers in the middle of their customer journey, it’s a lot harder to get good data. Now, much of the time, you can’t track that, especially if your products or services have a long buying process.
Eric: But you wanted to tell us today about one kind of marketing where experimenting and testing are not only possible, but it’s also fast and efficient.
Mark: Right. And that area is paid social advertising, especially on Facebook.
Eric: So what makes this so different?
Mark: Well, Eric, for one thing, there is Facebook’s vast database of very granular knowledge about potential customers, and the fact that over a quarter of the Earth’s population is on Facebook. And of course, the percentage of people here in the U.S. who use Facebook is even higher.
Eric: Facebook has a rich source of information about prospects. How does that help you do better experiments?
Mark: It means that I can come up with fairly detailed hypotheses about who might be interested in our products or in our marketing campaigns and actually have a hope that I can get a significant answer that I can zero in on the people that best connect with us.
[Tweet “Facebook advertising allows you to run relatively inexpensive marketing experiments. More at” ]
Now, another factor is how quick and easy it is to set up and run those experiments on Facebook. Granted, the advertising interface and terminology in such take some time to learn, but once you understand how the machine works, it’s amazing how quick and easy and cheap it is to run experiments.
Eric: Give us an example. What do you mean when you say you can run quick, easy, and cheap experiments in Facebook advertising?
Mark: Sure. I mean, I’ll use our own marketing as an example. Now, one thing that is very important to us is that we get our major marketing studies in front of marketing decision makers at enterprise level companies.
Eric: Yes, because those are the people that are our primary prospects and we know from experience that seeing our studies has a significant effect on their confidence level when it comes to engaging us for digital marketing services.
Mark: Right. So, we want to be sure that those studies are getting through to them. Now, Facebook advertising allows us to target people with the right titles, at the right size companies and in the U.S., which is our target market. That’s great, but now the experimentation comes in.
Eric: How so?
Mark: We also need to know two more things. First, are these actually enterprise-level decision makers?
Eric: Wait, I thought you said you could target people with the right titles, at the right size companies.
Mark: Yes, you can, but that information is sort of based on how much people have filled out their own profiles, how accurate the information is in some other databases to which Facebook subscribes. Now, plus, there’s the other thing we must confirm. What ad format copy and imagery are going to work best with that audience?
Let’s look at that first. Now, with Facebook campaigns and ad sets, it’s super easy to test many variants of ad copy and imagery and to test them with as many micro audiences as I want. Now, each test, if set up properly, can be run for just a few dollars, but yields lots of useful information. This rapid return happens because Facebook’s own optimization algorithms have become amazing. I mean, you can trust them to pretty quickly find what the audience responds to best. Then you take that info and you roll it into the next test.
Eric: Okay, so you use that to figure out what combinations of text and imagery best promote our studies. But once you’ve got that, how can you be sure that you’ll get that to our best prospects?
Mark: That’s where audience testing comes in. In this case, we want to create some bait that will cause our prospects to reveal themselves to us, so we come up with an offer. In our case, it might be an exclusive downloadable resource that would only appeal to high-level decision makers at an enterprise company. Then we put that out with our test-proven ads, so that all the best micro audiences we’ve developed see them. The offer is designed, as I said, to only appeal to the people we want to reach. Facebook allows us to gate that content with an e-mail request to get the resource. Bamm!, we take those e-mails and create a custom audience and now we target our new studies directly at those people. Plus, Facebook can also show it to people who look just like them.
Eric: Brilliant! The kind of testing and targeting marketers only dreamed about years ago.
Mark: Totally! I mean, the more I learn about it, the more excited I become. Now, to get back to our science connection, it reminds me of bacteria.
Eric: Facebook advertising reminds you of bacteria?
Mark: Yes, I better explain. Now follow me here. Scientists want to experiment with how evolution works. The problem is that in most cases evolution is a very slow process. Visible changes in most species can take hundreds of thousands or even millions of years to happen, but bacteria have a very fast reproductive cycle. So that means scientists can introduce a genetic change and see its ramifications in a relatively short time. In a similar way, Facebook advertising allows you to create new generations of tests on the fly and rapidly, and you get the results back fast. So your knowledge about your marketplace grows faster too.
Eric: Thanks, Mark. You’ve given us a lot to explore.

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Mark Traphagen

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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