Facebook Advertising can be a bit confusing at times, even for seasoned marketers. There seem to be endless options and constantly changing functionality but help is on hand!

In this episode of Not Another Marketing Podcast we talk to Nikki Hesford from The Nikki Hesford Business Academy about getting to grips with Facebook ads.

The pod contains a HUGE amount of information to help you increase conversion rates, target your budget better and build ads that work for your audience.

Websites and services mentioned during the podcast include:

The Niki Hesford Business Academy
Facebook Ad Manager
Google Analytics

Transcript (edited for clarity)

Jon Tromans: I’m joined today by Nikki Hesford, from the Nikki Hesford Business Academy, who provides marketing support and advice for startups. Thanks for giving up some of your time.

Nikki Hesford: No problem.

Jon: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nikki: I am a digital marketer. I specialize in Facebook and pay-per-click paid advertising, as well as, obviously, marketing, PR, and also all types of social media. We’re a marketing agency and we also run training events for small businesses to learn how to do their own marketing as well. Quite a lot of the time, these small beauty salons and small businesses, they don’t have time to do it themselves, but they also don’t have the budget for a retainer because that might be anywhere from £200 a month to thousands a month. The academy runs events which shows those businesses how to do it themselves.

Jon: I think Facebook ads is one of those things where you can lose yourself and it can chew up pretty much all of your day when you’re looking at all the different features and functionalities.

Nikki: Yes, and they’re bringing out new stuff all the time as well, there’ll be there one day and not there the next or appear out of nowhere. Like not so long ago, you used to only be able to have Facebook page admins, so that’s a really good category for anybody who’s doing business-to-business. Then, out of nowhere, these were separated into health and beauty admins and community page admins. It just appeared out of nowhere, so even us, who do it all the time, discover new things every day.

Jon: Why should we advertise on Facebook? Silly question, really, I suppose, but is it just good for business-to-consumer or is it any good for business-to-business as well?

Nikki: Yes. I get asked that all the time, especially on LinkedIn. A lot of people say, “Yes, it’s great if you’re selling birthday cakes or something or wedding items, but it’s no good for me, I’m an accountant,” or “I’m a bookkeeper,” and that is so not true because a lot of people don’t realise the retargeting aspects of Facebook advertising. You can retarget your own website traffic. We have people who do R&D tax credits, engineering, and really, quite specific things like refrigeration and warehouses.

Nobody’s going to be stopped there on Facebook randomly searching for it or looking for it, but those managing directors or ops directors or whoever it might be who has the buying power to buy from those businesses might be looking at their website in the daytime, and then come the evening, they start watching X Factor there on the couch, scrolling through Facebook, and then that ad reappears. That’s done obviously through the pixel on Facebook. It’s retargeting your own website traffic, and that’s where it really comes into its own for B2B.

Jon: So simply put in, if I went on a website looking for some used packing machinery– There we go, I had a client selling used packing machinery a couple of years ago. That was a work thing, and then, I was sitting on my couch and I was watching something on the telly and browsing through Facebook, you can actually have ads appear in the feed to do with what you were looking at to work.

Nikki: Absolutely, yes, and you can do it quite specifically. Say that packing machine, there was two different types of packing machine, packing machine A and packing machine B, and you’ve been looking at packing machine B. Your advert that you saw when you were watching X Factor that night would specifically be- they could set it so that it was packing machine B. You’ve probably seen these ads before yourself while you looked for a pair of shoes on ASOS or a dress or whatever it might be, and then you’ve been waylaid because the phone rang or one of your kids was shaving their eyebrows off or something, and you’ve gone off then.

Then, a few hours later or a few days later, you’ve been on Facebook and it’s going, “I saw you looking at those shoes. Here, 10% off, buy them now.” You remember that you were looking at them, and sometimes, it even has an extra discount or a discount code to complete that purchase now, to get you back in that funnel. It’s the same, a business can utilize that for business-to-business as well.

Obviously, if you’ve only got a very, very small amount of web traffic, then how much you can leverage it is limited, but the more your web traffic– You’ve got some business-to-business once you get like 10,000 hits a month, and they do really well out of it. Whereas, obviously, if you’ve got a website that only gets 100 people a month, then you might have to concentrate on building your web traffic first.

Jon: How does this basically work? We’re like looking at four different sections, really. We’re looking at audience, content, budget, and tracking, and we have to go through this in order. The first one, I suppose, is looking at your audience. How specific do we have to get when we create an audience to target?

Nikki: I guess, it depends. Obviously, the more specific you get, the more you’re going to pay. That’s in direct contradiction of anybody who’s used to doing Google ads because, obviously, with Google, the more “long tail” your keywords are, normally, the less that you pay. Anybody who’s been used to doing Google ads will perhaps be given to thinking that the more generic it is, the more they’re going to pay, and the more specific, the cheaper it’s going to be.

The opposite is true on Facebook. The more generic, if I just say, anybody in England who’s male, aged 18 to 40, that’s going to be really, really cheap. Whereas, if I say that I want somebody who is female, between ages 30 and 35, who has a child who’s age is 2, and they travel internationally quite frequently a year, that’s going to be pretty specific. Now, I’m going to pay quite a lot for that person.

However, I might be happy to pay a lot for it because I feel the more relevant and that the conversion rate is going to be so much higher that I’m prepared to pay it. It depends on your particular business. If you’ve got a business where, actually, they don’t need to be that specific, like if you’re selling iPads, generally speaking, anybody could potentially buy an iPad. Whereas, if you were selling really expensive, high-end swimwear which is for a certain age of person, then you would want to be more specific with it.

Jon: What sort of targeting options do we get? How can we work with this? How do you create an audience that’s targeted to your niche?

Nikki: There are so many options, but if we talk about- this is core targeting, which is obviously the most basic way of doing it. You might want to select people by gender, by age, by demographic, by interests, by behaviors, whether they like dogs, whether they like cats. There’s so many ways that you can target that way, and that’s obviously core targeting. That’s when don’t have any pixel or website traffic to rely on.

If you want to get a little bit more sophisticated with it, then obviously the website retargeting or what we call “custom audience” through a CSV file. Some people have really huge email databases, so if you’ve got 10,000 people on an email database, you could upload that into Facebook and then target them. That might be existing customers who haven’t contacted you for a while, somebody who used to be a really good customer two years ago but you don’t hear much from them anymore, that could be a really good way of stimulating that again.

Jon: This is where Facebook gets a little bit creepy, isn’t it? With the different targeting options, how accurate is it?

Nikki: In terms of email, they reckon that the match rate is about 60%. Obviously, you might have their business email address but they use their personal email address for Facebook, so they can’t always match it. Of course, not everybody even has a Facebook account, so it’s not always going to be a 100% match. I found it to be pretty accurate, Facebook knows a lot more than probably what most of us even appreciate that they know. It’s unbelievable.

I’ve actually had seminars where people say, “I have not put my relationship status on my Facebook. How does it know that I’m single? Why does it keep targeting me with ads for the dating site,” and I said, “Can I just have a look at your phone for a minute?” I look at the phone, and they’ve got Tinder downloaded, match.com downloaded in apps. Every time you download an app, you’re usually logging in with your Facebook, so you’re telling Facebook, if you’re interested in Tinder or Match, chances are that you’re probably single, hopefully.

Jon: Yes, yes, it gets a little bit creepy at times, doesn’t it? When you set up an audience on Facebook, you get this little needle thing that goes broad or niche or something like that. Does it matter? I mean, does it really matter?

Nikki: Again, I think it depends. Like, for example, for me, if I’m wanting to get business owners on to one of my marketing events, then if I went really, really broad, chances are I’m probably going to waste a lot of money. I’m going to get a really low click-through rate because 90% of the general population are going to be regular employees who don’t work in a marketing capacity. I need to filter that down to people who I have a general idea that they probably own a business or work in marketing. Whereas, again, if you’re selling something like bags of sweets or something where, in theory, anybody could buy a bag of sweets, anybody could buy chocolate, anybody has the potential to need to buy a gift.

If you’re selling wedding dresses, for example, you’re not going with how many people are engaged and actively looking for a wedding dress. If you marketed it to every single woman aged 18 to 40, the vast majority of them are not going to be engaged and are not going to be actively looking for a wedding dress. In that instance, you’re only going to want to be targeting somebody who is engaged, and it can get even more specific than that. Say, you were a wedding dress business, you cannot only target somebody who’s engaged but how long they’ve been engaged, so engaged for less than six months, engaged for more than a year, engaged for more than two years.

You know, from your own experience, at what point in that engagement journey they start to make those purchases, hence, why they’re giving you the option. Because if you know that people get engaged, then they will not get a wedding dress straight away, or do you know that they get engaged, and then right near closer to the day, that’s when they go and get the wedding dress.

Jon: Got you, right. So we’ve got our audience sorted out. I suppose, the next stage is to create an advert. Can we just put a graphic and a little bit of text, “Buy our stuff now,” “10% off, buy now”?

Nikki: I guess you can do both. The next step is actually the placements in the outset. The placements is a really important part because it’ll be set to automatic placements as a default. Most people just leave it as the default option, but that means that you’re going to be paying for your advert to be put into the more cheaper inventory areas. That might be audience network, Instagram, Instant Articles, industry videos. Now, if you want more relevant traffic, you might want to remove some of those placements. I would always remove audience network.

Jon: Basically, you can choose as to whether to have your ad showing all over Facebook and Instagram or just in specific places?

Nikki: Absolutely. You might only want it on the mobile news feed or you might only want it on Facebook Messenger or you might only want it on Instagram or you might not want it on Instagram at all. You get a choice of about 15 or 16 different placements. Some of them, people aren’t even aware exist. That’s obviously the first part. Then, obviously, the second part is your budget. Do you want it to run daily, just ongoing until you stop it? Do you want to set a start and a finish day?

If you’re the sort of person who’s going to set it continuously, go on holiday, forget, come home, and realize you’ve spent a load of money, then have a start and finish day for it. I have mine running continuously but I also try and check it quite frequently. Most of them, you have to pay by CPM, per impressions, but there are a couple where you can pay per click rather than impressions. There are the other bits as well that you might want to look up. Then, obviously, you move to your creative which is the ad.

Jon: What type of content tends to work best? I know you can’t have a lot of text in an image, can you? But you can have things like video on there if you wanted to.

Nikki: Yes. Actually, more than 20% of text and it’ll get flagged up and it won’t reach as many people. There’s not really any reason to have a lot of text in your video or in your picture because it’s hopefully going to be in text above it. Video is always going to be cheaper. Video is by far the best way of doing your Facebook advertising. Facebook wants to take on YouTube, it wants to be the king of video, so it will reward you with better results if you’re giving it video, feeding it with video.

I’d always try and go for video, if possible. It doesn’t have to be anything high-tech. I do mine with my mobile phone, literally, with the camera reversed, holding it in one hand, and literally talking into it. Nothing high-tech, no camera studios or anything like that, that simple, that easy. Then, obviously, you have to write your text above it. What a lot of people aren’t aware is that you can’t put your emojis in the text unless you copy and paste it from elsewhere. If anybody’s tried to send people with emojis and gone, “How do they do that because I can’t seem to manage it?” you have to write your post on your normal Facebook feed and then copy and paste it into the box.

Jon: Talking about the videos for a second, I do quite a lot of work in the fashion industry, and one of the things I see a lot of companies doing now is creating like 15-second adverts based on just one product. One item of clothing, one dress, one pair of trousers, one pair of shoes, something like that, and they’re literally just snappy little short 15-second video ads. Does this sort of thing really work well?

Nikki: Yes, absolutely. Especially for Instagram Stories, I think it was ASOS that reported like a 30% uplift in the space of a few months just by using Instagram Stories. Also, they have to be a maximum of 15 seconds, that’s obviously why they’re quite short. I guess, previously, people used to stick a carousel loop with five, six, seven, eight different products and hope that the user liked one of them. Businesses and fashion e-commerce is now going for a more snippet approach and go, “Okay, this is one dress. We feel pretty confident that this is a really great dress. Our sales says so, our PR says so. All the efforts are telling us this is a good product. We’re going to rely on it, trust it, and do a short video, put that out there.” That’s working really, really well.

Jon: Should we run one ad or more than one ad at a time?

Nikki: I guess, it depends on your budget. If you’re a really, really, tiny, tiny, little business and you’ve only got like £30 a month or something to spend, then you probably can’t afford to run more than one ad because most of them have a minimum amount set at £5 a day. If you only got like 30 quid or so, then you’re going to run out of money after a few days. If you’ve got a bigger budget into the hundreds, then you should definitely have multiple ads set. For example, if you’re selling iPods, just say that was your business, you might want to have one ad set, which is for young people going off to university, and you might want another ad set for pensioners.

You’re not going to have the same message in both of those adverts. For your young person who’s going off to university, your text and your video might be like, “Look at what you can do when you go to university?” “You can download this, you can download that.” If it’s somebody older, you might want to say, “You can watch the news while in bed.” “You could talk to your grandkids.” The message is going to be slightly different in terms of who your audience is, and so, you want to hit as many audiences as possible.

Jon: I was talking to somebody, earlier on in the year, who sells laptops, and they say that they target retirees, so anybody over, say, the age of 60 years old with laptops in August because they see a massive uptake in grandparents buying kids laptops to go to university.

Nikki: Yes, absolutely. Again, Facebook advertising, a huge amount of it is psychology and understanding some behavioral psychology. I always say this in my seminars, “Whatever it is that you’re doing, other people are probably doing it too.” If every Saturday night, you sit there watching X Factor with your husband or your wife, and you’re watching it but you’re not really watching because you’re scrolling through Facebook and you’re half listening, half not, other people are probably doing the same thing too.

If you get up first thing in the morning and before you get out of bed and have a shower, you scroll through Facebook, scroll through LinkedIn, have a quick look on Twitter, check your email then get out of bed, chances are, everyone else is too. Understand the behavior of other people and then create your ads to leverage that.

Jon: Let’s move on to budget and about paying for all this. We can pay CPM, CPC, CPA, dear Lord. CPM is cost-per-thousand?

Nikki: Yes, they’re your cost words. It’s actually cost-per-mile so, yes, that’s obviously per thousand. The only campaign objective that won’t charge you CPM is the traffic one, the traffic objective. If you choose the traffic objects, you can’t change that to CPC, but the rest of them are impressions.

Jon: The CPM is basically just impressions, how many times somebody sees my advert, it has nothing to do with clicks or anything like that?

Nikki: Yes, literally. You could have 10,000 people see it and not a single person take action, but you’re still going to pay for that.

Jon: CPC which is the cost-per-click, which is self-explanatory, you pay, basically, when somebody clicks on the advert?

Nikki: Yes. I tend to use that more often than anything else, especially for smaller budgets because smaller budgets want to see some traction before they start paying for it, so you’re only paying when somebody clicks. Okay, there’s no guarantee that they’ll cover or carry on further after that, but at least, they’ve expressed some kind of interest. You can also pay per engagement, PPA, which is obviously an engagement one, which is when somebody likes it, comments on it.

That can mislead people a little bit because you pay even when somebody clicks to read more. If you’ve got loads of text and somebody clicked “Read More,” and it expands, they open to read some more of it, Facebook will charge you for that even though they haven’t actually left any trace of themselves.

Jon: The final one is the CPA, the cost-per-action, like, I suppose, if somebody fills in a lead generation form?

Nikki: Yes, so lead gen. I do quite a lot of lead gen ads, and they work really, really well for certain types of businesses like recruitment who are people looking for jobs, marketers who are looking for retainer-type work, every sorts of things, business coaches, they work really well. You get charged per lead. After a few days, they’ll be like, “Your average is £1.96 per lead.” They’re not always going to be same. You might get one person who’s £1.96 and the next person who’s £7.10, but it’ll just give you an average over the course of your entire campaign as you keep an eye on those.

If you’re going to run those, it’s better to separate out your ad sets. For example, I’ve got one lead gen, one running at the moment, and my 18 to 30 male is costing way, way more than my 30- to 45-year-old male, literally, like four times the price, so because I’ve separated those two ad sets, I’ve now got the option to switch one off but keep the other one running. Whereas, if I’d amalgamate them all together, it’s a one big ad set, 18 to 40, I’d be stuck with the poor performing parts as well as the good performing parts, which is why it’s better to separate the two out sometimes.

Jon: This is what you create in the Facebook ad manager thingy. You create a campaign and then you can create multiple ad sets, and you’d have multiple ads within the different ad set, and you can target all the different ad sets and ads, all at different things.

Nikki: Absolutely. I’ve got digital marketing day in January, and so, with my ad sets, I might have business page owners, female, business pages owners, male, outside of my area, 18 to 30, outside of my area, 40 to 45, like so many different- some will be retargeting, some will be LinkedIn, so you can obviously retarget email addresses out of LinkedIn. I might have like 10 different ad sets running at the same time.

You do have to be careful of overlap, though. Sometimes, you can obviously have one overlapping the other and you’re essentially in a race against yourself than you’re competing against yourself and you’re bidding against yourself. Just be mindful. A little bit of overlap’s okay, but just make sure that you don’t got like 10 ad sets that are all overlapping each other.

Jon: Can we set limits as well? Because I’ve seen people who haven’t set limits with Google AdWords before, and they’ve had a bill. Can we set limits with Facebook and say, I don’t want to spend more than this a day or more than this a month or a campaign or whatever?

Nikki: Yes. You can set a limit on your ad account, so it might be when it’ll stop everything or send you a notification rate at £100 or £50 or £1,000, whatever. When you very first start out, it’ll be really low, anyway, to start with. When you’ve got a brand new ad account and you’ve not spent anything on it before, Facebook literally won’t allow you to spend more than about 40 quid before it’ll invoice you. You clear the invoice, and if that payment goes through correctly and it’s all okay, they’ll let you carry on. It’ll start off quite small, and then as your ad account matures, they’ll raise your credit limit, a little bit like a credit card.

Jon: When we put all this live, we’ve created our audience, we’ve got our nice looking little video ads going, we’ve decided how much we want to spend, we want to put it live and everything, what’s the best way to actually monitor the results?

Nikki: It depends on the type of campaign and what your objectives are. Obviously, you want to be looking at your cost-per-click. I would like to hope that people will be using it with analytics as well and keeping an eye on the Google Analytics and the behavior and setting the tags so that you can see which campaign it’s come from. You know yourself, obviously, whether or not you’re getting sales from it. Often, with my clients, I take the view that whatever their cost of the goods is, anything, as long as they’ve covered the cost of goods and they’re not making a loss, can’t do that for a first sale because a lot of them take them as a- especially in fashion, a lot of the first sales were a loss-leader.

Some companies are happy to take loss-leader for the first one. For example, beauty salons. If you’ve got somebody coming into a beauty salon which is a set of nails, that costs 20 quid but their margin on it is 10 quid. They might spend £20 acquiring that customer, so they might have lost £10 by acquiring that customer, but nails need doing every two weeks. Then, they might come in and they go, “You do lashes and you do brows and you do this and you do that,” so it’s the lifetime value of that customer.

Everybody has a different way of measuring it. It’s a little bit difficult to say because you might be happy to do a loss-leader, but there’s a lot of B2B who do an initial assessment phone call, like a loss-leading phone call, of giving some free advice to begin with. It’s all down to our business and down to the margin as well.

Jon: You mentioned Google Analytics, so we can connect all this up to Google Analytics and, presumably, track things through the goals, like somebody has filled in a form or got a lead generation form on a website or something?

Nikki: Yes, absolutely. Everybody should most definitely be using Google Analytics because you want to see what pages people– I might have landed people on my digital marketing day in Preston, but they might have then gone on to have a look at a digital marketing day in Leeds or something, so actually, it might be that they were actually a little bit closer to Leeds than they were to Preston. I can see- to be able to see where people are coming from, where they’re exiting, if I’ve got one page that everyone’s exiting on. I often find that a lot of people come through on an ad, then they go to my blog, and certain blogs, two or three blog topics that everybody keeps reading over and over again.

That gives me a little bit of insight into what problems people are having. I’ve got one particular one which is the five things you’ll do wrong with Facebook ads, and everybody always goes to that one. That’s telling me that everybody has got the same issues that everybody is having all of the time. There’s another that’s, “Why does your ad keep getting disapproved and rejected by Facebook?” The fact that so many people keep going there suggests to me that everybody has had disapprovals where they’re scratching their heads going, “I don’t understand why this has been rejected.”

Jon: I think it’s nice to be able to spot patterns of behavior in people. I certainly know when people land on one of my training pages, if they go to either the podcast page next or they go to the “Meet Jon” page, the “About Me” page next, then I reckon about 85%, 90% certain then that I’m going to get a lead generated, somebody is going to fill in a form. The goal then is to try and make it really, really easy for people to hit those two pages because those are the two pages that are building the authority.

Nikki: Yes, absolutely. That’s obviously when your internal links become quite important. When I’ve got an event page and I’m talking about boosting posts, for example, I’ll say, “You’ve probably been boosting posts in your business and that’s why you’re looking at this.” Then, I’ll have the, “Read here the ten reasons why you shouldn’t be boosting posts,” so then, I’ll be- they’re already warm. I’ll make sure that that blog opens in a new box. I don’t want to take them out of the event page that they’re already in. I might need to reaffirm my authority and credibility of how much I know with that post just to secure them further down the line.

It’s making sure that your internal links on your page and the external links as well to any PR that you’ve had or anything, again, any award winning, anything that further reaffirms your authority, especially somewhere in marketing where there’s so many marketers out there, as a business, if you’re looking to hire a marketer, it must be so difficult. It’s like web design, it’s the same. I must know 50 web designers and I have no idea which one is the best out of them. I’m sure that they probably feel very much the same about me in using marketing. They probably go, “I know 50 people who do social media and marketing, and I have no idea which one knows their stuff and which one doesn’t.”

Jon: I suppose, we’re connecting all these ads up to Google Analytics, you can figure out which ads are working the best. Because, a lot of the time, you might be generating quite a bit of traffic through a specific ad but you might not be generating many sales through that ad.

Nikki: Absolutely. Sometimes, that’s one of the reasons why people often switch off Instagram as one of their placements because, historically, generally speaking, Instagram tends to get a lot of traffic but not a lot of conversion, so sometimes, like the mobile news feed, you’re going to pay more for the mobile news feed as a placement than other placements because it’s more valuable as inventory. But because people know that the click-through rate and then the conversion rate from it is so much higher, the return on ad spend is so much higher from those that are happy to pay it.

Always keep an eye out. You don’t look at an ad and go, “Wow, I’ve had 1,000 people click through to this and each one only cost me 2p each.” That’s all very well and good as long as they’re buying or they’re converting at the end of it if they come in looking and leaving. However, having said that, it depends on your funnel. You might have a top funnel, so it’s purely awareness. You know that people are going to come in, look and leave, and you know about them because your plan is to retarget them with ads further down the funnel. It’s just purely top funnel stuff.

I did that with my blog. My blog is top funnel stuff. I will write a blog which might be, I’d say, “Five big mistakes you’re making with Facebook,” or whatever it might be, and I know that those people are going to come to my website, read the first two paragraphs, probably, and then leave. That’s okay because I just want them to have a little bit of familiarity over who I am and what I do so that in a couple of weeks time when I retarget them with ads, then it’s going to be a slightly warmer audience further down the funnel.

Jon: Fascinating chatting about this. Maybe you can come back in a couple of months’ time or something and talk more about pixels and audiences and things like that because I find it quite fascinating.

Nikki: Yes, definitely.

Jon: Cool. Thanks for your time, Nikki, I appreciate it, and tell me where we can find you?

Nikki: As you can probably imagine, I am Nikki Hesford Business Academy on Facebook, and my website address is nikkihesford.co.uk. I’m on Twitter, on Instagram under my name, or on LinkedIn, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or like my page and leave me a comment to let me know that you’ve heard me on this podcast.

Jon: Fantastic. Thanks for your time, Nikki, appreciate it.

Nikki: Cheers. Thanks, John.