Decoding the Facebook Learning Phase
Published: January 8, 2019
Author: Tyler Cotman
How can you find goal-based success each week in your Facebook campaigns? The secret is understanding the most basic aspect of the Facebook algorithm: the learning phase. Though cracking the Facebook algorithm is about as complex as figuring out what makes up your credit score, developing a deeper understanding of what makes the algorithm work for you can lay the groundwork for long-term success in your campaigns. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind before optimizing your accounts to ensure the algorithm works in your favor.
What Is the Learning Phase?
After every new launch, Facebook puts your campaigns in what’s called the “learning phase.” This is the time frame in which Facebook is learning about how your ads interact with your audience, gathering auction insights on their back end, and better understanding where and how to serve to your target market. The learning phase lasts until your ad set receives the recommended 50 events. (Note: an event depends on your campaign goals. For example, if you are running a conversion campaign, Facebook would need 50 conversions to occur before ending the learning phase.) In order to have long-term success and ensure Facebook finds all the learnings necessary when launching your campaigns, it’s best not to make any changes while Facebook is in the learning phase.
The learning phase doesn’t only occur when you initially launch a campaign; it also occurs when you make a major change to your campaigns, a change that would cause Facebook to relearn how to serve to your audience.
Major Account Changes vs. Minor Account Changes
Typically in your Facebook campaigns, especially if performance is looking promising, you want to avoid staying in the learning phase post-launch. Avoiding the learning phase helps to avoid major changes or inconsistency in performance, both of which make it nearly impossible to run a successful account. It’s important to strategically plan impactful changes that will reset the algorithm and avoid changes when they aren’t necessary.
Here are some account changes that would reset your history and bring you back into the learning phase, according to Facebook:
- Major Budget Changes
- Typically, we see a budget increase or decrease of more than 20% reset the algorithm and put us back into the learning phase. Campaign Budget Optimization is one lever you could pull to avoid a budget-related setback into the learning phase.
- Ad Launches
- Edits to current creative as well as launching new creative.
- Audience Changes
- Changes in targeting, exclusions, and ESPECIALLY optimization events.
- Bidding changes
- Editing bid caps, switching from lowest cost to target cost bidding, and changing bidding optimization for ad delivery.
Minimizing the amount of major changes in your account can help Facebook find your cheapest converters more easily. The more information and history the account has, the more you are setting yourself up for success to keep consistent costs. The most important thing to remember: Your Facebook account is NOT like your search account; making daily optimizations will reset your history in the long run.
The Importance of Providing Facebook with Enough Data
As mentioned previously, the learning phase requires generally around 50 event completions (conversions, link clicks, leads depending on campaign objective) until an ad set is no longer in the learning phase. For this reason, it’s important to think strategically about what optimization event you’d like to optimize against.
For example, say you run an ecommerce campaign for an item with a high price point. Not only is it costly to gather 50 conversion events, but it also takes a long time, so you will be in the learning phase for longer, potentially dealing with performance inconsistencies. You may want to consider optimizing up the funnel from Purchases to, say, Add to Carts, where you easily see 50 events fire per week. This will help give the auction enough information and limit your time in the learning phase when you make changes and optimize more quickly in the Facebook auction.
- Be smart about account changes. Daily optimizations aside from ad pausing and small budget adjustments may not be necessary.
- Ensure you optimize toward an event where you can get around 50 conversions/ week.
- Work with the learning phase strategically to optimize your campaigns.