A Deeper Look at News Feed Burnout
Published: January 7, 2014
Author: Alex Houg
Recently, Facebook said that at any point in time there are 1,500 items competing to show up in your News Feed. And according to “Zuckerberg’s Law,” the amount of sharing by people is doubling every year, leading to an overload of content.
On one hand, some advertisers are burning out the News Feed with the same old ads. Yet consumers and business pages alike are whining that they’re not getting exposure.
We already discussed how to diagnose News Feed burnout. Of course, you can run RHS (right-hand side) ads at frequencies of 10 or more for conversion-oriented campaigns and often still be okay. And we know that the frequencies on “always on” ads can be tricky, since these ads refresh with your latest post.
But how do you know when it’s time to tweak your ad (different images), try out the same content on a different audience, attempt another placement and connection combo, or move on to a completely different piece of content?
THE WRONG WAY TO DO IT
Multiply out combinations of images, headlines, body copy, and destination urls.
This is not Google PPC, where it’s a fresh set of users searching that keyphrase every day. You get only one chance in the News Feed with a user. So even if your frequency “appears” low, because you’ve run 8 variations on the same ad, your cumulative frequency at the campaign level is still the true frequency. You should be placing similar ads with similar objectives in the same campaign, so you can compare apples-to-apples.
Turn ads on and off.
Some Facebook ad vendors attempt to produce a duct tape version of frequency capping (hint: there is none). Turning ads on and off every hour or every other day doesn’t make them necessarily last longer. If anything, you want your interactions to occur in the same timeframe, since that’s when social interactions are most powerful. (Would you eat cold french fries?)
Some Facebook ads companies will take the most popular (most engaging) posts of last week and re-promote them, such that their ads are always a week behind, instead of always on.
The reality of reported frequency, whether at the ad or the campaign level is that you’re getting an average. So if the frequency on one ad is two, there are likely some people up at 3-4 impressions and others at just one impression. There is no cap except in premium reach-block ad units where you can specify a News Feed cap of 1 and a RHS cap of 5. You need to spend at least $50k a month for these and buy these through a Facebook rep on a high fixed CPM. Probably not a good choice except for non-performance advertisers.
THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT
We advocate the “always on” approach, using a 3-campaign funnel system of audience, engagement, and conversion. If you post once a day, set your ads by placement, and fix your budget to not to cover a multiple of the intended audience, then you’ll never hit News Feed burnout.
But that requires that you diligently post once a day. If you skip a few days, the always on page-post ad will continue to promote that now stale post. Even though Facebook will naturally cap out News Feed exposure, whether by a soft frequency cap or too much negative feedback, you shouldn’t rely upon this.
We’ve seen a couple global brands let the same ad copy literally run for a whole year without ever rotating it or even trying out different audiences. (Hint: it’s a German beer company that rhymes with “decks”.) The frequency was well over 100, though RHS.
Consider your top and middle of funnel ad strategy to be purely amplification of your organic strategy. In other words, you’re promoting (not boosting) your posts and sponsored stories from your fans. Save dark posts, especially page post link ads, for conversion campaigns that drive conversions on your site.
Use CTR as an early indicator of burnout. A low CTR is a symptom of something not right with either the targeting, content, or frequency. In most cases, you won’t be able to know explicitly which factor. But if you have set up multiple targets (thanks to smart cloning of ads in Power Editor), then you have a rough idea.
This is how you determine if your ads are working or not.
Frequency is one of many factors to look at. We’ve seen Facebook ad campaigns that still convert at a frequency of 40, even though the CTR may have fallen. Determine what your target CPA is and whether you’re still generating marginal revenue.
We’ve not seen any software that properly diagnoses frequency by placement, even though the News Feed is holy compared to the RHS. So you’ll just have to watch this part carefully, making sure to not mix multiple placements per ad, even though it is possible to run a placement report after the fact.
You know that reach x frequency = impressions. So if you’re not getting the impressions you think you might, it could be that the audience is smaller than Facebook’s algorithm has estimated or you just can’t get any frequency. Force bids to $10 a click to make sure that you’re not getting left out. On small audiences, optimized CPM sometimes messes up.
Let us know your experience in how you determine what ads are working.