It’s that time of year again.  The holiday retail season will soon be in full swing.  Search advertisers have grown accustomed to the Q4 retail advertising push and are already ramping up their SEM and Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns.  But for the Facebook marketer, effectively running product-level advertising can be a significant challenge.

Unlike Search, in which keywords and, in many ways, the ads themselves are “evergreen,” Facebook ads decay rapidly and need to be refreshed regularly.  Likewise in Search, direct response advertisers can effectively upload their entire product catalog and promote a specific product only when a user has searched for it or something similar.  But Facebook users don’t demonstrate their intent through searches, so direct response social marketers must take a different approach.

This post will describe some best practices that you can employ to effectively run product-level advertising on Facebook and help drive demand and revenue for your organization this holiday season.

1. Select top trending and performing products

The first rule for product ads on Facebook is that you need to be selective.  Marketing your entire product catalog would be a waste of budget.  This doesn’t mean that product ads can’t be effective; you simply need to choose wisely.

Only advertise your top performing and trending products.  You can identify these by looking at which products are getting the most “likes” on your site or are driving the most revenue.  If you are a Search or PLA advertiser, look at which products are driving the most click volume, the highest conversion rate (CVR) or return on investment (ROI).  These are the most powerful signals you have as to which products are likely to perform well on Facebook.

2. Know your audience

The next step for successful product advertising on Facebook is audience targeting.  If you are not using Custom and Lookalike Audiences already, now is the time to start.  First, create a Custom Audience from your entire customer list.  Next, segment your customer list by product category or brand preferences based on the products you selected in Step 1 and create a Custom Audience for each of these.  Now, create Lookalike Audiences from each of your Custom Audiences.  And finally, be sure to gather a library of your top performing precise interest targets.  You will use these in subsequent steps.

3.  Choose campaign structure, segment audiences and set budgets

Now that you know which products and brands you are going to advertise and which audiences you will target, you’ll need to create your ads, structure your campaigns and set budgets.

Best practices in ad copy and images have been written about extensively, so I won’t go into it here.  But suffice to say that you will want to use high-resolution images of the products, and keep ad headlines and copy short and to the point.  Try variations on “Shop [brand] [category]”, and “Find [brand] [product name] starting from [price].”  As an example, you might have “Shop ACME Rockets” as a headline and “Find ACME Rockets starting from $29.99.”

Dynamic Ad Copy Using Product Attributes

Dynamic Ad Copy Using Product Attributes

In terms of campaign structure, you will have to choose whether to run one ad per campaign or multiple ads per campaign.  One ad per campaign is best when you want to control delivery and budget for a single ad, in this case a single product, and when you want to A/B test creative.  Multiple ads per campaign can work well when you want to let Facebook control which ad (product) in a campaign gets displayed based on click-through rate.

Once you’ve chosen your campaign structure, you’ll need to refine your audience targets.  Start with your Custom and Lookalike Audiences.  If you want to target existing customers for repeat purchase, you’ll target your Custom Audiences.  If you only want new customers, you’ll want to target your Lookalikes and exclude your Custom Audiences. Use your brand and product category audience segments whenever you can.  Go to the full customer list and precise interests if you need more reach.

You can segment your campaigns further by selecting one or two other targeting elements, such as age or gender, but don’t get carried away.  You can easily end up with far too many ad and target permutations that will ultimately not perform and will eat up valuable budget.

Expect to budget at least $50 per image/ad per audience target.  For example, if you choose 5 images and 4 audience variations, you should expect to budget at least $50x4x5 = $1,000 on that campaign in order to get a read as to performance.  From here, you’ll want to optimize spend by trimming out your worst performers.

4.  Lather, rinse, repeat

Earlier in the post, I mentioned that Facebook ads decay rapidly . . . basically, the lifespan for any ad permutation is 1 to 2 weeks.  You’ll counter this by refreshing images and ad copy, but you’ll also want to regularly select new products to advertise based on the performance signals you have from your website and Search/PLA campaigns at any given time.  You want to be prepared to take advantage of real-time trends that are taking place, and products that are getting a large numbers of likes, or are generating a lot of search activity are a good place to start.

Best practices aside, running product-specific ad campaigns on Facebook can be a significant and time-consuming challenge.  Creating, managing, optimizing and updating these highly targeted campaigns would be difficult to do without the aid of a 3rd party ad management platform to automate some of these processes.  Furthermore, many advertisers will not have systems in place to easily identify their top performing and trending products, as surprising as that may sound.

This is why Kenshoo Social introduced Demand-Driven CampaignsTM , which tie into advertiser inventory systems and Google Merchant Center catalogs to dynamically generate product ads from the attributes and images in the feeds.  By linking to PLA campaign data, advertisers can also easily find their top performing and trending products on Search and extend reach into new audiences on Facebook.

Whether you go it alone, or go with your favorite digital marketing platform, you should definitely go.  Product advertising on Facebook has arrived along with the 2013 holiday season.  Be sure you are not left out in the cold!

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Todd Herrold
Todd Herrold has over 15 years of digital marketing experience and is currently Kenshoo Social’s senior director of product marketing. In this role, Todd leads the product marketing team for Kenshoo’s global social media platform, a technology solution that helps agencies, brands and performance marketers illuminate and activate the full value of their social media investments. Prior to this, Todd served as Kenshoo Local’s director of product strategy & management, leading overall strategy and product development activities for Kenshoo’s leading search engine marketing (SEM) platform for aggregators of high volumes of SMB and local online advertisers. Before joining Kenshoo, he served in various product, marketing, business development, and general management roles at companies like Yodle, Web.com, AT&T, Time Warner, MarketWatch, and IDG. Todd holds an MBA in marketing and finance from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Wesleyan University.