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Finally! Here we get to the meat of this sandwich: building a campaign on Facebook to sell some bloody books. 

First a few pearls from the community chest:

  1. Not a Facebook fan? Here's some alternative reading for you: I published a GIANT guide on how to move from Mailchimp to MailerLite. It covers pricing and feature differences, the logistics of moving your list, how to rebuild your automations, and some hidden pitfalls to look out for. Read it here.
  2. If you missed last week's amazing DepositPhotos deal - 100 photo credits for the knock-down price of $49 (a saving of $451 of the sticker price), then you can still grab it right here. Which I highly recommend doing ASAP as they will run out of stock any day now.
  3. I'm interviewed by William Bernhardt in this podcast where we talk about word of mouth, marketing, where to shelve your book, and what triggers bursts of creativity. I think my segment starts at 18:38.

Facebook 7: Building A Campaign

Before we get into this, you might want to review what we’ve already covered, which you can do quite handily in my spiffy new Email Archive (link below), which is exclusive to newsletter subscribers.

You can find the first six episodes of this Facebook series there, where we covered how to make a pretty Facebook Page, and why that’s the first step you need to take with Facebook Ads (even if you never take another!). Then we looked at a very effective – and very free – way to build up top quality, organic Likes on that buffed up Facebook Page via content marketing. Next we moved on to ways to speed that process along with small, strategic spends, but still making sure those Likes rolling in are of the highest quality – we can’t build our House of Ads  on sub-par foundations – and spoke a little about Awareness campaigns.

With that under our belt, we finally started looking at Facebook Ads proper, explaining the various targeting options. Then, in the most recent episode, as this patient build up had been testing the patience of experienced users, we skipped ahead to show an advanced mirroring and cloning technique which multiplies engagement and social proof on your ads, boosting their CTRs, dropping their CPCs, and increasing conversion too. And why all that is the mutt's nuts.

Oh, and speaking of results, we also looked at the increasingly topical question of whether you can trust Facebook. And the answer was, “Eh.” Anyway, I showed you how Facebook massages the data in its favor, and how to wrangle it back into something approaching reality.

Catch up with all those episodes in my too-new-to-be-famous Email Archive. (BTW, I know that looks a little basic right now, but I’ll tart it up over the next few weeks.)

Today, we’ll take a little step back and I’ll show you how I build a basic Facebook campaign, because I’m not like other boys.

I will also not explain every single option in the interface, for that way lies madness, instead I’ll show you how I personally set it up, and why I make the choices I do – because some of it will be idiosyncratic, or clash with what [insert advice from your Facebook guru of choice] said.

As you should know by now, I tend to do things my own way. But at least I’ll explain my choices so you can see my logic, and perhaps there will be elements you can swindle for your own set-up, even if you don’t mainline the entire enchilada.

Your Ad Interface

Ugh. Straight away we run into a problem for anyone explaining how Facebook Ads work: there are two interfaces.

Ads Manager is the regular ads interface and the one you are probably using – it’s what everyone starts off on, at least.

Business Manager is something anyone can apply for, and it’s a more professional set up with extra features. Some people don’t like it, but I find it invaluable if you manage more than one Page, and it’s essential if you ever run ads for a third-party. But the reason I really like it is that I don’t get notifications from friends about all their dank memes when trying to wrangle an ad campaign – it separates work and play nicely.

Anyway, I only really mention it now in case something I describe looks slightly different in your interface. Don’t sweat it. There are lots of little differences like that but root around and you’ll find what you need. I’ll try and refer to features and buttons by their proper terms, instead of what I do at home, which is “The Bid Thingy” or “The Targeting Wotsit.”

What you need right now is to navigate to your Ads Manager, and click Create Campaign. Facebook has changed the interface recently, so it might all look quite new if you haven’t logged in for a bit, but we’ll go over all that when talking about measuring results. For now, go ahead and click that Create Campaign button.

Creating a Campaign

You will get whisked to the ad creation interface, which is also all new and fancy and streamlined. Definitely less clunky than before. Less buggy too.

There are a bunch of choices at this stage – headlined by the question What’s your marketing objective? – but you can ignore everything except for Traffic. This is a basic sales campaign we are building, pointing at Amazon, hawking books. You are looking for clicks, plain and simple. A Traffic Campaign is what you need. Click that.

Underneath, you will be asked to name your campaign. I recommend getting into the habit of having certain naming conventions so you know what each campaign is at a glance. For example, I often name my campaigns something like “July 19 Digital Sale Static Amz US” or whatever. That might mean nothing to you, but I know that it refers to a static image ad campaign pushing a 99c sale on Let’s Get Digital on Amazon USA in July 2019 – and I can tell that at a glance (FYI: no such sale exists!). Come up with your own shorthand. Make it something you can find easily in a search too. Future-you will be grateful.

Budget & Campaign Structure

Here is where Facebook is making HUGE changes in September, so I think it’s best to get ahead of that now and get used to the new system they are forcing us into. It’s controversial. I don’t like it. But I also don’t like swimming against the tide.

How it used to work was like this: Facebook Ads has three levels: CampaignsAd sets, and Ads. The Campaign level is what we are talking about now. This is where you set your objectives. Campaigns contain one or more Ad sets – which is where you set things like budget targeting and bids and placement. And then the Ad sets themselves can contain one or more actual Ads. These Ads are the image and text combinations which people see in their Facebook feeds and elsewhere.

To give a concrete example: in my imaginary 99c sale on Digital, I might have one campaign with several ad sets in it each targeting different audiences I have identified. And then each ad set might actually have several different ads in it, with different image variations and/or text. You don’t have to set it up like that, you can just have one campaign with one ad set in it, containing just one ad, but the possibility is there.

The structure takes a little while to get your head around if you are unfamiliar, so if that describes you, take some time to review it here.

So, what’s changing?

Previously we tended to set budget at the ad set level. So if I had one ad set targeting my list, and another targeting Comp Author A, and third targeting Comp Author B, I would assign a budget to each of those. I might decide to drop $40 a day targeting my list, $50 a day targeting Comp Author A because that’s a juicy target for me, and maybe just $10 a day targeting Comp Author B because I’m a little more iffy about that one.

But Facebook doesn’t want us to do that anymore and is forcing us into a system where it’s all being dumbed down. Instead it just wants us to assign the entire budget at the campaign level – in the case of this example, $100 a day – and let the system apportion the budget as it sees fit.

Now, there are advanced tricks to get around that, but we’ll get into those in a future episode. For now, just assign your budget at the campaign level as Facebook is suggesting. Best get used to the new system. Start small, with something like $5 a day, while you’re testing and learning.

Before you hit that big CONTINUE button, there’s one more option to look at: Campaign bid strategy. The default is Lowest cost – I recommend you change this. Again, Facebook is simplifying a lot of things in the ad interface but not all of it is good. At least, it’s not good for authors and how we typically run ads.

Facebook is deploying lots of machine learning these days, and it wants us to cede control to the system and let it decide what CPCs we want to bid and how we want to divvy up our budget. Problem is, the system is a little slow on the uptake. It can take a few days to click into gear and find those cheaper clicks. But by that time, our 99c sale could be over, and Facebook will have been throwing around $2 CPC bids like it’s Z-berg’s birthday.

Switch it to Bid Cap in that drop down menu. This will allow you to put a limit on those bids, so the system doesn’t get drunk on power. You will be able to set a max CPC bid for each of your ad sets with this option selected. Later on, when your ads are in better shape, and if you are running a longer term ad, like for a full-price book or a permafree series opener, you can experiment with ceding that control to the system, and see if it finds you cheaper clicks, but save that for later. For now we’ll keep it on a tighter leash. Now hit CONTINUE.

Ad Sets: Audience (i.e. targeting)

We’re at the Ad set level now, which is the real nitty gritty of the set-up. This will determine who your ads are pointing at, where those ads appear, and how much you pay to show them. Needless to say, these settings can make or break a campaign. Pop a name in for your ad set (I usually copy in my campaign name and then add some info on the targeting to distinguish it from any other ad sets I have in the same campaign – e.g. “Campaign Name – Comp Author B.”). Scroll by the TrafficDynamic Creative, and Offer settings as we won’t touch those.

Audience is next and is very important. This is where we determine our targeting – i.e. who sees our ads. Now, I wrote a whole episode about targeting already, so I won’t repeat myself. Go back to Part 4 in the email archive if you need a refresher. In short, I recommend you pick a Custom Audience or an Interest Audience – ignore Lookalikes for now as they are for more experienced users.

Again, Part 4 goes into much more detail on all this, but Custom Audiences are based off information you feed to Facebook – things like your website visitors, email list, or people who have interacted with your Page previously, or your Awareness campaigns (Part 3 goes into those) and so on.

Absolute beginners will probably want to stick with Interest Audiences for now, which are based of information Facebook already has, like the various Pages that people Like. You will find this in the section marked Detailed targeting – which is just below the demographic options.

In theory, that’s amazing – being able to target the authors and genres that readers are interested in. However, in practice, coverage is super patchy. In some genres like Romance, you might be able to find quite a few of your comp authors are selectable here. In other genres like Science Fiction, you mightn’t be able to find one of your comp authors. What do you do if that describes you? Try targeting your genre. These are sometimes a little more niche than the choices at BookBub. Have a search and see if there is anything useful for you. If you strike out completely, you are going to have to dive into Custom Audiences instead and/or come at this in a roundabout way by picking slightly more oblique interests.

Targeting is a topic we will most certainly return to in more detail, so let’s move on as there is lots more to cover on basic ad creation. I’ll just wrap up by saying that you want that dial on the right hand side in the green zone. If it’s in the red zone, it may not run at all – you are targeting too narrowly. If it’s in the yellow zone, you are definitely targeting too broadly.

I know you will want me to give a hard number for the size of the audience you should target, but that will only lead you astray as you can make a wide range work, depending. But personally speaking, I like audiences of at least a few thousand, preferably 10,000 or more, and then often see results taper off north of 50,000. That’s for targeting people on Amazon US. I’m far more comfortable with smaller audiences in smaller countries – and so is the system.

Whether you go with a Custom Audience or an Interest Audience, you can narrow it further with various demographic options. For example, I know that women aged 35-54 tend to respond best to my Facebook Ads, so if an author I’m targeting has a huge audience and my ad is going to get shown to 500,000 people or something, I’ll narrow that audience by restricting my ad to women aged 35-54. You might need to play around with this a little to get the right audience size.

Don’t forget to narrow your audience by Kindle ownership if you are running ads to Amazon. This is really important and will have a massive effect on the success of your ads.

OK, this is pretty long already so let’s snip it there for this week, and we’ll wrap up this basic guide to ad creation next week.


P.S. Writing music this week is William Onyeabor.

David Gaughran

Broomfield Business Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland

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