Survey Says? Retargeting with Facebook Exchange Works… Really Really Well!

Terrah    July 3, 2013

Facebook exchange

Unlike traditional media, online advertising offers marketers the ability to fine-tune their direct marketing strategy by using cookies, which are unique identifiers to specific computers.  Marketers often use these cookies to track whether a user left a page without buying anything, so they can later retarget the user with specific ads related to the site the user visited. 

Retargeting is an effective technique which tends to generate a higher ROI than any other display advertising channel.  But these ads are only effective if seen.  With headlines that read “More than half of online ads fail viewability standard”, marketers may find themselves questioning the value of premium online ad placement – directly placed, through ad networks or through ad exchanges. 

Worry not, fellow marketers – Facebook is at it once again. 

With the launch of Facebook Exchange (FBX) last year, for the first time ever, marketers were able to retarget potential customers who previously browsed their site with Facebook ads.  Unlike other Facebook advertising offerings that are targeted based on a user’s profile information or actions on Facebook, advertising on FBX is powered by customer intent data (how the user interacted with a certain website outside of Facebook) and served through right-hand side (RHS) ad units.  Note: FBX ads cannot be purchased directly through Facebook and must be purchased with an FBX Qualified Company.

It was a great first step, but if these ads are being placed on the right-hand side of the page there’s still a risk of banner blindness, where visitors consciously or unconsciously ignore these banner-like ads because of where they’re placed on the page.

In May of this year, Facebook made a move which should greatly improve the viewability of these ads.  They’ve expanded FBX by introducing Page Post Link Ads (PPLAs), which are highly visible and highly engaging units that bring the benefits of FBX retargeting into its most prominent real estate – the News Feed.   

In their June 2013 report on FBX, AdRoll summarizes the key features of these new News Feed ads:

“Unlike standard Facebook posts that can support various types of media: links, videos, photos, events, or even offers, FBX only currently supports PPLAs on desktop browsers.  As the name implies, Page Post Link Ads link to an external site rather than another Facebook Page—an important distinction that makes these units optimal for direct response marketing. In addition to a 154×154 pixel image, these units have multiple fields for marketing copy and call-to-actions. Their large size and prominent placement make them nearly impossible to miss when inserted into the News Feed.”

SurveyMonkey logoBusinesses, such as SurveyMonkey, are taking advantage of Facebook’s retargeting opportunities and are seeing results.   In a recent advanced retargeting campaign, they teamed up with Triggit, an FBX Qualified Company, to create better user segmentation so they could retarget specific users with more relevant calls-to-action while lowering CPAs.

The approach:

  • They identified 3 user segments they wanted to retarget based on their browsing behaviors, not just pageview hits: new users with no log-ins, basic users, and abandoned cart users.
  • Sitemap IDs were created with exclusion targeting so user segments didn’t overlap.
  • A variety of different ad creatives with specific calls-to-action were tailored to their corresponding user segments.

The results:

  • The campaign saw its CPA drop 1.5x lower than past basic retargeting campaign results.
  • Users with higher intent showed better conversion results. For example, SurveyMonkey saw retargeted users in the ‘abandon cart’ segment return twice the number of conversions than users in the ‘no login’ segment.  The ‘basic users’ segment saw a 125% higher conversion rate.
  • Not only did ‘abandon cart’ show the highest number of conversions, but it also lowered CPA by as much as 1146%

Lessons for others:

  • Understand how the features differ.  FBX News Feed ads are not only larger than Facebook’s RHS ads, they’re qualitatively different in very significant way – they’re likeable, shareable, and commentable; they function in a way that makes Facebook Facebook which makes them fit naturally into the News Feed.  These ads can also benefit from a viral effect, which means potential for high volumes of earned reach in addition to paid reach.
  • Understand the potential.  According to AdRoll’s analysis of over 1 billion retargeting ad impressions, News Feed ads click-through rates (CTR) were most impressive: 49x higher than RHS and 21x higher than standard web retargeting.  This also translates into much lower costs: 79 percent lower cost-per-click (CPC) compared to web retargeted ads, and 54 percent less than Facebook’s right-hand ads.
  • Understand that it’s just the beginning.  The 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report surveyed over 3000 marketers and found that Facebook is clearly the top choice for social marketing, with over 92 percent using the platform and 66 percent planning to increase their Facebook activity.  But, only 1 in 3 (37%) feel their Facebook marketing is effective.  With new Facebook advertising opportunities, like FBX News Feed ads, I expect these numbers to increase this year and into the next.
  • And tread cautiously.  Mashable offers a word of caution, however, when using these types of data-driven social advertising platforms.  They note,

“The challenge will be for these sites to act smartly and display sensitivity, to manage users’ comfort level with data security and third-party relationships. As long as they keep taking baby steps, they’ll find the revenue they need to grow, as they explore new ways to work with brands and develop integrated social media experiences.”  

While FBX News Feed ads offer tremendous opportunities for marketers and will likely provide tremendous returns, on a personal level, I agree with Mashable’s stance.  Although it may be convenient to see an ad for a new camping tent sale after I’ve just been ranting to friends on Facebook or searching outfitter sites for deals, if I begin to see these ‘coincidences’ a little too often I’ll start to feel like I’m being targeted.  Worse yet, I might feel like someone’s actually watching my activity… and well, it starts to feel a bit creepy and I’ll think twice about visiting sites for those companies. 

Web references:

Submitted by: Terrah Warner – SMBP Student University of Waterloo
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