Of all the options available for direct response advertising on social channels, there’s no argument that Facebook dominates the landscape. The site is expected to take in nearly two thirds of all social ad revenues worldwide this year, and for good reason.
They continue to innovate and continue to add new tools and capabilities that help advertisers scale their campaigns and drive sales and lead gen affordably.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest improvements Facebook has made over the last 12 months that make a big difference to direct response advertisers in particular.
1. Dynamic Product Ads (you expected me to list Lead Ads first I bet, didn’t you? I’ll get to that...)
When it was introduced: February
Dynamic product ads offer you a number of ways to highlight different products on Facebook. After uploading your product catalog, you can create campaigns that target certain products to specific audiences, or you can let Facebook automatically deliver the most relevant products to people who might be more likely to make a purchase.
In August, the network added new flexibility and functionality to this type of ad unit by allowing advertisers to upsell and cross sell with improved categorization of products, opportunity to optimize for conversions vs. clicks, and extend their advertising into the Audience Network.
Sheryl Sandberg reported during Facebook’s Q3 Earnings Call that dynamic product ads are driving ROI comparable to paid search for some advertisers.
When it was introduced: July
The CPC update meant advertisers would only pay for clicks to their app or website (“link clicks”), and not for top-of-the-funnel engagement actions.
With this change, if you only care about link clicks, you should’ve started to see better ROAS, since your spend went only towards the most valuable outcome to meet your objectives.
This is true even if your CPC went up a bit: What was being called your Cost Per Click previously included clicks that were likes/comments/shares/scroll through the carousel cards, and therefore appeared to be cheaper - because they were adding in those "clicks" that did not actually go off site.
Now it is only the off site link clicks that count, so it appears as though they are costing more, but really you are just not paying for those worthless clicks that don’t actually lead to an opportunity to convert.
Engagement actions are still recorded and Facebook still sees them as valuable indicators of a high-quality ad, but for advertisers whose objectives are tied to direct conversions and business outcomes, this was a much welcomed change.
When it was introduced: September
Okay, maybe I should’ve listed this one first (these are not in any particular “ranking” order, btw).
There’s no denying that this was a huge win for direct response advertisers this year.
Instagram advertising has been effective over the last year+ for businesses looking to drive awareness and overall branding opportunities, but when the floodgates opened in September to allow anyone to advertise on Instagram via Facebook’s native tools, it was clear Instagram wanted to be a serious contender for direct response dollars.
By offering Call to Action buttons (“Shop Now,” “Install Now,” “Sign Up,” etc.) to ad formats, high performing ad units like carousel ads, and of course backed by the unrivaled targeting power of Facebook, there’s little doubt Instagram will be a staple in most of our clients’ media mix by this time next year, particularly if they keep the innovation coming at the pace at which Facebook has in 2015.
When it was introduced: October
Okay, not the sexiest new development for direct response advertisers, but this should streamline things tremendously.
The Facebook pixel makes things simple for advertisers by combining the functionality of the Conversion Tracking pixel (needed to add to your confirmation / thank you page) and Website Custom Audience pixel (which basically goes… everywhere else on your site) into a single pixel.
So now you only need to place a single pixel across your entire website to report and optimize for conversions of all types.
Fewer tracking headaches and more flexibility in terms of how you can use the data about who is and isn’t converting: always a good thing when you need to obsessively track the actions people are taking on your site.
When it was introduced: May
Carousel ads were introduced in 2014, but Facebook made some really important changes to the ad unit in 2015.
To date, carousel ads are showing really strong results, and more of our clients are prioritizing it. It’s been reported that this ad type is driving 50% lower cost-per-conversion and 20-30% lower cost-per-click than single image ads.
Because of this success, the carousel ad format was extended to mobile app ads, which mobile app developers can celebrate. Additionally, Facebook enhanced the performance of this type of ad unit so that advertisers can automate which image is shown first based on performance and engagement.
You can track performance by card, so you may use this info to pare down a 5-card carousel ad into a 3-card ad and optimize to show only the top 3 performing creative/copy combinations.
Runner Up: The Launch of Lead Ads
Okay, so the reason why this is more of an honorable mention than an absolute blessing for direct response advertisers is because lead ads are still new and are still being tested.
If you haven’t played around with them yet, Facebook’s lead ads provide a simple way for people to fill out forms on their mobile devices. Lead ads take people to a form within Facebook that’s pre-populated with their contact information associated with their account (instead of clicking off to a landing page in order to sign up for a subscription, claim an offer, or get a quote).
Don’t get me wrong, they’re definitely intriguing and early performance for some of our clients is really promising. In fact, some clients were beta testers before Lead Ads were publicly rolled out, and one education company actually saw conversions come in at 25% of the price!
There’s been a ton of innovation on Facebook’s end in 2015, and we expect 2016 to be no different. What do you think will be the next big thing Facebook will do to prioritize direct response capabilities for advertisers?