Today’s email is coming from the incredibly picturesque medieval town of York. I’m over here at a conference and have just converted a room full of people to the Dark Side (aka self-publishing). There is a little gap now until Writer Drinking commences, which gives me a little time to squeeze out some Facebook nuggets, like some kind of social media-infected hen.
Aaaaaanyway, we’ve already covered how to make a pretty looking Facebook page, how to outline the beginnings of a content marketing strategy via Facebook — which will help you organically build up top quality Likes of people who are genuinely interested in your work — and how to hasten that process a little with strategic Post Boosts. If you missed any of the three parts so far, here’s part three (and you can work backwards from there).
I also explained the logic of this whole approach, and why you really need to have a Facebook Page that is in good shape before you start spending on ads — so if that’s unclear, I suggest you go back and review that also. We are starting super basic with Facebook because it’s incredibly complex, often quite difficult, and if you make mistakes with the foundations, that can affect everything that comes after.
Facebook Ads consists of a staggering array of options, which get updated and tweaked all the time, making it pretty bewildering for someone starting out. I hope to cut through all that for you and focus exclusively on what will deliver value for you. That said, there is an elegant simplicity underlying it all that you will ultimately grasp — and it’s that same trifecta of images, targeting, and bids at its heart that you had to master with BookBub Ads, with crucial differences of course.
Today we are going to talk about targeting in a very general way, as there is one more preparatory step we must take before diving into ads proper, and it surrounds something you might have heard some excited chatter about: the Facebook Pixel.
It’s not as mysterious as people make out, but it has some very powerful effects that you can harness. Essentially the Facebook Pixel is a short piece of code that you can insert on your website which will track the behavior of your site visitors — much in the same manner as Google Analytics — and then anonymize and aggregate it and send it over to Facebook so that you can do some fun targeting with it.
Interest Targeting & Custom Audiences
In simple terms, there are two types of targeting with Facebook Ads: Interest Targeting and Custom Audiences. Most people start off with Interest Targeting, before graduating to Custom Audiences, which are a little more complicated. But I’ll explain the basic principles behind both today.
Interest Targeting, in short, is a set of audiences that Facebook has already developed, and Custom Audiences are those that you develop yourself.
Facebook knows a lot about us, as I’m sure you know, based on what we like and how we interact with various posts and ads and Pages around their site (around the entire internet, in fact, their tracking reach is quite extensive). It also routinely purchases reams of data off third-party brokers to further fill in the blanks. Which means that you, as an advertiser, have extremely granular options for targeting your audience, not just by what people are interested in, but by age, location, gender, and various behaviors (such as “Uses an iPhone”).
That’s Interest Targeting. Custom Audiences are a little different. These are built from information you feed Facebook, and they are private audiences exclusively for you to target. You can build a Custom Audience out of all sorts of things: your mailing list, your website traffic, those who Like your Page (and/or their friends), people who have clicked on one of your older ads or posts, whoever made it past 10 seconds of a book trailer you posted — the options are staggering.
You might also have heard of Lookalike Audiences, which are a form of Custom Audience – essentially where Facebook tries to find a whole bunch of people who are like whatever Custom Audience you feed Facebook. So, I might ask Facebook to build a Lookalike Audience based off my web traffic, and it will try and identify a whole bunch of people similar to those who visit my site.
Narrowing & Excluding
If that wasn’t enough, all these targeting options can be combined in endless combinations. For example, I might want to run an ad for a new release to those who have visited my site in the last 3 months, but I might not want to include anyone on my mailing list as they will be getting a couple of emails about it anyway — so I can exclude those people. Or I can also exclude anyone who already likes my page. Or I can exclude anyone that owns a Kindle, because I might do a specific ad for them. Or all men, because I want to word the ad text differently.
The options are exhaustive, and you will probably start off overwhelmed before starting to explore them more and more. Bringing down costs to a manageable level on Facebook is not that different to any other ad platform. Success in any form of digital marketing is almost always about drilling down to the exact niche that will most positively respond to your ads, not advertising in a hopeful sense to a broader crowd. This means slicing and dicing the audience as much as possible to exclusively target those who most definitely like the kind of books you write.
To give a real-world example, I currently have an ad pushing a sale for Let’s Digital which targets Americans who Like the Facebook Page for Kindle Direct Publishing and who also own a Kindle — because they are likely to be writers who self-publish, and the link is going to the book’s page in the US Kindle Store. But even that is a very broad audience containing a lot of people. To minimize my costs as much as possible (which will maximize my profit), I need to drill down even further. So I narrow the audience to exclusively target women aged 35 to 54 — the demographic slice who respond best to my work and then I also exclude from that audience people who already Like my Page, who aren’t on my mailing list, and who haven’t interact with any of my posts or ads previously (because those people will get a different ad/message from me — I talk to “cold” and “warm” audiences differently, something I’ll explain in a future episode).
I’ll go through exact steps on how to do that in future emails, I just want to show you the basic principles behind good targeting on Facebook. However, the very best targeting often comes from Custom Audiences built off the Facebook Pixel.
Facebook Pixel Explained
The way that Facebook “sees” what’s happening on your website is via the Facebook Pixel, which tracks site visitor behavior much in the same way a mailing list service like Mailchimp tracks who opens an email — by inserting a pixel-sized dot on a page, and seeing when it loads up, and to whom. This remarkably simple technology has an incredible amount of uses which we will get to eventually — including giving Facebook the ability to deploy machine learning to serve your ads to people who are more likely to click on your ads or purchase stuff.
For now, all you need to know is that you should install the Facebook Pixel on your website as soon as possible, and just have it ticking away in the background while we cover the simpler Interest Targeting approach to Facebook Ads first. In the meantime, the Pixel will be building up a kind of database of people you can hit with more ads further down the road, when you are more familiar with the system, and seeing enough initial success to justify (and afford!) scaling up your efforts.