Authors: Tommi Salenius & Joni Salminen
Facebook advertising is a powerful tool for many purposes ranging from direct response campaigns to brand visibility. However, the competition is increasing every year in Facebook advertising as companies are putting more money on Facebook. Figure 1 shows how Facebook’s revenue, comprising almost exclusively from advertising, has grown during the last nine years.
Figure 1. Facebook worldwide ad revenue statistics from Statista.com.
Last year, almost $40,000,000,000 were spend on Facebook ads. This means that in order to make profit in Facebook, you need stay ahead of your competitors. Here is an example from profitable Facebook account targeting direct online sales.
Figure 2. Example from Facebook account targeting direct online sales.
In this example, every invested euro in Facebook ads has generated direct online sales worth of €10. This means that with budget of €100,000 you can make sales worth of €1,000,000 if your target group is large enough and there is demand for your product.
The case of international Facebook advertising
Facebook is also one of the best choices to advertise globally, given its user base of more than 2 billion monthly active users. Using the Locations feature in Facebook Ads, several targeting criteria can be chosen:
- worldwide (type “Worldwide”)
- country group or geographic region (e.g., type “in Europe”)
- free trade area (e.g., type in “GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council”)
- sub-regions within a country (e.g., type in “Washington”)
- other features (e.g., type in “Emerging markets”).
The below figure illustrates, the targeting interface.
Figure 3. Targeting interface in Facebook Ads.
At the time of writing (October, 2018), the global targeting options include the following:
- Central America
- North America
- South America
Free Trade Areas
- AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area)
- APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)
- CISFTA (Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area)
- EEA (European Economic Area)
- GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)
- NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
- Android app countries (paid)
- Android app countries (all)
- Emerging markets
- Euro area
- iTunes app store countries
Despite the tremendous potential of global advertising in Facebook Ads, companies often don’t exploit this potential to the fullest. Moreover, we have observed that large international accounts tend to be messy and not well optimized. Therefore, we provide a checklist that can be used to audit such international Facebook Ads accounts.
Checklist for auditing international Facebook advertising
Here is a checklist for auditing Facebook paid advertising for international companies. This checklist is a concrete tool that can be used to evaluate your Facebook ad account’s current performance and identifying development areas that can get you toward desired results.
Section 1: Account setup
1. Is Facebook Business Manager activated? Benefits: more control over user rights and possibility to operate with partners.
2. Is Facebook pixel is installed and configured? Are business related goals tracked, for example, sales, visitors, blog reading times etc.
3. Is additional software being used besides Facebook Ad Platform? (e.g. Smartly, Nosto)
4. Is international Facebook page feature acclaimed? Benefits: unified follower count for country pages but separated content on the country basis.
5. Is ‘business locations’ option used? Is this feature activated and used in advertising?
Section 2: Ad campaigns
6. Are Facebook campaign goals aligned with business goals? (e.g. reach, engagement, traffic, sales, leads)
7. What is Facebook strategy based on current campaigns?
– technology oriented, e.g. dynamic ads for advanced targeting
– content oriented, e.g. creative concepts to get noticed
– systematic advertising, e.g. customers need to be reminded regularly
– ad hoc campaigns, e.g. occasionally content is advertised without clear purpose
8. Is there something that works already? (e.g. some campaigns generate sales with low cost, data shows that specific creatives are working, different demographics are responding to ads)
9. Is there budget delivery problems? Potential reasons: low ad relevance scores, low budget or bids, not enough conversions (minimum 100 per month). Solutions: lower your optimization goal e.g. from purchases to link clicks, test new target groups and ads.
10. Does campaign structure follow best practices? Different campaigns for all goals: prospecting and retargeting, upselling and cross-selling, reach and sales etc.
11. What auction type is used? Auction vs. fixed price: with auction you get better results if you beat competition.
12. What placements are used? Facebook ad platform offers all this: Facebook, Instagram, Audience network, and Facebook Messenger.
13.What content types have been tested? (carousel, link ad, instagram story, video, image, canvas)
14. What retargeting types are used? (www retargeting, email retargeting, content retargeting)
15. What levels of retargeting are utilized? (main page, category pages, products pages, blog articles, cart, upselling, cross-selling)
16. What lookalike types are used? (www, email, page likes, purchased)
17. Is AB-testing performed systematically? (both ad set and ad level)
18. Is statistical AB-testing used? (this campaign type can be used e.g. for testing different creatives, target groups or technical settings)
19. How well data is structured? (are campaigns, ad sets, and ads named systematically)
20. Is UTM tagging used? (no, manual, automatic)
21. What attribution model is used? (view conversion vs. click conversions)
22. Is dynamic advertising used?
– can be used both in retargeting and in new customer acquisition
– offers wide range of option if technical setup is made correctly e.g. automated price promotions
23. Is advanced configuration of dynamic advertising used? (e.g. prefer products with high gross margin, geographically show right products for right areas)
24. Are rules used for optimization? (notification from data anomalies, adjusting budget based on results etc.)
25. Is budget spend effectively? (can the budget be increased, potential reach of target groups, frequency)
26. What bid strategy is used? Lowest cost (standard), lowest cost with bid cap (risk of delivery issues), or target cost (can be used for scaling up the budget).
Section 3: Organic content
27. Is there published enough quality content to be believable on the eyes of customers if they visit on Facebook page?
28. How active are Facebook followers? Is there possibility to get insight from followers or turn their enthusiasm into business?
29. Is organic content reaching the target group? If not, maybe it should be advertised.
30. Is there point of focusing organic content or paid advertising? What is the role of organic content? What is the role of paid advertising? Notice: multiple ads can be advertised and AB tested without publishing these on the news feed.
Section 4: International aspect
31. Are the ads translated? When doing advertising to e.g. 10 countries with different languages, the ads should also be communicated in 10 different languages. Note that one country can contain multiple language groups, requiring localization even within a single country.
32. Is campaign structure supporting multiple languages? Each language should have been placed in separate target groups. For example, campaign could be name after the country, and it should contain different ad groups for each languages.
33. Is there enough budget to advertise internationally to all target groups? If you are targeting several countries, cities, and languages, these all need different budgets. In order to make impact, it is not usually wise to divide budget into too small pieces.
34. Is there other localization besides translation? Often, an error is made to assume localization is only about language. However, it is also about culture, customs, and ethnicity. For example, value propositions of communicated benefits may be entirely different when the same product is promoted to culturally different target groups (e.g., collectivity-individuality aspect might differ). Another example is that imagery matters for ethnic match between the target audience and people shown in the ads.
35. Have the country-basis legal restrictions been taken into consideration? E.g. different countries have different restrictions for promoting alcohol products, and European countries have strict orders for handling the data according to GDPR protocol.
36. How do normalized metrics vary by countries? Compare performance by normalized metrics (e.g., ROI), because that adjusts for variation between the markets. For example, Facebook Ads bids can be ten times more expensive in the US than in Vietnam. Similarly, purchase power differs so avg. conversion value can be one tenth in Vietnam, meaning that advertising would be equally profitable. To account for this, use normalized metrics, such as ROI or ROAS.
37. What are the city-level performance differences? Another common mistake is to assume that country is detailed enough segmentation criteria for performance differences. However, performance can vary greatly by city, e.g. in big countries like China or US. Moreover, rural areas can differ compared to city areas because people’s tastes, values, and behavior is different. To accommodate for this, Facebook advertisers should segment by city in addition to country (e.g., compare TOP 5 cities of each country).
38. What are the segment similarities across countries? Each impression has a cost. And each impression also adds information about customer responses. However, in the Facebook Ads account the performance values are siloed across different campaigns and ad sets. Therefore, to optimize such accounts, data needs to be combined. For example, if targeting 12 countries, the performance by demographic groups can be aggregated to give more statistical power (higher reliability for found similarities and differences).
This list of 38 items is a good background for analysing any Facebook Ads account running international campaigns. Besides these steps, Facebook account level data can be used for analysis purposes e.g. finding patterns on data. For example, making country level breakdowns is made easy in the user interface of the ad platform.
About the authors:
Tommi Salenius is a Digital Marketing Manager at Elämyslahjat.fi, a Finnish e-commerce company that sells experience gifts. Tommi also works at Parcero Marketing Partners as a Lead Digital Marketing Strategist.
Joni Salminen is a Digital Marketing Manager at Elämyslahjat.fi, a Finnish e-commerce company selling experience gifts. Joni is also a board member at Konvertigo Digital Agency that runs digital marketing campaigns to over 100 countries.