Are Facebook & Instagram Ads Dead? How to Run Explosive Campaigns in 2019

If you’ve been in the digital marketing scene awhile, you’re likely aware of the ever-changing industry landscape, especially for Facebook and Instagram. There is an increasing concern that these channels are producing less impressive results (or at least different results) than we’ve seen before.

Some marketers have labeled it the adpocalypse, and their fear is reasonable. There is no denying the increased difficulty in getting the same ROAS (return on ad spend) numbers you could 2-3 years ago. It also makes sense given that the platforms are maturing and more advertisers are competing for attention than ever before.

It’s a REAL problem and a REAL threat. Paid social and digital advertising account for the majority of most ecommerce brands’ acquisition efforts. It’s without a doubt the #1 way to create effective, predictable revenue and see direct ROI. So what has changed and how should we respond?

The good news for brands and advertisers who understand is that we can be successful no matter what the landscape. And truthfully, where there is a challenge, there is a massive opportunity. Remember, marketing is two parts: message and platform.

So you can look at this as the end of the world (and for some brands it is). Or, you can look at it as an opportunity to improve your strategy on these platforms and diversify your channels.

The Truth You Can’t Afford to Miss

We manage millions of dollars in ads on Facebook per month and the blunt truth is this: Advertising on these platforms is still effective, you just need to be more sophisticated with the tools and clearer with your value proposition. If you’re not mastering the platforms, keeping up with the changes, and honing your message to your audience, then your days of living high on the Facebook Ads hog are truly over. Sorry.

If you’re looking to learn about effective ad copywriting across all platforms, be sure to check out our formula on how to write click-worthy ads.

Today, we’ll look at the platform side, diving into what we’re currently seeing on Facebook and Instagram and how you can still find serious success here. While 2018 marked a year of change for Facebook, we’ve found that it’s actually a positive change. That may be hard to believe if you’re struggling to get your Facebook ads to perform. However, if you step back and look at the “why” behind these changes, they are all a part of Facebook’s effort to create a better user experience. And a better user experience means that people will continue to use the platform. If advertisers want to engage with these users, they must work with Facebook’s guidelines— not find tricks and hacks around them— in order to see results.

All that to say, let’s break down how we’re still finding massive success running Facebook and Instagram ads in 2019.

How We’re Still Finding Massive Success Running Facebook and Instagram Ads For Ecommerce In 2019

1. Engagement

Facebook has prioritized engagement (reactions, comments, and shares) as a key metric for performance moving forward. So if you want strong results on your ads, create ads that are designed with engagement in mind. After all, if we see an ad with thousands of reactions and comments, it means it’s a very relevant ad for its target audience. This is what any ad platform wants. Eye-catching images and engaging ad copy are a must to get these reactions going.

Pro Tip: Think of engagement as a conversation that you’re starting. Fans of your Facebook page may be the most likely to engage in conversation, so we often recommend starting with an organic post on your Facebook page. Boost it to your audience to make sure you can get engagement going. Then, convert it to an ad and run it for cold traffic at the top of your funnel.

2. Let Facebook do the work

Facebook’s algorithm has gotten smarter which is great news. It makes advertisers’ lives easier, especially when it comes to audience targeting. The more history and data on your pixel, the better Facebook’s system can find the right audience niche that will convert off your ads.

A few ways to let Facebook do the work include:

  • For top-of-funnel, cold acquisition ads, try an ad set using a broad audience (minimum of 2MM people). Or, try no targeting at all, aside from a gender or age parameter if necessary for your brand. If you’ve been running Facebook ads for a while and there is plenty of data on your pixel, Facebook might do a better job at locating your top-converting audiences than you can.
  • Let Facebook choose the ad placements. Of course we all want to show up in the main news feed, but this area is crowded and therefore expensive. Choosing “automatic placements” means Facebook will find the most cost-effective inventory to place your ads.
  • Test different campaign objectives. Again, optimizing for purchases makes sense for ecommerce brands, but it’s also crowded inventory. For audiences early in the customer journey, consider other optimizations such as traffic or engagement.

Pro Tip: We still test “letting Facebook do the work” against our own judgments. This costs more on the front end but also mitigates some of your risk in losing complete control. It’s a lifesaver when Facebook’s algorithm just isn’t getting it right for your campaigns.

3. Reuse top performing ads.

Before you create any more Facebook campaigns, take a look at what has worked for you in the past year. Sort all of your ads (not campaigns or ad sets) by post engagement (or another relevant performance metric for your business) and reuse them where you can in new campaigns.

To do this, you’ll want to make a note of your top-performing ads’ post IDs. In the new campaign, once you reach the ad creation page, select “Use Existing Post” and click the link “Enter Post ID”. Enter the ID number and you’ll see your top performer appear with all of the engagement it had in the previous campaign. This ad will begin with more momentum since it already has all this traction going.

4. Learn from the past.

Analyze your ad performance data. If you’re not reusing past ads, it’s still important to watch what has worked in the past. When you sort previous ads by engagement, conversions, and so on, identify commonalities in the top-performing ads. Use elements from these winners in the new campaign, whether that’s the style of ad copy, a call to action, type of image, etc.

Armed with what you know has worked in the past, you can then test the following:

  • Targeting: Very broad targeting (or none at all) vs. interest-based targeting
  • Media: Video ads have been heavily pushed for a long time, but it’s beginning to level out now. Try testing videos versus a static image vs. a GIF. Since GIFs are fairly uncommon, we are seeing them do well right now.
  • Placements: Automatic placements vs. selecting your own placements
  • URL: Some advertisers find that including a URL in the ad copy works well. Try that vs. only linking in the call-to-action.
  • Campaign Objective: As mentioned, try a variety of optimizations, especially in prospecting. Test engagement vs. clicks vs. conversions/purchases and watch the results.

A Challenge Is An Opportunity

In summary, if you run marketing for an ecommerce brand that lives on paid Facebook and Instagram ads you should take a deep breath knowing that this is not an “adpocalypse”. Facebook and Instagram are very much alive and effective. However, just like any other channel, they are ever-changing and it’s crucial for you to stay on top of the trends. It’s time to up your game. Being willing to adapt, adjust, and test new ideas will be one of your greatest strengths as a marketer going forward.

In addition to adapting on the Facebook platform, you should always be diversifying your advertising channels. If you’re not already, you should be exploring running ads on YouTube and other platforms.

As always, stay tuned to the Growth Academy and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on more changes throughout the year! In the meantime, be sure to check out our other posts that may be extremely helpful for your Facebook advertising needs:


Our Facebook Ads team generates millions in sales every month for our clients. Interested in us looking at your paid strategy?

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