To Measure is to Know – How to measure Social Advertising for a Performance Advertiser

By Timo Dinkelman, CEO & Co-Founder of Prebo Digital

To measure is to know. To know without measuring is to have a gut-feeling. To make sure your gut-feeling is right, you need to measure. 

This “logic” applies to measuring the full value of Facebook Advertising to a business that mainly focuses on short term revenue and profitability. 

From my days working at Google, measuring lower-funnel activity where your marketing spend has a direct impact on revenue is what I’m used to. Facebook Ads, in my opinion, and contrary to what most people say, will never really be a low-funnel marketing channel. for the main reason that it remains a display, and hence push, channel instead of a pull channel like search. The intent and readiness to act (read: convert) is significantly lower on any display channel. 

Measuring lower-funnel results is also not made easier by wanting to compare data in Facebook’s Ads Manager vs. what you see in e.g. Google Analytics. These two platforms have fundamentally different methods of attributing/crediting conversions to marketing channels.

Google Analytics works on cookie-based reporting and Facebook on user-based reporting (using User ID from Facebook). Facebook, unlike Google Analytics, also doesn’t have the ability to consider other channels as part of the conversion process and will thus claim a conversion even if someone only saw the ad and continued to make the purchase after engaging multiple touchpoints.

So what platform should you consider true when it comes to conversion results? From my viewpoint, Google Analytics is closest to the truth when it comes to channel performance. But basing all your budget and marketing planning decisions by only looking at Google Analytics would not be the ideal solution as channels work together to reach your business objectives.

So how do you measure whether Facebook Ads are worth your investment if you can’t trust the results reported on in Ads Manager? 

Here is my recommendation on how to best measure Social Advertising results: 

Use every metric you can find to show its value to a performance advertiser (someone who cares about short term sales, leads & ROI). 

Depending on which audience and where in the funnel you’re looking to advertise, I’d recommend the following:

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As mentioned above, Google Analytics should be used as your truest source of conversions BUT, Facebook campaign metrics should also be used to make decisions around optimizing campaigns (budget allocation, creative updates, audience updates etc.) and for broader reporting on channel performance as part of the full marketing mix.

Where I’ve seen Facebook Ads perform really well is in the following four scenarios:

  1. A business is looking to explore new markets (geographically or interest-based) where very little search intent exists. In this case, one has to build a market, educate the market, and grow brand awareness. 
  2. A business is not currently advertising low in the funnel and is looking to grow its sales. 
  3. A business is already successfully advertising lower in the funnel through SEM but is maximizing the search volume potential and is looking to grow its appeal to a wider audience. 
  4. A business has a high conversion rate on email marketing and uses Facebook Ads to grow their database.

In none of these cases, FB would be a direct competitor/comparison to lower funnel marketing. Hence my view that FB Ads should be measured differently to low funnel marketing such as e.g. SEM.

Here are the recommended steps to improve the accuracy in measuring your FB Advertising:

  1. Implement UTMs to ensure you measure every ad click coming to your website. This will help you to identify direct sales, leads, soft conversions as well as assisted ones.
  2. Measure the full impact of Social Ads on your social traffic. In many cases, total social traffic (organic + paid) goes up as a result of (increased) social exposure. This happens as people e.g. see your IG Ad, click through to your profile and then click to the website to buy.
  3. Measure all soft conversions of which you know will eventually drive additional sales. These would be newsletter subscriptions, wishlist adds, add to cart etc. A good e-commerce website would have an engine through different email campaigns to capture those potential customers back into the system to get them to eventually convert. Constantly feeding this funnel with qualified users is vital to continue growing your business. This way you can set a goal of a low acquisition cost for a new email address from a qualified audience to grow your email database which you know converts well for you.
  4. The last recommendation would be to measure the impact of campaigns on your total branded website traffic. Mainly in your organic search and direct traffic, you should be able to see an increase in visits on these channels, as well as an increase in the % of new users coming through these channels from the time your FB mid & upper-funnel campaigns started. 

There is a bit of homework to do and foundations that need to be put in place. But if you’re seriously considering Social Ads, use it as a growth engine parallel to your lower funnel SEM activity rather than trying to get more volume with similar results to what e.g. Google Ads gives you, because that is comparing apples with pears. In that case, rather expand your keyword set.

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