Season 2 | Episode 2

Navigating the Facebook Paid Media Ecosystem

In Episode 2 of Season 2 of Paid Media Coffee, we take a deep dive into the Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook continues to be a provocateur and a significant dominating force in the paid social landscape.

Listen as host Kelly Mancuso, Haley Stauffer, Meleigha Millman, and Amanda Oliver give you an overview of the direction Facebook is going, along with recommendations to optimize your campaigns.


Kelly: Welcome to paid media coffee. I'm Kelly Mancuso. And today we're talking about every advertiser's frenemy, Facebook. So we'll be discussing how Facebook and the rest of the Facebook ecosystem will be a part of our 2020 strategies. And with me to guide me through this conversation, I have three guests.

First, we have Meleigha Millman. She is a paid social specialist at Nebo. Welcome back to the show.

Meleigha: Happy to be back.

Kelly: And we also have Amanda Oliver, our director of social media at Nebo.

Amanda: Hi, thanks for having me.

Kelly: And then Haley Stauffer is a paid media manager at Nebo.

Haley: Hello. Happy to be here, too.

Kelly: I'm excited for all of you to be back.

So, let's talk Facebook. It's 2020 now, and we've seen a lot of change over the past few months over the past few years, really, in Facebook advertising, you know, there's been CBO, automatic placements, a lot of new functionality, a lot of restrictions and things that have happened. How has Facebook's evolution impacted your strategies and your campaigns that you're running currently?

Meleigha: I was going to say, I don't know who wants to tackle this one first, but there were so many things that changed last year.

Haley: I know specifically for some of the accounts that I've been working on for the past year, a lot of the things that you had mentioned that rolled out CBO, automatic placements, is really just kind of this overall theme of simplification and making your accounts easier to access and optimize for. Especially with CBO, you don't have to split things up by a ton of different audiences and manage specific budgets and go in and optimize every day. Facebook's always trying to come to you and be like, hey, we actually can do this on our own.

Kelly: Can you just break down CBO and what that stands for our listeners, just in case somebody may not know.

Haley: Yeah, sure. It is campaign budget optimization. So, it's essentially allowing you to have your ad groups be all under one campaign budget and Facebook will go in and be like, this ad group is performing well with a lower cost per acquisition or whatever you're optimizing for, and it will basically put more of your budget to the higher-performing ad groups.

Whereas before each ad group, you would have to place a specific budget depending on what you think is most important.

Kelly: Okay. So it's giving up a little bit of control and allowing Facebook's algorithm to optimize your campaign as a whole to the budget that you set, rather than ad group specific ones, and that's supposed to be in effect, not just an option, but it's supposed to be mandatory across all campaigns soon, right?

Meleigha: It was supposed to be mandatory in September and just for the record as it's paid social, it's ad set for Facebook. 

Kelly: Thank you for correcting us, we do know ad set.

Meleigha: I feel like Facebook and Instagram are the only ones that use that anyways.It was supposed to be mandatory in September, and then other things occurred to where they pushed that back and I recently saw an article about them saying that they were going to make it mandatory soon, but they don't necessarily have the date from the last thing I've seen.

Kelly: So, prepare for that.

Meleigha: Prepare for it. It has already happened, all that thing. But. You can always set minimums and maximums for your ad sets underneath. It's kind of something I've done for particular campaigns where we know we want something to spend a certain amount per day or not spend over that, based upon historical performance.

Okay. It's not like you lose complete control, but it's kind of highlighting on what Haley was saying is just simplifying the overall structure. And then additionally, other things involving optimizations.

Kelly: Okay. So what else, what other changes have impacted how you are managing and structuring campaigns?

Meleigha: I think something to add on to the simplification of Facebook last year was the fact that they came up with a multiple text option piece.

And additionally the dynamic creative as well. For example, I would normally launch, let's just say like 10 or 15 ads of something for a campaign. And now all I had to do was launch three versions because not only have we figured out issues with the, I believe it was the dynamic parameters, which we figured out.

So now we're able to have Facebook and Instagram in the same ad set, but then we actually have the dynamic parameter, pull the correct URL information. We simplified that there. And then we also simplified the dynamic creative piece. Essentially we've got one, a horizontal image and one square image for all different placements across Facebook and Instagram.

And then by having the multiple text option, we can have up to five descriptions, five headlines, display links, and other things as well. It's really, really easy to have multiple versions, but the thing that stinks is you can't work offline, so you can't export it and do that. And it's, annoying when you're working with a couple hundred ads across the country.

So, yeah. But positive, more awesome options. Negative, they're not fully built out.

Haley: I feel like in 2020, they'll definitely come out. With an offline way, but it's still exciting to see that. They're giving us that kind of time-saver in the sense of being in the platform. You don't have to launch 15 ads, you can launch three, which is great.

Meleigha: We actually brought this up with our call on that with our Facebook reps, like last week. so I was like, Hey, when are you guys going to build this out? Can you check on that? That'd be great. And they're like, yep, we'll put it at the top of our list I'm like, thanks. Bye.

Kelly: Cool. If we see any changes there, we will make an announcement or we'll tweet about it.

Meleigha: Hopefully there's a change.

Haley: Another really big thing that we've seen a push from our Facebook reps, like Meleigha was talking about, is automatic placements and definitely another way to simplify. I know we had campaigns in the past that we both thought years ago that we would be a campaign specifically for Instagram, a campaign specifically for Facebook, but now, like Meleigha mentioned earlier in one of her campaign strategies and ad groups, even, we can have all of the placements be under one and your ad set, your ad set, well, have just your targeting. It'll be more specific to targeting and less specific to what platform you're showing on.

Kelly: And they're really, really pushing that. And, ideally, they want you to just let Facebook choose across all of the placements.

But there is a best practice. It's at least four placements. If you are a little bit wary to opt into certain ones, as long as your asset has chosen at least four, they can consider that the automatic placement optimization.

Haley: To go off of what Meleigha was saying about dynamic creative, that has also been a big help for me to accept automatic placements a lot more because before, we were like making creative specific to a specific platform like Instagram or Facebook-specific image sizes, but because there are allowing us to make little crops and adjustments within the platform, I feel more comfortable using automatic placements.

Kelly: That's a good point and a good way also to make your clients feel a little bit more comfortable with it as well.

Amanda, what about you? What have you seen from an overarching theme, maybe organically specific or paid specific?

Amanda: So in terms of kind of content planning for our clients and the content that we're sharing on social, we've really run into some issues with trying to align our client’s goals with kind of the best practices and goals of promoting content on Facebook.

So one of the main reasons that we work with clients is to really help grow awareness. And to increase engagement with the content and the stories and the imagery and the videos that we're sharing on Facebook. But really working with our Facebook representatives in 2019 into 2020, the platform itself is really discouraging engagement-based, promoted content and is encouraging more so driving landing page visits. And so that's really kind of a battle back and forth that we sometimes have with Facebook is that, you know, our client's goals are to, drive engagement to have people interacting with the content they're sharing.

And so for us, can we still meet those goals and drive those awareness focused campaigns, even though that may not be what our Facebook representatives recommend to us.

Kelly: And one of the reasons that they, you know, say that they're trying to push away from engagement based campaign objectives is because people who are clicking or engaging with a post aren't always the people who are actually purchasing or, you know, taking whatever those end business goals might be.

You know, I understand where they're coming from. But at the same time for certain companies or organizations, your presence on these social channels is just as important as what people are doing, you know, down the line. You might not be running a campaign to ultimately drive sales. It's more about, you know, how they're positioned and the number of followers that they have and etc.

So, yeah, definitely, something that I hope that they figure out. Or at least like loosen up on, on the agencies who aren't, always adopting the direct response related objectives.

Meleigha: Cause that's like, if you don't want that to be a campaign objective and then you don't want people to use that, why is it an option?

Haley: And I think Amanda and the social team do a really great job at still showing their value from an organic standpoint and how this content really does help drive that longer-term relationship and demand further down the line with potentially a paid ad.

Meleigha: Yup. For sure.

Kelly: That is one challenge, but what other challenges have we seen? I mean, some of these changes have been really great for our campaigns and our ability to manage and just performance in general. Some of them have come with challenges. What are those challenges that you’ve been faced with and what are the ways that you're working to overcome them?

Meleigha: This could be a whole session on me talking about frustrations I've had with a platform that could turn into a whole thing, but, I tried to pick just a couple, keep it easy. I guess the main one that I experienced personally on one of our clients because they are technically housing, they got put underneath the HEC program for special ad categories.

So, essentially housing, employment, or credit, anybody that offers one of those opportunities essentially to make Facebook safer, they put it all these blocks and other things as well in regards to targeting. And then knowing all that, they pretty much took away options to target such as lookalike audience. You can't use a zip code anymore. You can't exclude locations. You can't exclude interest. A lot of your interests have been taken away so you really have no behaviors in that.

I mean, just everything's gone. Targeting has gone age targeting has gone. And then additionally, with the lookalike audiences, with those disappearing, it's like, okay, most of our campaigns were built to those, what are we going to do? So we create special ad audiences. You just create it the same way that you create a lookalike.

The only difference is it doesn't take into account age, any of that demographic information, regards to income, zip codes, whatever. Right? It doesn't take that into account supposedly. It was a lot to change that. I believe it was August 26 that it flipped on to where it had to be done by that day or things running get shut off.

Meleigha: I remember the whole panic day. It's just big bold yellow letters coming into my inbox that morning. Hey, you guys need to get this done today. And I'm like, ah, yeah, today? And it was, it was a mess and the platform kept crashing in between, cause all the other ad sets underneath had to change those settings too. It just was a lot. But we made it through. Performance sucked for a bit, came back up, but we're okay.

Kelly: How long would you say that performance was down after you made that switch?

Meleigha: Probably about two and a half to three weeks, but then again, that's like how long something takes to learn really. A week to two weeks depending upon your account size, of course. Luckily, I think just because our account size is large enough, it was able to learn faster, but we really worked with our reps and making sure we got priority campaigns done first and then worked with them to ensure other things weren't getting shut off and so forth.  They were really helpful through that.

Kelly: Okay, great. So something that we couldn't have avoided, but it seems like having a good relationship with your account reps really helped that.

Meleigha: That pays dividends for sure.

Haley: One of the things that I found as a challenge, in 2019 was one of my clients, and I guess it's been like this for a while, but you're not really able to pick or optimize towards one.

You can't, you can only pick an optimized towards one conversion action. You cannot pick multiple,

Kelly: Right.

Haley: So, essentially we have a few conversion actions on a specific landing page, and I want to be able to track and optimize towards all of them, but I only can pick one.

Kelly: Right. Because they're all just as equally valuable to your client.

Haley: Exactly. And I'm sure that a lot of other people have that same problem where there are multiple valuable things on a landing page that you want to drive an action towards. And we've started to work around it a little bit. I know I've been working with some of my coworkers on tracking, but I feel like in the future if you could pick more than one conversion action within the interface. That would be wonderful.

Kelly: Cause then you would essentially have to create another conversion action that combines all of them together.

Haley: Just that's what we won. That's what we've done

Kelly: But then if you need the reporting broken out more by any so that's interesting.

Haley: I know that we've also run into the challenge of you can only pick one goal for your campaign.

If I want to drive conversions, or I want to drive brand new wherein another space you can never have a campaign that has more than one goal. And I get that you have a primary goal, but like it would be great to be able to trigger different things to improve your brand awareness with a certain campaign.

So just allowing a little more flexibility in terms of conversions and overall goals.

Amanda: One really specific challenge that our social team has faced is in terms of our reporting on things like engagements. We want to make sure that we're as transparent as possible and reporting on kind of the value of the content that we're creating, that we're boosting, that's running in our advertisements.

And one really specific challenge we faced is that the engagement metrics in Facebook are reported a bit differently if you're using Facebook Ads Manager versus Facebook Insights. For organic content, it reports certain things as engagements, whereas in ads manager, it reports additional actions as engagements such as video views.

And that’s been a really specific challenge for us in terms of when we're reporting engagements to our clients on organic content, promoted content, content that's running in Facebook advertising. How do we tell that story holistically and as accurate as possible?

Kelly: Can you not even get those video view metrics at all for something that you haven't put ad dollars behind?

Amanda: We can. We can see those video view metrics and Facebook insights, but in terms of what's counted as an engagement, it's not included as an engagement.

Haley: It's just inconsistent across the ads platform and then Facebook insights.

 Amanda: So kind of that navigating that has been a big challenge for us over the years.

Meleigha: I'm just huffing and puffing cause, yeah, I have to work on that report. The other thing as well….so they created the creative hub and really, really launched that and it was a really great addition. Something that happened toward the end of last year, that September, they made it pretty much go down to three lines of text for a mobile placement.

And then knowing the fact that over 90% of traffic on Facebook is coming from the mobile placement. Clearly you want to make sure you have that three lines of text and ready to go. What about, with the dynamic creative optimization? Have any of you had any issues where images weren't rendering properly for a certain placement?

Meleigha: There are times where you have an option to pick something horizontal or pick something square for a different placement. For example, for the marketplace, there's one result for the marketplace that comes in horizontal.

And then another one where it's a smaller square image. You can't pick between what you want between the two. You can either have a horizontal image. That gets used for both placements, and then there's white space around it where it's supposed to be square or you pick a square one, and then it's morphed when it should be horizontal, so you can't really pick between the two.

So that's really the only one I've seen an issue with in regards of it not being correct of what it should look like on each placement. I don't really think it's that big of a deal, but that's kind of one option I believe that they could expand on further.

Kelly: Okay. So probably recommend using the horizontal one.

Just know that it's going to be a little off, or just opt out of that placement altogether. All right. When talking about paid social advertising on Facebook. We don't just mean Facebook, obviously anymore. Facebook as a platform, as an ecosystem, covers a ton of different properties. In 2020, what do you foresee happening in terms of advertising across the whole entire Facebook ecosystem?

You know, messenger, Instagram, etc.

Haley: And we had talked about earlier WhatsApp, which I think was something we were all really looking forward to from an advertising perspective, it was supposed to roll out, I think in 2020 but they recently came out with, with not moving forward with advertising on the platform.

They're going to look at other ways to make money, which I think is really interesting. And there is such an untapped audience there. It's not just within the U.S. but it's more global. And I think with the rise of other, you know, story platforms like Tik Tok, they kind of decided to not make WhatsApp that advertising space for stories.

So, I think that is something that was a big change that we were originally planning for in the Facebook ecosystem. That's no longer going to be a part of it in 2020.

Kelly: Yes.

Meleigha: Also, the further focus on groups, I mean there were commercials on social media. There were commercials on Hulu. There were commercials on like literally anything and everything that I could see like TV everywhere about Facebook groups, Facebook groups, Facebook groups, find your people with Facebook groups. Everywhere.

So for me, I believe there's going to be a bigger push on actually promoting and sponsoring content within certain groups cause it's kind of like LinkedIn, you can target by groups and member groups. And now with Facebook opening that up, I know they opened it up to a few advertisers last year. I don't know when it's going to be fully available, but I can see a lot more contextual targeting being used because of this on Facebook.

Cause with a lot of different things going away. Groups. Is probably the way that Facebook is thinking, okay, we can get all these like-minded people in a section together and this is great for advertisers to send them, because then if they're interested in a particular thing, okay, contextually, boom, you match, you're ready to go.

I think that's going to be a huge push once they open that up.

Haley: Right, and to go back off of the Facebook platform, I think that we're going to see a lot more direct messaging like messenger ads. I think that along with what Meleigha was talking about the personalization of being in a group, you're also gonna see a lot of personalization with directly messaging an advertiser.

I know Facebook around 2019 came out with a lot of new capabilities for Messenger ads. I was reading something about how they have like easy, frequently asked questions that you can click on, like what are my hours? What about the specific product? I think that's going to have a big rise and potentially take more of Facebook ecosystems, ad shares, being in the messenger app and actually clicking on ads and responding directly to your specific brand or advertiser.

Meleigha: Because now you can book appointments too through things as well. And I mean. If you can book appointments, and that's a conversion that you're looking for Boom, there's that. And then additionally, if you are in the movie industry, the ads now pretty much have the ability to, you can hit remind me when it comes out.

So if you see an ad for it, you can, what do we be reminded when it comes out to go buy tickets for the movie? I mean, it's just so many different things that they're adding on. It's really crazy.

Kelly: That's really cool. I mean, yeah, it's giving advertisers the ability to have really unique and fun, interactive, engaging campaigns.

Haley: And something that I saw engaging on Instagram in 2019 was the kind of push for their shopping ads. You'd be scrolling through your feed and you'd see someone wearing a really cute jacket and they would, you'd be able to click on it and then it would show like how much it costs the sizes, and you could go straight to that page.

Unfortunately, right now you can't do that through campaign manager in the sense that like it's not an ad. It's something that's organically done that you would organically put posts. I know that we have a client that is a B2C client and we can only promote those shopping ads organically.

I'm hoping in 2020 we'll see a growth in the Instagram platform when it comes to shopping ads.

Amanda: And something else that we saw really in 2019 for the first time on Instagram was the decreases in organic engagement of content. And so, of course, we all know that that's been happening for years and years with Facebook, but in 2019 we saw that first real significant change for our clients year over year. And so it really challenges us to think about how do we leverage promoted content to kind of make up for where we've lost that organic engagement. And really, one of the ways that we've overcome that a bit for our clients is through the use of stories.

Kelly: Yeah.

Amanda: So, creating more real-time content that people are engaging with, looking at how people interact with like feed posts on Instagram, for example, versus views, taps back, taps forward on promoted stories. I'm kind of thinking through, you know, we can't promote video content on Instagram, but we can promote video stories.

And really everything is kind of pushing and pointing us towards stories, so that's kind of another trend that we've seen and almost kind of worked for us, well.

Kelly: And I think with the emergence of platforms like Tik Tok as well, that will just continue and Facebook is going to need to figure out how they're gonna deal with that added competition.

Cause Tik Tok's really, really trying to amplify their advertising.

Haley: Similar to how they were competing with Snapchat. And then Instagram stories kinda came over within the past few years of adding that stories aspect. I think now that tech talks kind of coming into the scene, we'll see this, the Facebook ecosystem, really try to up its game and compete with Tik Tok. Is that new platform coming out as the new hot thing?

Amanda: And did you guys see that Byte was just rereleased?  The founders of Vine have introduced a brand new app

Haley: Called Byte?

Amanda: Byte. It was for a quick video content creation.

Kelly: I'm excited to see how it all kind of plays out and see if I mean, obviously some players might fade away into the background, others might figure out more of a niche, way of going about it, or, you know. Audience specific content too. So

Haley: I will say, I think Facebook ecosystem when it comes to Instagram, Messenger, I think those are here to stay.

Kelly: [00:26:05] We kind of already transitioned into this, but I do want to talk about other trends that we should be watching for on Facebook and, you know, across all of Facebook's platforms.

 So, you know, we've got AI and AR ads, mobile-first growth has been big. What do you guys think are going to be the biggest trends in 2020 and why?

Haley: I know that we talked at the beginning of this episode about automatic placements and I realized that this year Facebook has come out with Facebook portal, which is kind of like a way for you to chat with people through video and they kind of follow you across the room.

They have had ads on certain television spots where they have the Muppets and J-Lo and Kim Kardashian. They're really pushing this Facebook portal. I haven't seen anyone use it that I know he had, but. If that continues to be popular, I think that will potentially have some new ad placements within Facebook portal.

And I'd be interested to see how they would perform and convert. Like if there is an ad for a specific service and you were on Facebook portal and then you, you know, stopped talking to whoever you're talking to and the ad showed up. Would you actually go through and convert? I'm interested to see how Facebook's gonna use this new technology.

Kelly: And how that just impacts the user's behavior as well.

Haley: Will it be more brand awareness or will it be more you know, demand gen, they actually go through and convert.

Amanda: In late 2019 it was the first time that brands were able to actually sponsor influencers content. Prior to that, of course, brands can run advertisements and sponsor their own promotional content, or they could work with influencers who would then kind of promote their content organically.

But now an influencer can post something and a brand can purposefully put paid spend behind that. And I think that will continue to be a huge trend, is going to grow a lot in 2020 but I'm also curious to see how the authenticity of those relationships plays out for the brands because right now people tend to trust people and influencers and their opinions a bit more so than communications directly from a brand.

But if that becomes oversaturated, will that still be true? I'm curious to see how that evolves throughout 2020.

Meleigha: I think what's interesting though is like considering most people use Facebook on their phone. They're coming up with a new desktop view this year, and I saw some mock-ups of it and essentially looks like a larger version of what you see on your phone, but on a desktop because the desktop version is kind of convoluted.

There are a lot of different options. It's really not easy to navigate. So not only, I guess talking about the original, like motif with what we're talking about in 2019 is just simplification. I think 2020 is just furthering that thought process there for them, especially when it comes to looking at the desktop view overall.

Kelly: Cool. For me, I think privacy will continue to be a big thing. I mean, across advertising in general, but especially on Facebook platform. You know, we're already seeing more transparency provided to users. When it comes to advertising. Why am I seeing this?

Haley: I've actually looked at that.

Kelly: And they just rolled out the ability for users to opt-out of custom audience list that they've been on.

And you can actually see what entities. Targeting you with a custom audience list, which is really interesting. With that, I would recommend if you're an agency running ads on behalf of one of your clients, make sure you have that setting selected in your ad campaign manager because otherwise, it'll show your agency as the one targeting them specifically.

So just a little tip there.

Meleigha: Another, another thing for 2020 in general, that I'm intrigued to see is them really focusing on political ads. It is an election year. There are a lot of issues surrounding political ads. And there was recently, you know, Zuckerberg went to Congress recently, and they were talking about, well, what are you going to do?

And he's just like, well, we're going to let the people run them. So. Knowing that in 2019 mistrust in social media information went up by a lot, even sources that are true.  That's going to be really intriguing to see what we're gonna end up seeing on the platform during this time, during all the different elections and so forth and leading up to them cause other platforms such as Twitter, what, you know, they took a stance on, Nope, we're not going to have any, to begin with.

So really, I mean, even though, yes, you have to go through this huge process of, you know, turning in ID information, company information, all this other stuff. I know you had to go through it for a different client.

Haley: It wasn't even necessarily a political client, but it still had some kind of a, I can't even remember what the undertone was, but I still had to go through sending in my ID.

Meleigha: If it's for a cause or something. And so. I mean, I'm really nervous personally to see what's going to be coming out during all this.

Kelly: I mean, with Twitter saying that they're not going to support political ads, that just decreases the inventory so much. So, political advertisers are going to have to leverage platforms like Facebook and, you know, even TV, OTT, all these other, ways of getting in touch with, their audience base to advertise.

Awesome. Well, thank you all so much for joining me. Our next episode's going to be focused on dynamic and personalized creative across paid media. We're really excited about that one. And if you have any questions about anything we talked about today or in past episodes, or have any recommendations of things that you would like to hear us talk about, please email us at and you can also follow us on Twitter @paidmediacoffee, and then also please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And thanks so much.

Haley: Thanks.

Amanda: Thank you.

Posted by Paid Media Coffee on February 4, 2020


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