The holidays are coming, and it’s your chance to boost sales on your store. One way to do that is to advertise on Facebook.
For brands with large budgets it’s a bit easier – they can experiment with Facebook ads, test audiences and ads, and see what works and what doesn’t. But if you’re on a tight budget, those $500 you put into advertising better work and bring you some sales!
In this blog post I’ll share my experiences working with Facebook ads for Startup Vitamins and Printful, and reveal some tested tips and tactics on how to get maximum results with minimal spending. These tactics worked for Startup Vitamins – an online store just like yours – so they might work for your store as well.
A quick note:
At Printful and Startup Vitamins we almost never use boosted posts. Boosted posts are optimized for likes, comments, and shares on the specific post. But you need purchases, not likes. For that reason, we only use Facebook Ads that are optimized for purchases or registrations. That means Facebook will spend our budget showing ads to people who are most likely to take our desired action.
So that’s why the rest of this post will focus on Facebook Ads, not boosted posts. Now, let’s go further and start with the basics.
3 types of targeting you can use in your Facebook Ads campaigns
Targeting is everything. You can spend thousands of dollars, but if you’re showing your ads to people who don’t care, you won’t get any results.
There are two kinds of audiences we use for Printful and Startup Vitamins campaigns: lookalike audiences and audiences based on interests. And we also combine lookalike and interest-based audiences.
1. Lookalike audiences based on your customers’ or store vistiors’ profiles
If you’ve been running your store for a while, you should probably have a list of your customers’ emails. You can upload that list on Facebook and create a lookalike audience – aka people who have similar interests and behaviors as your existing customers.
This is how you create lookalike audiences from your customer emails:
- Take your list of emails and go to Audiences in your Facebook Ads Manager
- Create a Custom Audience by uploading the list and
- Create a Lookalike Audience from the Custom Audience you just created
You’ll need at least 100 emails from your target country to create a lookalike audience. If you have a big customer list, you can even segment these emails, and then create a lookalike audience for specific segments.
Let me explain what segmenting is:
Let’s say you sell leggings and hats on your store. You can segment your customers’ emails based on which product they’ve bought. In one list you’ll have all customers who’ve bought leggings, and in the other, those who’ve bought hats. Upload both email lists separately on Facebook, and create two lookalike audiences. Then advertise different products to each of them – to one group you can show ads with leggings:
And to the other group you show ads with hats:
What if my customer base isn’t big enough?
You can still create lookalike audiences, but based on your store’s visitors. To do that, you’ll first need to install the Facebook pixel on your store so it can track your visitors – read here for how it’s done. Once the pixel is up and running, you can create audiences from your store’s visitors.
This is how you create lookalike audiences from your store’s visitors:
- Go to your Facebook Ads Manager, then Audiences
- Click Custom Audience, and choose Website Traffic, then Anyone who visits your website, and pick your website
- Create a new Lookalike Audience from the custom audience you just created
Here, again, you can segment your visitors by product categories or specific pages they visit, and create different lookalike audiences. What you do is, on step #2, select People who visit specific web pages instead of Anyone who visits your website. Then add URL keywords from specific pages.
For example, we want to create an audience of Startup Vitamins visitors who are interested in posters. At the URL keywords we type in “poster” and the audience is created from all visitors who visited pages that contain the word ”poster” in their URLs:
2. User-interest based audiences and how to define them effectively
Okay, you’re probably thinking:
But what if I’ve JUST launched my store, have no customers yet and the only visitors to my store so far have been me, my best friend, and mom?
Then you use targeting that’s based on specific interests. And I really mean specific.
In other words:
If you’re selling designs with cute puppies, an interest ”puppies” is not specific enough. There are 15M people in the USA, aged 18-65+ who like puppies. You should think of something that’s really unique about the puppy lovers you want to target.
So one thing you can do is combine various interests, demographics and behaviors together to make your audience more specific. Think about who your puppy lovers are. How old they are? Single or with families? What do they like and what do they hate? (Try interests that start with ”I hate”) What books do they read? (Maybe something about dog training?) You get the idea – you should narrow down your audience until it’s specific.
For example, now we’re targeting women aged 25-40 who love puppies, are interested in dog training (read: serious interest in dogs), and are also interested in online shopping (read: shops online).
3. A mash-up of lookalike and interest-based audiences
Another way to make your targeting more specific is to combine interests with your lookalike audiences. For example, when we create campaigns for Printful, we often tend to use our customers’ lookalike audience in combination with a specific ecommerce platform interest.
Let me show you:
If I select an interest ”Shopify,” Facebook finds 2.6M people in the USA, aged 18-65+ who are interested in Shopify:
But who are these people? You can sell anything on Shopify, so we can’t be sure that all of those 2.6M people are interested in selling print products.
So here’s what we do:
First, we select a lookalike audience that’s created from our email list of existing Printful customers. Then, we narrow it down with the interest ”Shopify”:
Now our target audience for the campaign is just 57K. However, we can be more confident that these 57K will actually be interested in printing t-shirts and other products because they’re similar to our existing customers AND are interested in Shopify.
What audience is a good audience?
I don’t think anybody can really answer this question, but here’s what works for us:
In short – if we target people who are already familiar with our brand (our Facebook followers or existing customers), audiences can vary from a few hundreds to a couple of thousand. Meanwhile for lookalike audiences, the optimal audience size for us is around 1M in the USA. It can be different for you, but you don’t want your audience to be too specific or too broad. If it’s too specific, your reach will be very low; if it’s too broad, you will reach a lot of wrong people. Therefore, I try to define my audiences so that this bar is somewhere in the middle:
Usually if you use a lookalike audience, the bar will always be in the middle. It’s a bit harder to hit this middle ground with detailed targeting.
What kind of images and copy sell best in Facebook ads?
Ad creatives contain two parts: visuals and copy.
When you look at parts of your ad, you can rank them in order of importance. Facebook already has created sort of visual hierarchy here – the bigger the element, the more importance it has:
The most important element is the image because it takes up most space in the ad, so it’s the first thing you notice. If the image speaks to you, you read the headline and post text, and finally link description.
Which images work best in Facebook ads?
We’ve tested a lot of images; here the types of visuals that perform the best:
1. High-quality product photos zoomed in. You want your product to be clearly visible both in newsfeed ads, as well as on the right-hand side and mobile ads. Here you can compare how ads look in the newsfeed and on the right-hand side:
2. People pointing. It feels like the person in the image is actually pointing and talking to you. The “cereal box psychology” that was found in an experiment works on adults too – eye contact seem to increase positive feelings towards the product and encourages consumers to buy it.
3. Colorful images that stand out in the feed. You’ve got only 2.5 seconds to catch the attention of users scrolling their news feed on desktop, and just 1.7 seconds on mobile – that’s the time people spend on a piece of content in their Facebook feeds.
PS. Check out Printful’s Photography Services – our team can shoot high-quality photos of your products that you can use for Facebook ads and more.
Which copy works best in Facebook ads?
When it comes to copy, here’s what has worked for us:
1. Social proof. Nothing works better than showing that there are people who’ve already bought your product, trust you, or recommend you to others. There are various kinds of social proofs you can use in your ads, from expert social proof to user social proof. Here’s an example of user social proof in a Printful ad:
2. Use of words that your audience will recognize and/or relate to. For example, if you target women, use words like “women,” “lady,” or “girl” in your copy. If you target people who like puppies, use the word “puppy” in your copy.
3. Deal highlights. Create a special discount code for customers coming from Facebook ads, and highlight that discount code in your copy. For us it works best if we mention it right in our headline:
It’s rather difficult to separate ad visuals from the copy – they work together to persuade users to click. You should definitely test various images and copy in one campaign, in different combinations, and see what works and what doesn’t. We usually create at least 6 different ads for each campaign with 2-3 different images and copy versions.
Facebook campaigns Startup Vitamins is going to run this holiday season (and you should too)
When you know how to define and target your audience on Facebook and what to pay attention to when creating visuals and writing copy, try these tactics described below. They might help you spend this season’s ad budget more effectively.
1. Make your campaign around your holiday deal
People expect deals during the holiday season. Other sellers will offer deals on their stores, so to compete with them, you should too. Whether it’ll be a discount or free shipping, it’s up to you to decide what you can offer.
To make the most of your deal, divide your ad campaign and budget in 3 stages: pre-campaign, campaign, and post campaign.
Stage one: Create buzz around your deal with the pre-campaign
In the week or two before your deal starts, advertise that it’s coming, that there will be a sale or free shipping on your store. You might not generate many sales with these ads, but that’s not the point. The goal of these ads is to create buzz around your deal and to get your customers ready and in the mood to spend money.
Here’s an example of a Startup Vitamins pre-campaign ad before its book sale:
But you should be prepared for those people that do click on your ad and wind up on your store. Create a pop-up or special landing page where the potential customer can leave their email (you can use tools mentioned in this blog post).
The email contacts you’ve gained will be useful for email marketing. These users have already expressed a strong interest in your campaign by not only clicking on your ad, but also by giving away their personal information, such as their email. You can then send a personalized campaign email to these subscribers.
Stage two: Launch your campaign
When you’ve created enough buzz around your deal and your target audience already knows about it, it’s time to launch the real campaign, and advertise it on Facebook, as Startup Vitamins did:
To make your ad more compelling, highlight the deal in the copy, and mention the end date to increase urgency and spontaneous purchases.
Stage three: Convert your undecided customers with the post-campaign
There will be users who visit your store from Facebook and are interested in your products, but for some reason leave without buying anything. Some will hesitate, others will forget and miss the deadline. You can still turn these people into your customers with a post-campaign.
Two important details about post-campaigns:
First, the post-campaign should only last for a short period of time, just 24 or 12 hours. The idea is that you urge those unsure visitors to make the purchase as soon as possible, because this time it’s for real – the campaign will end for good.
Second, you should offer a smaller discount in the post-campaign because there is nothing more disappointing than realizing a brand has tricked you into buying ASAP, even though the campaign is still running. If you offer a 30% discount during the campaign, give 20% off during the post-campaign.
Here is the overview of the Startup Vitamins book sale campaign:
Targeting: People who like our page Startupvitamins, in the USA, aged 18-65+
Audience size: 17K
Results: the $120 we spent made us $457 in total revenue. We spent $20 on the pre-campaign, $80 on the actual campaign, and $20 on the post-campaign where we retargeted all users who visited the specific product page during the campaign.
Who to target in similar campaigns?
1. Your Facebook page followers. Those are the people who are already interested in your products and your brand, and will be happy about the deal.
2. Your existing customers. Reach them on Facebook by uploading your customer list, and showing them ads that will complement your email marketing. They’ve already purchased from you, and now you’re giving them a reason to come back.
3. Reach new customers with your lookalike audiences in combination with friends of your page’s followers. These will be people who are similar to your existing customers. Plus their friends already like your store, which works as social proof.
2. Run an email collecting campaign (and seal the deal with email marketing)
Imagine seeing an ad on Facebook from a brand you’ve never heard of. Even if you find their products interesting, would you buy them right away?
The thing is, we need to become familiar with a brand before we’re ready to open our wallets and spend money. Once people start recognizing your brand, it’s much easier to convert them.
Now, you can either advertise until users have seen your ads multiple times and start to recognize your brand, or go the cheaper route and use ads to collect emails. It feels safer to leave an email than leave one’s credit card information at the checkout. Remember that you’re still selling to the potential customer, but this time the currency is their email.
How to collect emails
First, you should offer something valuable enough that people are willing to ”buy” with their emails. It can be anything you’re willing to give away for free (okay, not really free).
Here are some ideas:
- A special discount or free shipping code
- Your designs as phone wallpapers, desktop screensavers
- A useful blog post (for instance, if you’re selling posters, you can share a post that reveals little-known interior design tips)
For example, Startup Vitamins made their designs as phone wallpapers that anyone can download for free, and created this Facebook ad:
The ad takes people to a landing page where they’re asked to leave their email address:
After they’ve submitted their email address, they’re redirected to another page where they can choose which design they want to download as their wallpaper.
Here is the overview of this email collecting campaign:
Targeting: Lookalike audience of Startup Vitamins customers who’ve bought the Get Shit Done mug, AND are iPhone users, AND are interested in motivational speakers such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Grant Cardone, Tim Ferris, AND living in the USA, aged 18-65+
Audience size: 200K
Results: $500 spent in October, over $1.5K in revenue and 200 emails collected, which we can convert with email marketing in future.
Who to target in similar campaigns?
1. Lookalike audiences. Those are the people who are similar to your existing customers or store’s visitors. These people might like the idea of what you’re selling since they have similar interests to your existing customers, who’ve already bought something from you.
2. Audiences based on specific interests that are relevant to your store’s niche.
And here’s how to make these ads even more effective:
We showed the Startup Vitamins ad on mobile-only because we’re giving away phone wallpapers. And we targeted only iPhone users instead of all smartphone users because Startup Vitamins sells iPhone cases.
So with the ad we gathered emails and a few days later emailed them an offer to buy a case for their phone. We know that they’re interested in Startup Vitamins and like our designs because they’ve left their email, and we know that they’re iPhone owners, so our offer is perfectly on-point.
The holiday season is definitely a great time to try Facebook Ads. People are already in the mood to spend money and shop, so all you need to do is to get in front of them. But it’s also true that competition around this time is tough, therefore you must be smart in your targeting and creative in your ads and campaigns.
If you have something to add or have any questions, feel free to comment below.
Have a great advertising season!