Forget fake news. Facebook needs to do something about fake ads

Patrick Stewart is just fine. I looked at his Twitter. He’s happy and healthy and staring in a meh Emoji Movie.

I did my spot check shortly after seeing disturbing ad on Facebook. It inferred that something had happened to one of the world’s most beloved actors.

Perhaps you’ve seen these Facebook ads, the cryptic, often misleading images and text that sit neatly in the right rail of your desktop Facebook, right next to your newsfeed. Facebook calls the area “Sponsored,” so you know they’re ads.

SEE ALSO: Keyboard ads are your latest dystopian tech nightmare

Even so, the tricks the advertisers use to make you click are misleading at best, and dishonest at worst. Read more…

More about Facebook, Marketing, Advertising, Ads, and Patrick Stewart

These Facebook marketing skills can help you become more hirable

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

Let’s be real. After you picked up that fancy diploma, you lost all interest in learning skills that won’t help you earn a higher paycheck. ;

If you work in marketing, you probably already know the importance of Facebook in advertising, building brand awareness, and driving purchases. But nearly anyone—even marketing neophytes—can benefit greatly from a crash course in this essential tool. Why? Companies across a wide spectrum of industries are rapidly investing in Facebook marketing professionals to help spearhead growth initiatives. ; Read more…

More about Facebook, Marketing, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Stackcommerce, and Business

These filmmakers will bring immigrant stories to those who need to see them most

After the election of President Donald Trump, filmmaker Daniel Klein felt compelled to resist.

It was a feeling many progressives in the U.S. had as Trump came to lead the country — a man who was elected on a platform that insulted and demonized at-risk communities. In response, Klein and his team behind the award-winning food documentary series The Perennial Plate wanted to switch gears, and channel their skills and passion into something good.

SEE ALSO: Hilarious photo series shows the alarmingly normal lives of immigrants

“I believe that if you are able, then it is your obligation to do what you love and to use it to positively impact the world,” he said. Read more…

More about Film, Activism, Refugees, Immigrants, and Social Good

To regain advertiser trust, Facebook is tracking ads by the millisecond

You may scroll through something so fast on Facebook that you don’t notice it. But Facebook wants every moment to count — at least in what it presents to advertisers. ;

The company announced Friday they will provide millisecond-level data for ads on Facebook, Instagram and its online ad ecosystem Audience Network. ;

SEE ALSO: Legal action over boxing livestream highlights Facebook’s piracy problem

Now, for the first time through Facebook, advertisers can see how long their ads were seen by the millisecond. That includes how many milliseconds overall the ad was on a screen and then broken out into how many milliseconds 100 percent of the ad was on the screen, as well as how many milliseconds 50 percent of it was on the screen. ; Read more…

More about Advertising, Media, Apps And Software, Tech, and Business

Facebook is within reach of 2 billion users

By Wednesday, February 1, 2017 0 Permalink 0

Facebook hasn’t hit 2 billion users per month, but it’s getting pretty damn close.

Just when you thought Facebook already connected the entire world, it’s proving that it can grow faster than ever before. ;

SEE ALSO: Facebook’s VR social network is surprisingly stunning

Facebook now reaches 1.86 billion monthly active users, having added 70 million users in the quarter. That’s an 18 percent increase from the year prior and up from the 17 percent bump last quarter. ;

Facebook added more users this qtr than any in its history, CFO David Wehner says in interview

— Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) February 1, 2017 Read more…

More about Oculus, Instagram, Facebook Ads, Earnings, and Business

There Is No Salvation for the ‘Facebook Expert’

By Thursday, January 26, 2017 0 Permalink 0

In the old days of search marketing, it was about tricking the dumb robots–buy links, cloak, spin content, or whatever trick you could pull.

And then came the old days of Facebook marketing (up through 2014), which was also about tricking the dumb robots–arb out placements available only via Power Editor, run weighted average fan acquisition campaigns internationally, pollute a competitor’s remarketing campaigns by sending garbage traffic, scrape Facebook user IDs to generate custom audiences, roll up applications to build your email list, run sponsored stories with messages fans never endorsed, move text to bypass the 20 percent rule and the list goes on.

Sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo?

Good–that means you’re not one of the people who are about to get slaughtered. Maybe it’s people on your staff or some of your vendors. Seeing the forest from the trees, the smart Facebook advertiser no longer salivates like happy dogs hearing dinging bells.

Ride the gimmick game from tactic to tactic–and as each trick exhausts, you are a junkie in search of your next fix. As we said before, Facebook has now largely solved the optimization challenge for you.

Choose your business objective, load up your content, connect your audiences–that’s it. Put the money in the machine and Facebook itself does the optimization. But you’re still responsible for your goals, content and targeting.

This kills the single-channel marketer and a raft of Facebook-only companies at the same time. The walking dead who are peddling search-engine optimization, Facebook ads, or other disciplines are starting to realize this. They’re dropping SEO out of their name, rebranding as content marketers and jumping ship.

Keyword <> Facebook interests (2007-11)

You see, keywords were a great start in search-engine marketing. And the first folks to do Facebook advertising were the search PPC (pay-per-click) folks that assumed interests were keywords. Some people even pretended to build software that mapped Google keywords to Facebook interests.

Of course, that didn’t work.

That’s also why you don’t see any legitimate keyword, audience research or competitive tools for Facebook. It was easy with Google, since you could set up a crawler to scan where you ranked and also monitor competitor ads. On Facebook, because every user feed is personalized and behind a login, you have no idea what anyone else is doing or seeing. There is no legitimate competitive ad intelligence tool out there, and I doubt there ever will be.

Back to the consultants and software companies, which had raised funding from venture-capital firms which themselves hadn’t used Facebook. The curtain were hamster wheels, frenetically spinning to extract intent out of things people liked. But what you clicked like on in an indeterminate time past was no proxy for your immediate needs now–a broken toilet, hunger pangs for sushi or the need to buy a wedding gift for an old high-school friend.

You just couldn’t make gold from coal, no matter how many philosopher stones and divining rods you had. The fool’s gold of social was inflated fan campaigns, the bubble of app installs and general nonsense passed off to unsuspecting brands. Back when Facebook had one-dozen offices in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2008 (its food was delicious and still is), I felt we had a new tech gold rush.

But this time, it was data miners, not panhandlers–though the same charlatans existed selling their wares.

We actually did have search ads in 2011 briefly on Facebook. But Facebook pulled them because 99 percent of the searches were navigational, not demand-driven. And, I suspect, a lot of brands didn’t like being sniped on their own terms.

It was a clever, effective parlor trick.

In the same way you could cloak the search engines (show them one thing, while showing users another), with Facebook ads, you could programmatically bid high and low every 60 seconds. Thus when you created the ad at the high bid, it would get priority in the auction.

But when the system came around to bill you, it would notice the lower CPM (cost per thousand impressions) bid, assume there was an error and credit you back. The ad geeks called this optimization, but I called it cheating.

Facebook going through the ‘teenage years’ (2011-14)

With Power Editor and the Facebook Ads API (application-programming interface), the geeks got a ton of tools to play with. The number of ad types grew to more than 30, depending on how you counted them. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of interest targets (we got a list of 300,000 from Facebook at one point), partner targeting (offline behavioral data), custom audiences, and demographic data and you have billions of combinations possible.

The complexity created huge niche opportunities, as well as room for consultants to sell into the confusion. Facebook was able to “move fast and break things,” which conferred advantage to folks who could exploit cracks in the system before they were fixed.

For example, a number of companies found that they could spin up thousands of ads at low bids. And the ad algorithm wasn’t smart enough to know, allowing you to game the system. Many of the software companies that manage Facebook ads still rely upon this mass multiplying.

Even if you could get the targeting spot on, trying to do CPM and CPC (cost per click) bids against a range of placements was too hard.

So optimized CPM solved this issue by not only bidding to the business objective, but subselecting within the broad audience you’ve chosen. This solved the problem of needing to micro-target (you reading this?) and of conversion optimization. It meant the system could automatically learn who your best customers are and find more of them for you–lookalikes, for example.

Now if only they could create your content for you–use PostPlanner, Canva and your customers to curate and create for you, meanwhile. Every piece of content, which includes every organic post you’ve done, necessitates a different audience, too.

In the Google ad world, you create content that exists only for advertising and can live forever.  Set it and forget it.

But on Facebook, it’s the opposite–there are no ads, just organic posts that you amplify. You throw fuel on the fire once you find that something is working. The “always-on” post was perhaps my favorite ad, since it would just promote your most recent post. But that died, largely because not all posts should get promoted, like when you’re notifying the community of a problem.

There is still no good solution for this issue, so you need a human to watch this every few days. You can simplify their work by predefining the audiences they can choose from–saved audiences and various custom audiences.

Facebook ads as a young adult (2015 and onward)

I suppose if you’re old enough to drive a car and get your own place, you’re an adult. But maybe if you’re not old enough to drink or possess maturity in other subjective areas to be truly “grown-up.”

Likewise, Facebook integrates with only a few systems that you’ll need–your content-management system and your customer-relationship-management solution. Facebook is a platform that connects the two, matching people with content–you just happen to need to pay to do it–social postage, if you will.

Assuming you can get the content (Facebook posts, blog posts, photos from customers, reviews, etc.) and users (emails, app users, pixeled users, check-in users, etc.) piped in automatically, you still have to deal with specifying the business logic of sequences. In other words, you have to chain out content delivery according to the customer persona and where they are in the funnel.

The current batch of marketing automation companies out there do this nascently via drag-and-drop flow charts.

I’d argue that even if Facebook were to create the ultimate version of Power Editor, there is no way it will succeed in asking customers to build duplicate funnel logic within Facebook. It will have to integrate with the marketing automation companies to replicate the same logic into Facebook. Same users and content–just delivered beyond just email, which is what’s currently happening.

The marketing automation companies are really just email automation companies, since they don’t extend across all marketing channels yet. I predict three more years before Facebook is truly able to help mainstream small business owners. The delay is less about their technology, which is already robust enough, but about partners that need to integrate platforms and about educating marketers what Facebook is and isn’t.

Google was founded in 1998 (2000 for AdWords), so that’s 17 years. And I’d argue that it is too hard (at least its ad platform) for most businesses to use.

Facebook was founded in 2004 (2007 for ads), so not bad for only 10 years. Facebook ad optimization is a human psychology and finance problem, not a geek optimization problem.

When these integrations are finally in place, the finance people will be running the show. In undergrad religious studies, we learned about supersessionism. The Christians say they believe everything the Jews do but chide them for missing Jesus. The Muslims say they believe in everything the Christians do but they missed out on Mohammed. I’m not a preacher, so forgive the oversimplification.

When the web started to become mainstream in the mid-1990s, it was dominated by tech weenies. They were called webmasters, if you were around then. And they protected their high priesthoods with jargon, in the typical union-like keep-away played by IT.

Then the marketers came in and took over the web functions, too. And you’re not surprised that the chief marketing officer now outspends the chief technology on technology. The mainstream marketers–even business-to-business and small and midsized businesses–have been blasting Facebook posts indiscriminately.

Facebook stock is way up because of this, but nobody is quite sure what the return on investment is of these efforts.

We’re in the end of this period now.

Now the finance people are coming in. They don’t care about the information-technology or marketing stuff, except to minimize cost centers and not eat too much into profit margins. So the smart marketer must tie Facebook results to profits and losses, which is the only thing that finance people care about.

They are no longer OK with impressions, likes, shares or reach–they want revenue and margin maximization. The Facebook ads geek can talk a good technical game about how novices wouldn’t possibly begin to comprehend the complexity of these algorithms.

They may even be able to talk content marketing and marketing automation. But the people holding the purse strings will tire of this, since they want to know cost and revenue, tied neatly into a forecast. And that is why the Facebook tech weenie or Facebook guru will be dead soon, along with all single-channel marketers.

It’s not just Facebook ad specialists: It also includes social media strategists and anyone professing channel or tool-specific expertise. External consultants who come in for specialized situations–sure, there’s some room for that, but not in-house. Left behind is the ROI-minded marketer that leaves the optimization natively to the networks.

That smart marketer focuses on business goals, sources content in line with personas, and has the systems build audiences automatically.

How Marketers on Facebook Can Convert in a Mobile Minute (Report)

By Thursday, January 19, 2017 0 Permalink 0

Mobile conversions outpaced desktop conversions on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season, according to Facebook data, and Facebook IQ set out to find out why.

The social network’s research arm tapped internal data and commissioned a survey by Kantar, and its findings included:

Mobile accounted for 51 percent of online transactions during the 2016 holiday season, up 10 percent from the previous year.
Mobile conversions grow when users are likely on the move, such as during commuting hours, as well as during evenings, when they are likely watching television.
30 percent of retail shoppers during the past month discovered new products or services on Facebook; one-third cited Facebook and Instagram as good places to find out about new products and services; and 20 percent said Facebook led them to online purchases of new products and services.
Facebook IQ had people watch the same videos on desktop and mobile, and those who viewed via mobile estimated their length to be 30 percent shorter than those who viewed the videos via desktop.
Shoppers who saw Facebook ads on mobile and completed purchases on mobile took 1.08 days less to convert than those who took both steps via desktop, or a 13 percent difference in speed.
65 percent of respondents use retail aggregators to research and shop on their smartphones.
38 percent wish they could do more shopping on their smartphones than they already do.

Facebook IQ also provided the following takeaways for marketers:

Know the journey: People are turning to their smartphones more than to any other device, opening up new opportunities to capture their attention, be it on the go or on the couch. It’s time to get comfortable with playing with different types of content to reach and engage people on mobile.
Design for the thumb: Time flies on mobile, and so do people. Think of time as the new success metric, as saving people even a second of time can be a competitive advantage. When designing for the thumb, build content that is not only engaging but also addresses people’s need for speed and convenience.
Experiment with the experience: Creating micro-efficiencies for people is essential, and not just on mobile. This extends to products, merchandising and the in-store experience. With more savvy shoppers using their smartphones in-store, consider experimenting with how you blend online and offline experiences.

Readers: What are your thoughts on the findings by Facebook IQ and Kantar?

Trump is using Facebook ads to unload Inauguration tickets

By Tuesday, January 17, 2017 0 Permalink 0

With just a few days remaining until is inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump seems to be taking strange steps to unload tickets for the big event, scheduled for this Friday, January 20, 2017.

SEE ALSO: Don’s Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration

Several users have noticed a sponsored video from Trump appearing on their Facebook timelines with Trump offering them a chance to register for free tickets for the big event, which includes both the welcome concert and the swearing-in ceremony. ;

Is this for real? Donald Trump is so desperate to fill up seats at inauguration that he’s put an ad on Facebook to invite people?

— Mario Almonte (@Almonte) January 16, 2017 Read more…

More about Facebook Ads, Tickets, Inauguration 2017, Donald Trump, and Business

How Ad Testing Can Combat Facebook’s Slow Ad Growth

By Monday, December 26, 2016 0 Permalink 0

In its third-quarter-2016 earnings call, Facebook reported that 1.71 billion people used its service in June. That’s nearly one-quarter of the earth’s population! Yet in spite of these impressive numbers, Facebook is expecting much lower ad revenue growth over the next two quarters.

The reason? Facebook’s advertising volume has reached a point of diminishing returns. In other words, it has maximized ad loads–the volume users will tolerate before they feel their experience is degraded. The evidence is compelling. Bombarded with ads, nearly 200 million consumers have turned to ad blockers to control the onslaught.

This means companies that have been relying on Facebook ads should be cautious. As Facebook has hit its optimum ad load, its focus is turning instead to alternative sources of revenue like video ads, bots for its Messenger application and its audience on third-party apps and websites.

What Facebook’s changes mean for advertisers

Digital marketers, take note: Zero growth in ad load means that it’s more important than ever for your ads to be relevant, engaging and shareable. Marketers need to be creative to captivate consumers who are already saturated with content. How will your ads stack up? The best way to find out is to test them. Here are a few tips to ensure that your Facebook advertisements are making the maximum impact:

Articulate your objectives: Before you begin, define the specific questions that the test will need to address. This is a critical point for me as I test my staff members. Testing ideas without intention is wasteful. I want my team to learn to test through a strategic, iterative process. For example, if I want to run a test targeting parents, I literally write down how I define the test: “I am testing parents because I think they will provide converting leads.” Once you’ve documented your objectives, test it. Ideally, you’ll want to test one element at a time, and then compare the results.
Plan for constant testing: Our team’s term for this is “ABT,” which stands for, “always be testing.” While Facebook ads help smaller businesses reach a widespread audience, especially because 84 percent of Facebook’s total ad sales are mobile, it’s important to make sure that consumers are getting the right message. Carve out a test budget that allows your team to constantly test ad copy, placements, targeting and imagery. With so many ads and so little space to capture the attention of your audience, you can’t afford to waste a single word or image. Varying placements can also affect the interest your ads receive. The conventional wisdom is that Facebook users ignore sidebar ads and engage more frequently with native ads. But users might be resentful of ads masquerading as real content in their News Feeds. Experiment with different placements to see which option attracts more clicks. A/B testing, or split testing, is one of the best ways to discover which ad works best. Facebook’s ad splitting tool makes it easy to segment your audience by age, gender or many other attributes. Comparing the results from multiple variations of an ad provides the hard data you need to make informed decisions.
Analyze test results: The most important part of this entire process is conducting an analysis on your test. Did it accomplish your defined objective? Did it reveal other information to you? Compare your documented results with the objective you wrote down prior to the testing process, and then share your findings with other members of your team. I train my staff to be open to test anything; Facebook is a great place to enact this policy because of its generally clean traffic. The cycle of testing and communicating our findings has helped us develop new advertising ideas that are deserving of tests of their own. I’ve conducted thousands of tests like this over the course of my career and have found that there are endless possible tests; the trick is to analyze the findings to ensure that your tests are productive.

Facebook’s new ad load policy makes an even more compelling case for an ongoing commitment to testing. It’s the only way to ensure your Facebook advertisements will be relevant, timely and impactful.

Lauren Alexander is executive vice president of marketing at Underground Elephant, a performance-based provider of online marketing technology and customer acquisition solutions based in San Diego.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.