In the past few years, much shorter than most people realize, Facebook advertising has gone from a new way to spend advertising dollars, to being the single most effective entry point to the world of digital marketing.

If a small business wants to move from printed flyers to geo-targeted digital ads, where do they think to go first? Facebook.

If a thought leader wants to reach audience members in a particular niche on the Internet and let them know about their new, say, book launch, where do they turn? Facebook.

Whether it has been publicly acknowledged or not, Facebook is absolutely setting the standard as far as digital advertising goes. And not only is Facebook making a killing off the model, but many, many other entrepreneurs see the opportunity to play the middle man between businesses looking to advertise and the platform itself.

After all, running Facebook ads in itself isn't terribly difficult. Just about anyone with even the slightest bit of familiarity with the Internet can run a campaign or boost a post and turn it into an ad. However, there is an art to running Facebook ads the right way, and those who have mastered the platform are building tremendously successful businesses for themselves by helping other businesses properly market themselves.

As someone who is all-in on Facebook (not just their advertising model, but where they are headed as a company), I have had many, many conversations with Facebook ad experts out of curiosity over the power of the platform. And what I have learned is that the ones who know how to drive results, really understand the psychology of not just a digital buyers' journey, but of Facebook and its social ecosystem.

Someone whom I have learned a lot from (and left a lasting impression on me, considering his breadth of knowledge at such a young age) is Peter Szabo, an 18-year-old Facebook advertising guru who has built an agency running Facebook ad campaigns for businesses. In the past year, he operated over $2M in ad spends, if that gives you any insight into the amount of money being funneled through from businesses looking for a positive ROI. But Szabo isn't new to the Facebook game. He's actually been studying the platform and running campaigns since he was just 11 years old. He's seen the platform grow and evolve over the past few years, and adjusted accordingly. (Props to the Gen Z entrepreneurs out there crushing it!)

When I chatted with Szabo recently, picking his brain on my own Facebook advertising campaigns, I specifically asked him about the mistakes people make when running Facebook ads themselves. As someone who has created more than my fair share of campaigns, I know the whole process comes with a learning curve, so I wanted to share some clear advice here for other DIY ad managers who are struggling to see a return on their investment.

1. Facebook is all about data. You can't make emotional decisions.

"When you start running Facebook ads, especially if you are using them to sell high-ticket products or services, it can be very easy to get anxious watching so much money go down the drain before anything converts. You need to remember not to make decisions that are emotional, and instead pay attention to the data. You have to give things enough time to show you whether things are working properly or not," said Szabo.

This is something I have experienced directly, both for myself and several of my own consulting clients. It's not that Facebook ads "don't work" (because clearly they do). It's that they take time to refine and adjust in order to work properly. You can't run a campaign for a day and immediately chalk it up as a failure--especially if you're first starting out.

2. Don't change too many variables at once.

One of the worst things you can do as a digital marketer is make big changes by the batch.

"There is a science to any effective digital marketing, and that means you have to leave some variables as constants to know what is working and what isn't. If you change too many things all at once, you don't know if it was the headline that started performing better, or the image, or the text copy, or the offer, etc. Instead, run different campaigns with separate variable changes so that you can properly track your results," said Szabo.

As my mentor would say, "If you can't measure it, don't do it."

3. Remember Facebook is a social platform, not a merchant platform.

"If I could only share one thing to anyone first starting out with Facebook ads, it would be this: Facebook is a social platform. No one wakes up in the morning, credit card in hand, thinking to themselves, "What am I going to buy today?" It's funny because 95% of time, we receive inquiries from potential clients because of a 'traffic problem,' however when we actually look into the issue, nearly every single time the problem goes much deeper than that. It's usually hidden in their sales funnel, messaging, or overall strategy--and it always comes back to violating the core concept of Facebook. It's a social platform, not a merchant platform."

These are words of wisdom that, unfortunately, often fall upon deaf ears. It's an issue I run into constantly as well. People love to say, "We have to tell our story in a unique way. We have to be different and engaging. We have to provide people with value." And then they go to run their first ad, and it looks like every other ad ever created in the history of digital advertising.

The truth is, most people don't know how to provide value. They fear giving away too much for free, or they worry that if they don't use an extremely sales-driven headline that nobody will click. But you have to remember where you are running ads. People use Facebook for sharing content, not for consuming ads. So if you want your ads to be effective and to stand out, then they need to be equal to or greater than the other content being presented in people's feeds, in terms of value.

4. Use pixels to gather effective data about your ideal customers.

"It's amazing how many people don't know that they can place Facebook pixels on their website and actually track how many people visit or convert and purchase. You can track everything from the number of opt-ins on a landing page, to product purchases, calls, etc. And the more data Facebook acquires using that pixel, after a few hundred conversions Facebook will then have a solid idea of who is likely to compete the same action. At that point, you can optimize strictly for conversions, pay less for impressions and have the Facebook algorithm do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of finding your ideal customers. And then, once you have thousands of registered conversions, you can literally target the whole United States (without choosing any interests at all) and your pixel will do all the targeting for you on autopilot," said Szabo.

Pretty cool, right?

The trouble is, these things take time (and money). In order to get hundreds or thousands of conversions from buying customers, you need to spend money--and not just spend, but invest the time to test and tweak your campaigns until they start driving the desired results.

If you haven't dabbled in Facebook advertising yet, I highly suggest you start now. Things are only just beginning, and you'll be better off in the long run if you can learn the platform and start seeing the value sooner rather than later.

Published on: Mar 14, 2017