Summary: In the “old days” of Facebook marketing, many of us marketers took a similar approach to our ad account structure as we had previously done in our paid search accounts; that is to say, we broke down our campaigns and ad sets to as granular a status we could manage, in order to better manage performance across different audiences. However, over the last couple of years it has become clear that Facebook’s ad algorithms perform best for advertisers when ad accounts are simplified and audiences are broad, rather than hyper-targeted. The sooner Facebook advertisers test this for themselves, the better their results could be.

The “Old Days” Of Facebook Ad Account Structure

Back when I first started out in Facebook ads, I was the king of going too granular with my ads. My usual approach was to break down (multiple) campaigns per activity by at least location, age & gender. A typical campaign might have looked like this in my ad accounts, at that time:

As you can see, it starts getting a bit unwieldly quite quickly… and that’s only the ad sets for a single gender for 2 states, when you have a nationwide or international campaign (and start adding in a “Male” focussed campaign, “interest-based” campaigns, “life-stage campaigns” and so on) you can imagine just how complicated your ad account could become.

Still, the fact was a lot of us structured our campaigns this way. I think, in the early days, a lot of us marketers were so in love with the fact that Facebook knew… well, pretty much everything about its users… we couldn’t imagine structuring our campaigns any other way. Of course we wanted to break it down to the nth degree… because where else could a platform provide us that kind of data?

The problem was also, in a lot of ways, our egos.

Honest reflection time: I think (apart from our paid search backgrounds) it took most advertisers a while to figure out that this might not be the best way to go because of our egos (and sales tactics). Because there was so much data to be used on the Facebook ads platform, it became both a sales tactic (“look how complicated this is to do… we’ll do it for you!”) and an ego thing (“look how smart we are that we can target females in [city] who have recently become engaged and have a birthday coming up in the next 7 days who have just moved out of home!”)

Because we’d trotted those lines publicly, it became hard to admit that… well, eventually, Facebook knew better than us… and that our carefully constructed, complicated ad set targeting may not perform as well as a Facebook algo that can take broad targeting and optimise towards conversions in real time better than our expected audience segmentation.

How my accounts look these days

Campaign-level

Firstly, it’s worth a reminder here that your objectives are set at a campaign level. So, it goes without saying that I structure my campaigns and number of campaigns depending on the marketing funnel and objectives per stage of the funnel. As the below shows, campaigns should be driven by objectives, rather than audiences or creatives.

So, for example, whereas in the early days of Facebook ads I might have gone overly granular on a campaign basis (for example, having separate campaigns for males and females), these days this is most definitely not the case. One campaign per objective. That’s it. The purpose of campaigns is to organise your objectives, so my suggestion is to avoid¬† overcomplicating this stage; really think about your marketing goals and your objectives. Be clear about what the ultimate goals are, and organise your campaigns accordingly.

Ad-set level

Here’s where things really simplify down. Although in the past I might have had upwards of 40 ad sets in a campaign, these days I try to keep them to 3 or 4 at the most. Now, obviously the set up will change depending on the campaign, the product, and available audiences; I’m not attempting to give you an example here that would apply to every campaign. But, generally speaking, my 3 ad sets might look something like the below:

Now again, please don’t assume I’m saying the above is the same ad set structure that can be applied across all campaigns; what I’m attempting to show is just how much more “broad” the ad sets are. Essentially, what we’re breaking it down by in the above is by creative based on user-journey progression; rather than by demographics, location, interests and the like.

While this would no doubt grate many of the paid search specialists out there, going broad like this and trusting in the Facebook algorithms to auto-optimise towards the best performing segments within those broader target groups has been working better than an ultra-granular approach now for at least 15-18 months. The broad approach allows Facebook to use its audience data at scale, to gather enough data points

Ultimately, that’s why helped me learn to stop worrying and trust Facebook’s ad simplification process; the results. And the results have been consistent for some time now.

Facebook’s Advice? Simplify Your Accounts

Quite apart from our own experience, Facebook are now strongly advocating for advertisers to follow a simplified account structure. At a recent invite-only event down in Sydney, Facebook unveiled what they are calling the “Power 5”.

 

The full list of Facebook’s “Power 5” is:

  • Account simplification
  • Campaign budget optimisation
  • Automatic placements
  • Dynamic ads
  • Auto advanced matching

While account simplification is only one of the five “Power” points, it is an incredibly important one.

How about you? How granular are you going with your Facebook ad campaigns these days? Have you tried a “broad” targeting approach yet? Let us know in the comments!

 

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