Measuring your creative: Fold or double down?

 Fifth in a five-part series on social media marketing for startups. The previous part discusses understanding shifts in consumer behaviour when building your digital creative.

We spoke earlier in the series about how consumer behaviour relative to consumer consumption of ads and ad content had changed forever. When consumers cut the cord, they also killed the last remaining mass captive audience, and a new series of digital behaviours took root.

Before we get into how to measure your social creative, let’s examine a made-up example that illustrates the challenges of using digital creative to drive conversions.

Let’s say you own a hamburger restaurant that sells the best burgers for miles around.

The only problem? Your restaurant is at the side of a busy highway, and tens of thousands of cars whip by your location every day. They all have somewhere to go, and they’re not necessarily looking for a hamburger. It might not even be mealtime.

Your job as a digital marketer is to get the driver’s attention, get her to pull off the highway, tell her you have the best hamburgers, get her to consider buying a hamburger, get her into the restaurant, get her to buy a hamburger and hopefully have her recommend your restaurant to a friend or come back again.

Not easy.

As a marketer facing a growing and complex array of digital options, it can be helpful to step back and consider how the customer behaves when deciding whether to transact with you.

Catch their attention

The cars are flying by your restaurant. You need to figure out how to get them to stop. The first step is to get their attention.

Your first and most difficult job as a marketer is to get the attention of your user. They have nearly free access to every movie, song, book and TV show ever made. They don’t need to watch your ad content. How are you going to get their attention?

For starters, it has to happen really quickly. As we’ve learned, consumers have been programmed to make a split-second decision on whether they’ll stop, and it all comes down to your creative’s ability to get noticed.

This is a critical and understudied moment of truth, and the best advertisers pay a lot of attention to this moment.

Measurement. It’s hard to measure this moment directly, as Facebook doesn’t have a statistic for an ad’s ability to stop someone’s scroll. As a result, we have to measure by proxy. We can look at the ad relevance diagnostics section (formerly relevance score) to see how the ad is being evaluated based on many variables, including engagement and quality. You can use this to compare multiple ads and see which ones are the most relevant, as judged by the platform.

Build their awareness

Good news, they’re hungry! They pulled off the highway into your parking lot to see what you offer. There are two other restaurants at your rest stop, offering pizza and shawarma, so you hope the driver is in the mood for a burger!

Your next job is to tell people what you’re all about, why they should care and if there’s something in it for them. This also has to happen at lightning speed. The consumer always has options, and just because you got their attention doesn’t mean they’ll buy lunch.

Your creative needs to quickly, effectively and succinctly deliver your key message and your key value proposition. You haven’t yet earned their trust, so they’re willing to keep scrolling unless you give them a reason to stop.

Measurement. Map your measurement KPIs to what you’re trying to achieve at that stage of the user journey. You will still find ad relevance diagnostics useful and can see which ads are performing the best. You can also use cost per thousand views (CPM) to compare creatives and see which one delivers the impressions at the most effective rate. You still need a wide funnel at this point, to drive enough leads through your experience.

Earn their consideration

If you’ve got your hungry driver considering you, you’re off to a great start! She’s deciding between your hamburger (tastes great, high in calories) and a sub (less exciting, perceived as healthier).

Once the consumer has determined that you’re in their selection set, they will go through a process to make a decision. That process can be quick and simple for a low-cost, low-risk purchase or long and arduous for an expensive, involved purchase.

Now is when your marketing and sales take over, and you try to convince the customer that your option is the best option for them. Creative that really understands the customer group and how they evaluate their options will dominate this stage and separate your product from the pack.

Measurement. At this point, we’re looking for consumers to begin taking some actions that will lead to an eventual purchase. You need digital consumers to click through to your site so you can watch the click-through rate (CTR). This is the amount it costs to get a user to click to your site and is crucially important. Even more important is landing page visitors and its cost per, as this limits the measurement to visitors who don’t bounce and who engage at least minimally with content on the page. If your business is based on lead generation, you can measure your cost per lead (CPL) and see which creative drives the lowest cost leads.

Drive conversions

They want hamburgers! They will go back to healthy food tomorrow. Congratulations! It’s not easy to convert a speeding driver into a happy diner.

Finally, there comes a time in every user journey when the user needs to convert. It’s vital that your creative is very sharp here, either reinforcing the gains they’ll achieve, the pains they’ll remove or making them a special offer to convert.

Most marketers spend a lot of time thinking about this stage and taking the attention and awareness for granted. This creative obviously drives the final conversion, but a lot of work has taken place to ensure that the user converts at this stage. Measuring specifically for funnel stage also needs to be paired with measuring holistically for overall funnel performance. Specific measurement allows you to triage where the funnel stage needs improvement.

Measurement. Now we want to measure the dollars and figure out how efficiently we were able to convert the user, relative to the amount of profit they drove for you (or will drive for you predictably in the future). The most popular measure is cost per acquisition (CPA), which is the amount spent on the ad divided by the revenue produced by it. Return on ad spend (ROAS) is a similar popular metric to measure.

Some final thoughts on creative measurement

Measure for the stage. Whenever possible, try to align the user experience stage with a “cost per” KPI whenever possible. If you have a cost per action, regardless of the action, you have created a common denominator that can be used to compare campaigns, which is what we’re trying to accomplish.

Watch your frequency. If you’re spending a lot of money on social, you’ll eventually see declining effectiveness. There are many reasons for declining results, but excessive frequency is a common cause. Make sure to keep your creative fresh, and don’t expect one campaign to deliver results forever.

Keep it simple (no need to call anyone stupid!). Most successful startup Facebook ad accounts have a small handful of campaigns with a small handful of ad sets and a rotating suite of creatives for each persona at each funnel stage. They typically do not have dozens or hundreds of ad sets. Get something to work and scale it.

Conduct constant testing. Marketing measurement and KPIs are relative statistics, meaning they are only valuable compared to industry benchmarks or your other comparable campaigns. Your best performing ad set is simply the best performing of your options. They can still be improved, so frequent testing is imperative. Be disciplined in splitting your budget between trusted campaigns and experimental campaigns, so you can be on the lookout for better creatives.

Trim and double down. The goal isn’t to get everything to work. It’s to get something to work. Most startups die because they can’t find one viable acquisition channel, let alone several. Shut down campaigns that aren’t performing and allocate the saved budget to campaigns that are. Consistently doubling down on success is the quickest way to fast growth.

Achieve continued and scalable success in social media advertising

This completes our series on effective social media advertising. Combining all of the tactics we’ve detailed in the series into a coherent strategy —one that is tested constantly — will result in continued and scalable digital success.

Read the full series