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250: What’s Working to Scale Accounts on Facebook and Instagram Right Now

Posted by Austin Brawner on May 5, 2020

If you are advertising on Facebook and Instagram, this is an episode you don’t want to miss!

As we see an increase in Facebook and Instagram usage due to COVID-19, many of our clients are scaling up their advertising. Today’s episode will cover what’s working right now in paid social and how our clients and partners are scaling up!

Episode Highlights

  • 6:37 The specific audiences working right now for top of the funnel advertising
  • 9:57 User-generated content that’s providing additional scale 
  • 11:30 What’s working right now to scale up middle of the funnel advertising
  • 12:22 The audience advertisers should be targeting
  • 13:23 Bid strategy – are cost caps working?
  • 15:35 How to acknowledge the challenging times on the website and product
  • 19:14 Optimizing dynamic creative within campaigns
  • 20:58 What optimization is working in low funnel
  • 21:33 How to address shipping concerns
  • 22:44 Other messaging opportunities to address delivery concerns

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. I tell you, it's nice to be with you on video first time. First time in a long time on video.

Austin Brawner: First time in a long time on video. We are thinking about ways we could kind of better improve what we're doing during this time when everyone's at home and we said, you know what, we should put some videos out. And so it's been on our list. We're excited. We've got the video going. It's our first time. We'd love to hear back from you guys what you think about the videos. We'll pop them up on YouTube. But first this is an exciting episode because this is the first episode we've recorded with you as a dad.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I tell you it's good. Dad life is good. There's ups and downs, but it's great. Nora's doing well. She's getting bigger and she's healthy. So that's really all that matters.

Austin Brawner: You look fresh, too. Surprisingly fresh. I hadn't seen you yet. I was expecting a little bit more... Maybe it's the makeup.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I'm really glad that I look fresh. Because last night she didn't sleep from two to five. So just didn't want to sleep. So like what are you going to do? But coffee does incredibly amazing things. It's the most incredible liquid. So generally I feel good, and I mean, I'm not going to be going out running a marathon today, but I feel good and this is a, the morning is a good time. It's a blessed time now. But no, Nora, it's great. Honestly, she's really cute and it's pretty cool.

Austin Brawner: Productivity wise, now that you're waking up at two and getting your day started at two, you get more done.

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, I definitely have had the moments when I'm like, well I'm up. Should I just do something? Why even try to go back to sleep? I really like being a dad. I think it's, I think Jeff from Ugmonk described it properly a little bit the other day on Twitter when he said, "I think I have negative time now. I went from having some time to now I have a negative amount of time to do things." And that's actually kind of how I feel a little bit.

Austin Brawner: Well, congrats. I'm excited for you. And also I'm excited about today's episode because we've been thinking about, we've been getting a lot of questions kind of about what's been going on the Facebook Instagram landscape. And it's interesting, we've both had calls with clients, with agencies and have an interesting perspective of what's going on out there.

So obviously lots has changed in the world and yeah, so today we wanted to really dive into what's been working on Facebook and Instagram right now.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think it's interesting to kind of look at this time. It's very unique. But the interesting thing about our industry generally, I would say two thirds of eCommerce companies that I've spoken with and then to two thirds of those that are through agencies as well that we work with, we work with a lot of agencies now and, and are consultants with them, is people are scaling actually.

And it's pretty incredible because there's just so much more usage. Facebook has said there's 70% increase in time of usage on Facebook and Instagram. They said their family of apps, which obviously would also include WhatsApp. But from an ad serving perspective it's really Instagram and Facebook. So that's incredible because we're seeing CPMs and pricing that we've just really never seen or haven't seen in a long time.

Maybe the last time I saw these was back in the days when I was scaling Blenders Eyewear back in the 2015, 16 timeframe. So it was a while ago. So what we're going to go over today is basically a big laundry list of the research that I've done on what's working for us and then posted it in our group, the Facebook and Instagram pro ad buyers group on Facebook.

If you're not a member of that, we'd love to have you. About 1800 strong now, some of the best advertisers in the world. And people gave us some other ideas of what's working. So that's what we're going to go through and we're just going to fire through them because I want it to be incredibly tactical.

Austin Brawner: Cool. So this episode is going to be great for you if you are running a brand and you're advertising on Facebook and Instagram. If you are running an agency, if you're a freelance marketer, anybody who's on paid social, this episode is going to be for you and give you some things to try. So why don't we kick it off, Andrew. What the hell is working right now? What are you seeing?

Andrew Foxwell: So, so let me go through what's working for us first. So what's working for us first is, first of all we've seen this in a little bit in the Q4, but is wider audiences on top of funnel. So this really means sometimes no targeting with only in exclusion of website visitors or your email list. So the bigger and the wider you can go, the better off you're going to be.

We did see instances where last year at 1% 2% lookalikes were doing okay, but we've now seen that basically the more leash we call it in the advertising world, you give a top of funnel prospecting audience, the better off you're going to be from a performance standpoint just because Facebook has more places to show it. So that's the first one.

Austin Brawner: Is there any like guidelines on budget there? That's always the question that I have. And I get that question a lot. When you're going for like a broad audience, is there a limitation on the minimum budget? You need to have to be able to target that or are you commanding that across the board?

Andrew Foxwell: I think it's tough on a big wide budget. It's hard to know. Generally my feeling is, let's just take $100 CPA as an example, $100 CPA, you want to try to, I'm not saying you have to exit the learning phase, which would be, 50 conversions in seven days is how Facebook determines this.

But there's a lot of nuance to this. There's things called learning limited. I don't want to get into that now. But generally you want to try to walk towards learning phase. Or walk towards exiting learning phase. So if you have $100 CPA you're going for 50 conversions in a seven day period, then that 50 conversions, let's just say divided by seven days, is seven conversions a day. So if you take a hundred that means that you need your ad set to these 700 or the CBO campaign budget to be $700. So that's a lot.

Austin Brawner: And that's just running one ad. No tests.

Andrew Foxwell: So it's like, so it's really a matter of how do you kind of balance that? To me, a lot of people are, it's common to start with like a $500 a day budget or $100 a day. It's common. It's like a fairly common thing that we're going to hear. So for me it's like, okay, can you give it $100 a day and can you try a wide audience and maybe a a campaign budget optimization campaign or a CBO of let's say a grouping of 6% lookalikes or 8% lookalikes of 8% percent lookalike of purchasers, 8% percent lookalike of add to carts within the last 180 days or whatever.

And try those two wide ones totally wide and then a look alike. And if even $100 a day on each of those CBOs, that's an interesting test. And so it's there's like sort of the answer that Facebook gives you and then there's sort of like the recommendation and then there's what you have to do practically as an advertiser. I think. So consolidation is helpful from a budgetary standpoint.

Austin Brawner: Sure. Why three off? So we went down the rabbit hole, but that's a good question. What else is working and what else do you see?

Andrew Foxwell: I'll tell you if you have good Instagram story creative or even if you have user generated content, which is another recommendation that we have of really taking things that look like they we've talked about this before on this podcast, but things that look like they're from a supporter or they look more natural, like something somebody would share. Leaning into Instagram stories and actually separating them out in their own CBO in some cases is helpful. It can provide you additional scale because putting them into their own place, if you combine it, let's say you let Facebook choose, many times you'll see lower CPAs on Instagram stories. But if Facebook's not going to serve it there as much. So by breaking it out, you do allow for additional scale into Instagram stories. If you have the creative that fits that platform.

That's something that we like to do. It's something that we've seen good performance on. Some people want to combine it and they'll put them all together. There's a tool that Facebook rolled out called assets placement customization that allows you to choose I placement, which piece of creative you want by placement, but that eliminates a lot of performance in a lot of cases. We've seen asset placement customers not work as well I think because if you do it and you do it in the newsfeed, you actually lose the social proof on that piece of creative. So we try to not do that, try to do it on their own thing, try to do feed in their own CBOs and do Instagram stories in their own CBOs. So that's a big one that we have.

Another one that we have, that's related to that generally is breaking out in the middle of the funnel even more too. So a lot of times people are going to put everything all together in one. They're going to put, let's say an engage your audience, you're going to put a video view audience, you're going to put a been to the site and last 180 days haven't been back in 30 audience, all in one.

And combinations can work and you can definitely test that. But we have generally seen that these engagers within the middle of the funnel, they behave differently. So separating them out even in their own CBO, having an engager ad set, having a 75% video view ad set, having a open an email, not purchased ad set, Klaviyo sync, having those in the same CBO is helpful because it allows you just a little bit more control and it tends to scale a little bit better.

And so that's another one that we have seen. And I'll give you one more before we kind of recap these. One that Shane mentioned, Shane who edits the podcast and works with Foxwell digital, he said is try a look alike audience of the last two weeks or the last three weeks have since all this craziness started purchasers because those people are a little bit different than what you were getting purchasers before. Just saying. So Instagram stories, trying break out the middle of the funnel, and trying some lookalikes of purchasers within since craziness started.

Austin Brawner: Just to reiterate like what we talked about earlier, the reason we're talking about this is that people are continuing to increase advertising spend. I've got two clients who they've hit their best month ever last month, and are continuing to increase spend. And yeah, this is the type of stuff that they're doing and specifically, user generated content, Instagram stories, that type of stuff I'm seeing as well. Anything else that you guys are seeing on the bidding side or on the content side? What else is working?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So the bidding side, there's an interesting thing. There's, we've always had a discussion in the Facebook advertising community on there's all these different bid types. You have a default bid, which is, you just let it do what it wants to do. There's a fully bid, which is, you do a five times the CPA. I mean there's a lot of options here.

The one that a lot of people are talking about now is what's called a cost cap. And a cost cap bid is basically it's saying don't go above this. And this is different than what Facebook has called a target cost, which is get a conversion within this range. A cost cap is don't ever go above this range, or don't ever let it go above this number.

With cost caps is they do in wider audiences as we've talked about, cost caps seem to be working better. And you can set them at or slightly above 10 to 20 to 30% of CPA and, and let it run because it's a way to say to Facebook, Hey, I want conversions but I don't want them to go above this cost. And even if you set it at let's say $100, it's rare that you'll see that go above a 70 or $80 CPA. So it never really hits that threshold, but they are serving better and it's a good cost control mechanism. Now if you're scaling, cost caps are hard to help with because you're limiting the number that you can hit. But if you're cost conscious, then a cost cap can be helpful for you.

And they have been serving. For awhile in the fall, we had an issue with cost caps, they just weren't serving at all. And now they are. So that's something that if you said, look, what's the simplest thing I can do to help scale in this time, is try to do some bigger lookalikes and try to set up some cost caps at or slightly above that CPA. And I think it's going to kind of be a little bit more on maintenance mode. It's going to be able to run and you're going to not have to worry about the CPAs fluctuating as crazy. And you could have one CBO on a cost cap and one not, but that's one thing that we've had.

And then I'll just mention in my final one is customizing the language that's appropriate to the time that we're in. So, there's a lot of nuance to this, but utilizing this time and saying, like, Hey, we're here for you. Or Hey, stuck at home. I saw our friends who we've coached on paid social, they run an artisanal food and beverage company and they have some gift boxes that they're selling and the copy that he put out there was, need to step up your game for the next zoom happy hour? And they're doing great with this.

So like that's the kind of thing that that is what we're talking about. And you can have an emotional angle to that. You could have something but you could have something that's not emotional, it's just sort of funny. But if it speaks to that, you're going to be better off. So those are some of the big ones that we had that we wanted to mention. Then next we'll go into what we've seen from our friends around the world.

Austin Brawner: The last one I think is relevant just across the board, not just on Facebook and Instagram. It's relevant on the emails that you're writing. It's relevant on messaging and your website, all that stuff, those are things I've been working with clients for the last couple of weeks on, which is just trying to figure out what your messaging is going to be.

I saw one of the best emails I've received so far during this time from a brand was from verb energy and they have an energy granola bar. It's kind of a granola bar. It's like a little small energy bar. And they wrote a plain text email that they sent out from the founders and it said that what their goal was, was to donate a million of these verb energy bars. So it's a little bar that has one espresso shot to healthcare workers, that's their goal. And for every two bars they sell, they're going to give away one. And it was so clear about what the need they were solving was. It was like, Hey, we want to get these on every hospital floor so people can have more energy. And it was just a very clear campaign. It was very thoughtful, it was very simple and it was very appropriate. And I think it probably is driving a lot of sales for them.

Andrew Foxwell: Since we're on this topic, let me go into a couple of what our colleagues have said on this. So Germany runs a company called He's one of my Go To in Germany for advertising for me. And he said, try to shift the product messaging as much as possible. He said, one of the favorite realignments we did in the last week was a travel yoga mat. They rebranded it as an outdoor yoga mat for your workout in nature. So that's big. And then Gill David, our friend in Belfast, owner of run DMG, he said testimonials and ad copies working better than it ever has before. So just having a testimonial in there.

And finally, Alex Afterman lives in Sonoma, California, he said that I've talked about turning your home into a sanctuary. In uncertain times, we're here to help you recalibrate for a bath product. And something along the lines of staying home doesn't mean you can't look good for an apparel client. Those are just some ideas around the language that is something we are seeing that has an actual real effect.

Austin Brawner: Those are great examples. And on the testimonials and ad copy that the clients that I am working with that are spending the most, both of them are user generated content with testimonials, videos, and images of their users talking about their product.

Andrew Foxwell: Yep, exactly. So let's go a little bit more technical too in some of these suggestions. And these are just things that again, others have seen to work. So if you are rebuilding or you want to keep testing, one is, there's a gentleman Jake Newbold who's I believe in the UK, and he said my favorite and best performing bottom of the funnel campaign right now is a conversion campaign running on an auto-bid. So no cost cap or anything on what I have called a standee audience, which is a one ad set per CBO. Now I'm proud that, I think I came up with this moniker, maybe I'm in a fever here, but I think that's what it is.

Austin Brawner: Out on Twitter from you a long time ago you were calling it out, you are trying to rally in the audience around you on Twitter.

Andrew Foxwell: So what this is so is a conversion campaign, lowest cost bid and then he put the view content, add to cart, initiate checkout pass 30 days minus a 30 day purchase all in one. And then he did it with dynamic creative, maxing out all of the techs, headlines, image and video. So dynamic creative is, if you've not tried this as an opportunity for you to take, a multi-variate creative and copy tests and put them all into one and then Facebook figures it out.

So that's an interesting thing that I probably wouldn't do this dynamic creative is like hot or cold for me. And I know that in the recent episode we had with [inaudible 00:20:42] he talks about dynamic creative being something that, and then he wrote me actually recently was like, it hasn't worked as well but I feel bad I mentioned it. It's up or down.

And so this is something to try that if you're seeing these going up or in your lower part of the funnel and you want some creative options there, that's an idea for you. Another low funnel option too, from Florian again is just to utilize a value optimization in low funnel. Traditionally we would have not used a value optimization, this is another bid type that finds you the highest return on ad spend. That's the goal of a value optimization. And we would have used that in more of a prospecting idea or a top funnel, but he's seeing it work in the lower part of the funnel, which means that there's enough people within that value pool in Germany that are converting. So that's interesting. And not something we would have tried.

Austin Brawner: One thing that I know that Florian is also saying is working and something that I've been doing as well is using info bars on the site talking about shipping and whether or not it's, you've got to think about the fear that people have right now, which is I was searching for home gym equipment and it's all sold out. It's everywhere I'm going. It's not shipping until May. And so that's when people are shopping right now. That's some of the fear that they have that they're going to order something, it's not going to be there. So if your shipping is as normal or even if it's not as normal, make sure that you lead with those objection busting copy. More on the site.

Andrew Foxwell: And I think that's actually a super good point. It's one of those things that when it's written out, I'm like, Oh, that's a great tip. And then, but when as a consumer, it's like, Oh yeah, that's totally logical because when I go to a website now, the first question I have is like, is this actually going to show up? What's the situation? That's, that's interesting to me as a good one. And that was a suggestion that a lot of people had, really addressing that. Jesse Healey, another advertiser in the UK, she said that we have taken this kind of the UGC example and we've taken a step further putting messaging directly from the founder into the lower part of the funnel. And I think you can integrate that on your site too.

Email is another great opportunity for sure. And then Chris, Muolin, I can never pronounce the guy's name properly. He's like a good friend of mine, too, I feel super bad. He works at lunar solar group and example was mentioning the delivery date in the ad. So say like delivered by whatever the date is that it's actually going to be delivered by. So I'll go back and pull up Chris. I asked him how to pronounce his last name and he said it is drum roll. McCoolen.

Austin Brawner: McCoolen.

Andrew Foxwell: Me coolin. So Chris had a great tip there and, I wouldn't have thought to put a delivery date in there, but I think makes a lot of sense. If people know a general timeframe if they can get it. So yeah, so those are some quick hits, man. I think, those are some huge things that if you can integrate those into your campaigns are really doing well right now.

Austin Brawner: I think those are all fantastic. And from an overall perspective, just recognizing that it just a state of where we're at currently, I would say that of the many, many, many clients I've talked to in the last couple of weeks, now we've got about 2020 5% of people that are 30% are out the same and then the remainder are down. And that down group is kind of like ranging from down 20 30% just softer sales to down like 80% in the worst case scenario when people are like tied in to travel, if their product travel related, it's down massively or event related.

But besides that, we're still seeing relatively strong sales. And my belief is that the reason why we're seeing that is because a lot of the disposable income that people have been dedicating towards other products or other things like for example, going out to restaurants, traveling, all these different things are now being redirected into things to improve their experience at home.

That's what's happening for me. we're here and I'm digging in for the long haul. So it's like, well, what are the small things we can do to make life better? And if you can somehow serve that you're going to continue to do well.

Andrew Foxwell: It's an unpredictable time. If you have thoughts or other things that are working for you, feel free to join the group, request to join the group or email me at and I'd love to hear from you, but thanks for checking out this episode.

Austin Brawner: And let us know, what do you think about the video? Comment below if you're watching it on YouTube or you can always hit us up on Twitter and let us know what you think about video and if we should continue doing this. Tips. If you hate it, let us know, but we're excited to have you and yeah, thank you guys. We'll talk to you on the next episode.

Hey guys, it's Austin and if you've been loving the podcast, you got to go check out brand growth That's where I work one on one, one with my clients to help them build faster growing, more profitable online stores. I've got coaching programs and workshops that we host all over the world. Would love to have you come check it out. If you're a fast growing eCommerce business or you want to be a fast growing eCommerce business, you got to check it out. That's the spot for you. We go more in depth than we do in the podcast with comprehensive trainings and coaching to help you scale up, check it out. Brand growth See you there.


Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. I tell you, it's nice to be with you on video first time. First time in a long time on video.

Austin Brawner: Fir...

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