Will Facebook's right-rail ads finally disappear in 2014? It may be too soon to sound the death knell for Facebook's right-side "banner spam" – after all, these ads work well for many advertisers, are a good medium for retargeting, and generate plenty of revenue for Facebook. However, it's clear we're moving into a new era of News Feed advertising.
What are Facebook News Feed Ads?
Facebook's News Feed ads, launched in late 2012, have proved highly effective. According to research across Marin Software's client base, advertisers increased spend on Facebook News Feed ads by 140 percent in Q3 2013, compared to a quarter earlier. And it's no wonder, because News Feed ads work.
On average, Facebook News Feed ads have a click-through rate 44x higher, and a conversion rate 5X higher, than right-side ads. And News Feed ads achieve these results at a 67 percent lower cost-per-conversion than right-side ads.
News Feed ads are just part of a larger shift toward "native" advertising, which integrates brand messages directly into the editorial flow of websites and social networks. Twitter is basing its growth strategy on native ads integrated into users' feeds; new publisher powerhouses like BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are gaining rapid market share with their native-first advertising models; and old-guard media companies like Forbes and The Atlantic are counting on natively-embedded ads to boost their bottom lines.
Native is a powerful medium because it doesn't interrupt users' attention with a pop-up, banner, or pre-roll video ad, and instead makes ads feel like part of the experience. Native ads match the feel, form and function of the sites where they appear. Thus, consumers don't ignore native ads, they engage with them.
In this new native ad economy, Facebook is investing heavily in News Feed ads, allowing advertisers to connect with users through relevant content placed directly in their personal feeds. So while right-side ads probably won't disappear in 2014, they'll continue to lose ground to News Feed ads.
Here are five tips to making the most of Facebook News Feed ads.
1. Go Half-and-Half
Allocate at least half your Facebook ad budget to News Feed placements. As stated above, News Feed ads not only drive superior performance relative to right-side ads, but they also present several additional key benefits including increased mobile reach.
News Feed ads are currently the only type of Facebook ads eligible to appear on mobile devices. By next year, you should increase that percentage to well over 50 percent, as more people turn to their smartphones to access Facebook.
Today, more than 74 percent of Facebook users log onto the platform's mobile app, and the percentage of users who access Facebook exclusively through their mobile devices increased by 19 percent in Q3 2013 quarter-over-quarter.
2. Select the Right Page Post Format
If your goal is to drive website conversions or sales, opt for a Page post link ad. If your campaign objective is to drive brand engagement, utilize a Page post photo ad.
According to Marin data, Page post link ads have a 30 percent higher conversion rate compared to Page post photo ads. However, Page post photo ads have a 23 percent higher click-through rate compared to page post link ads.
3. Split Out Mobile Ads
To optimize News Feed ad spend, it makes sense to split targeting into separate desktop and mobile campaigns, instead of creating one campaign for both devices.
Marin data shows the percentage of advertisers opting for mobile-only campaigns increased 45 percent between Q2 and Q3 2013. Mobile-only News Feed ads outperform desktop ads by significant margins; click-through rates are a whopping 187 percent higher on mobile. And costs-per-click are also 22 percent lower for mobile-only campaigns.
Because of these different cost and performance parameters between desktop and mobile News Feed ads, it's important to manage the two types of ads separately.
4. Use Creative Rotation
Sophisticated Facebook advertisers use creative rotation within the News Feed to manage ad frequency to maintain consistent click-through rates and impression volumes.
While manually refreshing campaign creatives can help improve performance, it is difficult to manage at scale across hundreds of campaigns and thousands of creatives.
Facebook marketers looking to quickly grow their programs should utilize a Facebook management platform with automated creative rotation capabilities.
5. Go International
Your highest ROI opportunities with Facebook may actually be outside the U.S. Most advertisers focus their Facebook ad spend on reaching North American audiences, but opportunity lies for global brands in connecting with a vast and fast-growing international user base.
Eighty-five percent of Facebook users reside outside North America; however, only 52 percent of ad spend targets regions outside North America.
The native advertising future has arrived – and Facebook, which invented the addictive, engaging, content feed format – isn't about to miss out. As an advertiser, make sure your News Feed ads are making the biggest impact possible.