How to Scale Facebook Ads During the COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 has changed how AppSumo approaches Facebook advertising. Find out how you can scale Facebook ads and leverage this marketing platform with the key lessons we learned.
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Hey, Sumo-lings! Nick from the AppSumo marketing team here.
A big part of our growth strategy at AppSumo involves Facebook ads, so I wanted to share a few of the things we’ve learned over the past few months. Hopefully, we can provide some actionable insights to take back to your business.
Now we’re not saying these suggestions will work for everyone, but they’ve been effective for us during these crazy times. You can read more about everything we’ve learned about Facebook advertising over the years after spending $5 million in the eBook linked below. While these lessons have served us well and given us a strong foundation, we’ve had to re-evaluate our entire strategy to adapt to the new rules of the game.
Get Access to the Free eBook Here
There’s been a lot of talk about how much businesses are pulling back on spending, and marketing or growth are usually among the first cuts. Now’s the time to be defensive, right? Well, in some cases, yes – it’s necessary (e.g. travel and films). But with crisis comes opportunity, and one of those opportunities is Facebook. With so many advertisers reigning in spending on new growth and everyone staying at home scrolling through social media, it’s created a very unique climate for Facebook advertising.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:
1. How Facebook Advertising Has Changed During the Pandemic
2. Lessons and Takeaways from the Pandemic
3. How to Apply These Lessons to Your Business
4. Final Thoughts
Why Facebook Advertising Has Changed During the Pandemic
Usage Is Way Up
Facebook Traffic and Messaging are up 50-70% in countries hit hardest by the virus.
At AppSumo, we’ve seen an increase in overall engagement on our ads in the form of comments, shares, and clicks. Higher engagement doesn’t necessarily mean more sales, so it’s important to think about what paid ads success would look like for your business.
CPMs Are Way Down
We’re seeing a 70%+ decrease in the cost of buying Facebook ads. This allows us to get more quality traffic for cheaper than we ever have.
Different Audiences are Popping Up
While usage is on the rise, Facebook has also seen its own acquisition skyrocket as people around the world look for ways to stay connected with their friends and family. So you may have more access to older or less tech-savvy people than before. Keep this in mind when making your ads. Now more than ever, you should make it easy for people to interact with your messaging and convert.
How to Scale Facebook Ads During the Pandemic
Testing Is Key
You really don’t know what kind of messaging or creative will resonate with Facebook audiences right now. With so many new and different types of people logging on, it’s more important to continually test what you say and how you say it. In the past 3 weeks, we’ve tested over 100 different copy and creative variations. The one principle that everybody knows, but has been particularly reinforced recently, is be true to your brand. AppSumo has a more lighthearted brand personality, so trying to take an overly somber tone in our messaging doesn’t work.
Here are some do’s and don’ts based on real-world examples from us. You can take a look at all of our ads here.
1. DON’T keep pushing the same general messaging you had before the crisis. When I said we re-evaluated everything, I meant it. Even some of our best performing direct response ads had to change to highlight more relevant value. This is one example of an ad that was paused due to low performance.
2. DO strike a balance between your existing tone and acknowledging current events. This ad worked because it kept our brand’s lighthearted, humorous tone while still appealing to emotions during the corona crisis.
3. DO take advantage of the power of helpful freebies. Everyone loves free stuff. From webinars to freebies to blog posts, people are looking for answers. Think about how you can attract new customers with free content that can actually help, instead of just telling them to buy your product.
4. DO emphasize potential savings. Here we focus on how our products (shoutout to Sendfox and Relaythat) can cut subscription costs and highlight the savings or earnings prospective customers can get. It’s an effective way to drive your audience to action in a time when people are cutting their own non-essential spend.
5. DO get creative. Kettle & Fire, Slack, and Autonomous have been killing it with funny and topical ads that contain just the right amount of suggestion. (Not our ads, but we tip our marketing hats to them.)
We’re Transitioning From Mobile Back to Desktop
There’s a major shift from pre-corona surfing done mostly on phones (avoiding work at work) or throughout your daily commutes. Now that most people aren’t commuting (or mobile), social media usage on computers has gone up.
What does this mean for advertisers? It’s easier to buy things on your laptop compared to your phone! You’re more likely to sign up for a newsletter, download a whitepaper, or actually purchase something if you can more easily do research on the product or read about the company.
This is backed by laptop/monitor sales on the rise, while mobile phones and accessories have dipped 14%.
Ecommerce Spending Is Up
With so many people bored at home, retail therapy has been a big part of how many cope (guilty). And as scores of non-essential brick and mortar shops close, many businesses are now looking to digital advertising for better ways to monetize their products. If you didn’t sell your product or service online before, it’s an absolute must now.
Think About Your Lead Gen
Lead gen is about providing value! Just because your business may be taking a downturn in sales, doesn’t mean you have to stop acquiring new customers. Change your messaging to find how your company can provide the most amount of value to prospective customers during these trying times.
Reinvest in Video
Video ads have long been among our best-performing ad formats, but they work exceptionally well now. Over the past month, we’ve doubled down on our video content as their performance continues to get better. In the pre-corona world, audiences watched 85% of videos on Facebook without sound. It makes sense – you’re at work or in a public setting and don’t want other people eavesdropping on your “Cheeseburger Taquitos” recipe vid. Advertisers adapted to this, and captions became best practice. Captions are still a good idea, but since everyone’s at home, people are watching AND listening to more content now. If you’re able to reinvest in amazing product, testimonial, or interview-style video ads, you’ll be rewarded!
(InVideo can help you here, too.)
Look at Your Geos
We’re all reading the news, and it’s been apparent how different countries are affected by this crisis. Some are on complete lockdown, while others are trying herd immunity. As you might expect, this affects how people are using the internet. Countries like Italy are seeing significant spikes in usage, compared to other countries that weren’t hit as hard by the virus. Make sure to look at ALL your potential geos and test targeting in a variety of ways.
Don’t Ignore Messenger Ads
Usage is up 50% on Facebook Messenger, so if you’ve never tried messenger ads, now is the time to do it. Think about it as a supplement to your email list, except this audience has an 80%+ open rate.
How to Apply These Lessons to Your Business
What to Avoid
How should your messaging change with this crisis? First, don’t put out half-assed empathy that feels disconnected from your product.
It’s more important now to think about how our brands can first address the situation at hand, then add real value to people’s lives. If you’re not connecting your brand with the biggest problems on people’s minds right now, you stand to risk looking more tone-deaf than ever before. We’ve got an awesome blog post here about how to capture authenticity with your communications during uncertainty.
What to Pursue
First off, be human. What can you do to help? At AppSumo, we’ve created a content hub for all things recession-proof, a software fund to get small businesses the software they need, and a remote work academy to help companies navigate during the crisis.
And it’s all free!
Next, be essential. Just because your product is considered non-essential during these times, doesn’t mean you have to be. Create something that is essential and makes a genuine connection with your audience. Find ways to bring in prospective customers through free and helpful blog posts, webinars, live demos, zoom meetings, and downloads like whitepapers/PDFs/e-books.
Lastly, stay aggressive. Paid media is cheap right now, so take advantage of it. Lowered CPMs lets you take on less risk and allows you to test more.
It goes without saying that this is a very stressful time for everyone. But I do believe there are silver linings to this crisis and hidden opportunities. Facebook advertising is just one of many ways you can start taking action for your business.
For extra credit, here are some excellent additional references to help you navigate Facebook ad strategy during this crisis:
- Andrea Vahl on Facebook Ads During a Crisis
- Edelman Post on Using Paid Media During a Crisis
- Interview with Facebook Ads expert Ali Parmelee
- Facebook Ads Bootcamp with DataDriven [Free E-Book]
- Data Driven Facebook Ads Checklist
It might take some time for you to adjust how you approach your marketing, and it’s not always easy. However, those who are willing to adapt to these circumstances can continue to grow their businesses and come out stronger.
In other words, you got this.
Take care, fam.