Facebook Ads, The PPC Show

The 9 Biggest Facebook Updates From 2017 [Podcast + Transcript]

Welcome to the #70 episode of the PPC Show, where we interview the best and brightest in paid search and social media advertising. This week we're joined by Tim Halloran, Head of Social Advertising at Zato Marketing.

In this episode, Tim reflects on the nine biggest Facebook updates from 2017. Stay tuned to learn more about:

  • The impact of Russian ads on the Facebook News Feed and subsequent algorithm changes
  • Power Editor & Ads Manager merging
  • Collection Ads
  • Facebook Analytics
  • Facebook Offline Conversions
  • and more

Listen to the Episode

Tim Halloran, Head of Social Advertising at Zato Marketing

I specialize in advanced Facebook Advertising. Other skills include: PPC, copy-writing, design & strategy.

Client industries I've worked in: high-tech, software (SaaS), online stores, higher education, D2C manufacturing, substance abuse, government, vacation attractions, restaurants, non-profits & ministries, recruiting & sourcing, and online security.

My current work primarily consists of eCommerce & B2C. In the past, the majority of my time was spent in lead gen for B2B companies with long sale cycles. I’ve helped start-ups, non-profits, as well as established Fortune 500's spend their ad budgets wisely and achieve a positive return on their ad spend.

I'm meticulous about tracking ROAS & attribution. It borders on annoying. If you know anything about attribution modeling, you know that it's an unsolvable paradox that can make your brain explode if you let it.

I'm a creative working in an analytical industry, which hasn't always been easy but it's rewarding. This internal dissonance has given me the ability to quickly come up with strategies and implement them using measurable and repeatable tactics. The past 5 years has shown me that what I'm most passionate about in marketing is connecting the dots. Give me a goal, stand back, and let me find the best way to get you there.

Show Notes and Podcast Transcript

JD Prater:                     Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim Halloran:                Hey JD, it's great to be here.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, man, I'm really excited to have you on. We've been Twitter friends for a while now and you guys are doing some really cool stuff. So Tim, tell people who you are and where you're working?

Tim Halloran:                I'm Tim Halloran. I'm working at Zato Marketing with Kirk Williams, mostly known as PPCKirk on the Twittersphere and just around the conference block. But, I've been working there for about a year and a half now. I started out doing a combination of PPC and paid social for him and the larger our social department has grown, the more I've been focusing on just the paid social aspect of the business and less on PPC. As of today, my day to day is basically in Power Editor, Excel, G-Mail, that's probably 90% of my time.

JD Prater:                     And the other 10% is cursing Power Editor for being down.

Tim Halloran:                Or Twitter and venting my frustrations, or in a Facebook group telling everybody how I hate, why this feature isn't working.

JD Prater:                     I'm definitely there with you and I think most Facebook marketers are. Well, we've got Tim on the show today to talk about 2017. Our last show with Matt, we were looking forward into 2018, but with Tim, we're now looking backwards. We're looking at 2017 Facebook changes, right? 2017 was a huge year for Facebook. Tim has graciously put together some of his top changes and updates that you guys should know about and that we can all kind of think about.

The very first one that we're gonna cover, it's the elephant in the room, Russia.

1. Russia's impact on the News Feed

Tim Halloran:                Yep, yes let's cover Russia in one minute ... just kidding. Yeah, obviously that was a huge news item or cycle in the US. I think it was reported Russia influenced over 126 million people using Facebook alone and obviously that has a huge effect on ideologies and thinking, so we definitely need to understand what that's sewing in American citizens' minds. Since we're on front lines of Facebook advertising, we definitely have a different look at things. We can figure out how does this affect us personally, how does it affect our clients. Yeah that was definitely something I'm sure all of us in the PPC community have been thinking about.

JD Prater:                     Yeah man, I think you really ... that was one too on my end. I was affected not only from seeing the ads, but selfishly, it's like, "Oh man, I lost a lot of my B to B targeting." They just took it away from me. And then they gave it back. I love that one. The complete reversal a week later, but then it was like restricted back, right? That was a big one man. Did you see that Larry Kim article? I'll link to it in the show notes, but he went out and ran like a quick test. Did you see this?

Tim Halloran:                No, explain it to me. I don't think so though.

JD Prater:                     The quick synopsis of this one was he was really trying to prove how easy it was to launch an ad with disingenuous information. He actually took CNN's logo, reversed it, right? So just like literally flipped it. And then wrote a salacious headline with a fake news article and then showed how much engagement he could get for $50 and how many clicks he could get. But it's like, just showing how easy that was. There was no approval process. There was nothing really vetting it. Of course Larry would do that, but it was really eye opening.

Tim Halloran:                It is eye opening and that happens so much. I see posts in my news feed all the time and I just know they're completely bogus. You don't know where half of these things are coming from and I think that's why this is such a huge deal. Who's influencing my thinking right now? I think everybody wants to know that and I think paid social people are like, we don't have anything to hide either. We also want to fix this issue. That actually reminds me of a story. I don't think you can do this anymore on Facebook. They've definitely improved things, but back in the day, I'd say when I first started advertising on Facebook, you could get away with a retargeting list of like 20 ... I think it might've been 20 or 100, but what you could do is just put your friend's email in there and then just put 19 or 99 bogus ones, and then you could just get ads directly to that person for like $3 or something. We actually did it a few times and it just freaked people out. That has nothing to do with Russia, but I thought it was a funny story.

2. Power Editor & Ads Manager Merge

JD Prater:                     I appreciate it. I do remember those days. I like that we, "back in my day" ... it's pretty good. Let's move on, man. That covers Russia, the elephant in the room. Let's get into some more tactical stuff that we all experience. The next one up, Power Editor and Ads Manager combine. What's up with that one?

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, I guess the user interface engineers over at Facebook decided that they were just doubling work for no good reason and they just said, "Okay this is the date that we're gonna start merging them." They did. From my personal perspective, I use Power Editor and I don't use those guided tutorials or anything, so it didn't really affect me. Whenever they tried to prompt me to do something that way, I just exed out of it and continued doing it the same way I've always done it.

But I think it's fine, I think it's good. I like the fact that I can get all my metrics right in Power Editor and they do update. It's definitely like, if you're familiar with Ad Words, it's definitely different than Ad Words Editor because it's completely online and it does bring in data. Is it on a time cycle or is it after every refresh? I'm not sure. But overall, I'm happy with the change. I don't think there's any downside to it from my perspective. Every now and then they'll change some user interface, little things here and there that make me like, "How does this benefit me? How does this make my job a little faster?" And then I get used to it and then I get over my annoyance at first. I don't know. I'm pretty happy with the change. It didn't affect me too much.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, I'd agree with that one. I think, when I first saw the news I was like, "No! You're getting rid of Power Editor." That was my immediate reaction and I was like, "No!" And then I realized, they just made Ads Manager like Power Editor. So I was like, "Oh, if I used Ads Manager every day I'm sure I'd be upset, but using Power Editor, you just kinda made it a little bit better for me, so thank you." It's still confusing, but you still have two things.

Tim Halloran:                This may sound cynical, but I even like the fact that it's a little bit more complicated for the people that don't know what they're doing 'cause then they'll need to hire an agency, which that does sound a little silly, but it's true. Facebook totes themselves as a do-it-yourself platform. All you have to do is set up a Facebook page and get a couple people connected to it, and all of the sudden, in your news feed every day is, "Hey you should try advertising. Hey you should try Lead Ads or this and that. I'm not necessarily opposed to that because I think you really dig in and wanna do it yourself, you can use Google and you can do an adequate job. But for the average lay person, I would say 95% of people that have a Facebook page, they probably shouldn't be doing it 'cause what they're doing is just wasting their money. That's sort of a rabbit trail, but in that respect, if the combination of Power Editor and Ad Manager makes that look a little more technical in some people's minds, then that's fine by me too.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, I agree with that. Let's be honest. Could I fix my plumbing issues? Yeah, maybe, but there's a reason why I call an expert. I have screwed things up thinking that I could watch a You Tube video and fix something, and that has not worked well. So yeah, I am wasting money, and I think it's the same type of mentality. There are experts out there and I think relying on them is definitely the best thing.

Tim Halloran:                Agreed.

3. Collection Ads

JD Prater:                     All right, man, let's move onto some ads. Walk us into number three.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, so we're gonna talk a little bit about Collection Ads. This is specifically for ... I shouldn't say specifically 'cause I'm not 100% on it, for E-commerce. You can set up a main video and then underneath it you could product links to whatever's in the video, whether it's ... I'm trying to think of an example. I have a retailer client that wants to do a how-to-clean this product video and re target to people who are repeat visitors to the site, really engage visitors to the site. And then underneath it, they have all the products, they have all the cleaning products. Everything is directly connected to their website. So, it engages the person with useful information and then they can go ahead and buy. I think that's really cool. I think that is doing a great job of combining a little bit of content marketing or a little bit of video marketing directly with E-commerce goals. I think that's a great money maker, especially if you already have a good video presence, which I think a lot of people do and they just don't know how to utilize it correctly. I think collection ads do a good job of combining those together.

JD Prater:                     Yeah man, this is my favorite looking ad. When I see it as a user, just going through my feed, I absolutely love this ad. But to your point with E-commerce, they have opened it up. So, you and I need to be, if we wanted to, we could trade some. I have a January goal. I know we're talking 2017, but January 2018, I really wanna create one for AdStage. We'll get there. But I do love this ad, like you were saying. I love that you can do a video and have cool tiled images underneath to really drive people to deeper products. Thumbs up to Facebook for that ad.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, good job Facebook.

4. More Transparency

JD Prater:                     All right, let's move on to number four, transparency.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, this kinda goes along with our Russia talk. We can debate the specifics on Twitter if we ever want to, but I think transparency is a good thing. I think knowing where you're getting your data and knowing whose influencing your behavior is something that everybody wants to know. Nobody wants to be ignorant. To that respect, I say good job Facebook. Keep up the transparency changes. Take them seriously. But from our perspective as paid social and PPC experts, or engineers, or whatever, we need to be watching how this affects us personally. I have seen a few things. Susan Wenograd could probably help me with this, but someone posted on a Facebook group recently how people who like a specific Facebook page can now see all of the ads for that page, regardless of whether they're in the audience that you targeted that ad to or whether they're not.

From my perspective, I love doing personalized ads. I love getting directly into them, whether they know it or not, getting into their employment, into their interests and behaviors. Not in a creepy way, in a regular advertising type of way. If people are being able to see how we're targeting, sometimes it's almost like proprietary information that I've worked really hard on doing myself is being shown to everybody who wants to see it. I don't know if I have a strong opinion on it yet, but I'm also kind of a little uneasy about how transparent it is. I don't know, what do you think?

JD Prater:                     That's like what I was thinking. I think this is out in beta right now in Canada. From my readings, it's gonna launch in the US I think this summer. I think the idea of it is you can go into a business page, and you can see all of their current ads that are running. I don't know if you can see their targeting, but you can see the ads that they're running. I think the issue that ... it's good and bad right? Within Ad Words, I can go see competitor ads, and I think it makes you better. At the same time, Facebook is kind of like a black box where it's hard to get competitive ads or hard to see what people are running. I think my biggest hesitation is, I think Facebook is so much story telling and so much of sequencing, that you might see ads that are out of sequence, and they don't make sense to you right now, but they could if you went through the funnel. I think that'll be the most interesting part.

Tim Halloran:                And then even, let's jump forward a little more. Us, as advertisers, we're gonna go directly to a Facebook page, look at those, and be like, "What's the ultimate goal? What do they want me to do?" Instead of going through the lead cycle like a regular person, you're like, "No, it's just Jen, do you want me to buy this, or do you want me to be your friend, or what's going on?" You're right, actually, with Ad Words and Bing, you can just type in your query, like, whatever, Christmas candles and then you can look to see there's eight other people advertising Christmas candles. Let's take some of their ad copy and tweak it and make it my own, which is great for competitor analysis. But, now the same thing is gonna be able to be happening on Facebook too.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, exactly. That'll be interesting. I think that one, I believe it's supposed to be coming Summer 2018 to the US. I think I read it somewhere, in Tech Crunch maybe, but we'll see what happens. Let's move on to some more targeting. Something else that you thought was pretty cool.

5. Multi-city Targeting

Tim Halloran:                This is one that I kind of heard a little bit about, multi-city targeting, but I hadn't actually implemented it myself, so I've been looking at it more and more recently. Sometimes advertisers, they don't know what cities they want. Especially if you're advertising internationally, you don't exactly know what cities are the big ones for you, but you know what size of cities you wanna target. You know you don't wanna target rural villages with a very urban product like a huge solar panel for the top of a sky scraper or something. You know you wanna target a certain population of a city, but you don't wanna target smaller ones. So, I think these new multi-city targeting options, especially internationally, are gonna be a game changer and I'm excited to test them out.

Honestly, I can say I have not used them yet, but I do have a few international clients that I want to test it for. If anybody has any experience with multi-targeting, I'd love to hear about it.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, for sure. I've only got a small example. It's not quite this one. We were running some ads in Europe, just testing out different markets for AdStage, and it was actually eye opening to see that type of regional, versus country. You can target full continents, which I thought was ... this doesn't compute to me. Its like, "Oh, you're gonna find the best people in this continent who also speak English and who would want AdStage?" It's like, "Man, sure, do it!" And it had mild success, but it's still not quite to that level. I didn't go that level of the types of cities and that kind of stuff. If you guys have any experience, please reach out on Twitter, which is a great spot right now. Tim, where can they find you on Twitter?

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, @timmhalloran. That's my full name. It's pretty easy to remember if you know who I am. Or if you can't remember where I'm found, just go on PPC chat or Facebook ads chat and you'll probably see a post from me sooner or later.

JD Prater:                     All right, cool. That was our mid conversation break. All right, let's move on to some interesting ones that, you know, when we get into like attribution talking, I think Facebook definitely released a lot of ... I call them like fancy features, to help us as marketers prove the value of Facebook. Let's start with, what is this? Number six, offline conversions.

6. Facebook Offline Conversions

Tim Halloran:                Yeah. Facebook Offline Conversions have generally been ... what's the word I'm looking for ... reserved for the very large enterprises, like Target or Wal-Mart, or whatever, you know, Ford, because they can take that data and they can integrate it into their dealerships and they can integrate it into their stores, using technology that's not available to the masses, especially not the local mom-and-pop stores. The cool thing about offline conversions on Facebook is that it's not about all of the technology and devices, it's about personally, your location data and whether you allow that to be used for advertising purposes. So, if you see people going to your store that are interested in your page, you can start tracking those offline conversions. I don't know everything you can do with it yet. I know obviously you can do manual imports and I'm sure you can do ... what's the word ... like a dynamic import where it keeps the customer list up to date in your audience manager.

My prediction is that it's gonna continue getting easier and easier to track offline conversions, so I'm excited for that. Especially with brick and mortar places, it's going to be a seamless omnichannel experience with Facebook. You're not gonna have to worry whether they're on their smart phone, or whether they're in your brick and mortar, or whether they're on their brother's laptop. As long as they're logged into Facebook, you can keep track of them from a product perspective, so I think that's really cool.

JD Prater:                     Yeah definitely. I've been experiencing and playing around with it as you were kinda talking earlier. Just seeing the impact. Even if it wasn't a direct conversion, just understanding that a view through happened, that somebody saw this ad and maybe a week later, maybe a couple of days later, they took an action. We were talking earlier about transparency and talking about Russia and influencing that behavior. I can't say that this ad directly influenced it, but it had some influence and I can give some weight to it as we think about those kind of multi-touch, multi-device conversions. Kudos to you, Facebook and I know Ad Words kind of has theirs as well, but ... yeah, we'll see what happens, which leads perfectly into the next one.

7. Facebook LTV Lookalike Audiences

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, Lifetime Value, LTV Look-A-Like audience. Look-A-Like Audience is exactly the same as how you'd import them, except there's a little column where you can put a lead number, or I'm sorry, you can put a sales number in there. So you can track your top performing versus your lowest performing customers and then it does its magic black box, behind the scenes stuff, and comes out and shows you this awesome Look-A-Like Audience that is actually ranked based on how important a specific customer is to you.

I think that's awesome. I've used it for a few clients. I used it for a travel client. I've used it for a retail client. It performs better than regular Look-A-Like. That's all I know so far. I'm still gonna test a little more. But it's cool. Facebook is continuing to come out with new features that are making it easier for us to make money for our clients or for our companies. I love it and I'm a big fan of Lifetime Value Look-A-Like.

JD Prater:                     Yeah I think that's the one where ... again, I love importing an email list, but if I can import a customer list with revenue, or sales, or ranking somehow, it doesn't really matter the number, I could give it any number, and you're gonna go find people, like the top percent. It really helps with ... I don't have to necessarily segment my data, like my customer base, like we had to do before, so this really kind of helps in that regard. Again, one of my favorite features, I'm definitely with you on that one, for 2017. But this next one is kind of one that I'm just not seeing a lot of people adopt. Let's dive into Facebook Analytics.

8. Facebook Analytics

Tim Halloran:                Facebook Analytics is one of those features that could thrive or die depending on how its used in 2018. Facebook has never been secret about the fact that they will ax features if people don't use them. Looking at all the boosted post things that they've gotten rid of, which we didn't really use those anyway, but they were helpful for some people.

Let's see, Analytics. I actually really like those reports that they make. I think they're called insight reports, where they show you what people are doing. I actually posted something on a Facebook group about it and I wanted other people's input. They show a lot of stuff to do with browser usage and things like that, which aren't necessarily applicable to me when I'm setting up a campaign and wanting to analyze the results of that campaign. But they do also have a few oddy things. A few of those reports are really useful and if there was a ... I'm talking directly to Facebook now ... if there's a way that you guys could categorize those for us, so we can directly look at what's applicable right away. Sometimes I just wanna know for a not ad set, what is this audience doing, what could it be doing better. And they actually have that data. I think if they could get that front and center on the analytics platform, that would be super helpful.

Regarding just the regular dashboard, the home page of it, it looks beautiful. It's really nice looking. It makes you feel like, "Okay, I have everything in front of me I need." So I love that. I think if I wanted to give a critique, the first thing I would say is let's make that really easy to export. Maybe there is a way to do it. I actually looked around it a little bit. But if there's a way to export that exactly how it looks like and send that to a client or white label it or something, where I can add my agency name at the top of it, that would make it doubly helpful. We wouldn't have to be scrummaging around looking for other sources in different places if that was our one place we could get everything from. Do they have an export option? Do you know?

JD Prater:                     I think some of the dashboards do. I can't remember if all of them do off the top of my head.

Tim Halloran:                I can't remember either.

JD Prater:                     I like it. Again, like you were saying, they announced it kind of 2017 for websites. This has been around for app developers for a while. I'm really curious to see how people like you and I, doing paid social, how were gonna adopt it and how were gonna use it to inform our decisions moving into 2018, as opposed to Google analytics, right? This Facebook analytics is doing cross device analysis, where Google really is device only. So I really can't see if someone comes in on mobile from Facebook and then comes back on desktop, those are two different people, right?

So, I'm actually really curious with some of this stuff. I'm doing some cohort analysis and really trying to dive in. I've got a post coming out in a couple of weeks where I'm doing some video tutorials and stuff that I'm doing that I think is fun that could help other people. I think it's huge.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, I'm excited to see where it goes. I like that you brought up the differences between Google analytics and Facebook because its true, Facebook does track you across devices. That's it power. That's the lynch pin. If Facebook can get us, if Facebook can get the PPC community using that, it's going to become a really, really useful tool and I'm excited to see if it ends up becoming something I use more often. Right now, I just used it every now and then. It's almost like a novel thing I like to look at. It's not my bread and butter. It's not my go-to to analyze and figure out things myself. I'm hoping it becomes like an indispensable thing I look at every week or every day.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, well, like I said, I'm gonna try to write a post that may help. I don't know, we'll see. It makes sense to me. All right, last one for the show. Rising Facebook ad costs.

9. Rising Facebook Ad Costs

Tim Halloran:                How do you even start this? Well, I guess it's apparent to everybody in the industry that the ad costs are definitely rising. I wanna say it went from ... these numbers could be off so don't quote me, but 25 million to 40 million using Facebook ads, like year over year, or something like that, but anyway, it has gone up a lot and there's only one newsfeed per person and that newsfeed is getting crowded and the ad costs are raising, especially during the holiday season.

I was talking to you earlier, but across the board, across all my client accounts, but specifically one of my larger clients, I was looking year over year at their CPA's for the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday, general December area, and the CPA's were double. Profitable, but they were like double and that's sort of a scary premonition for the future of Facebook ads. Is it going to be ... I know like with Ad Words and Bing a lot of small businesses can't even get started because there's already way too competitive of a market for the queries that people are searching on for them. And the only way they can really get a foothold is if they localize their targeting and they get super niche and long ... what's the word ... long tail keywords. And it sort of looks like Facebook could be heading that direction. I don't know, I'm not a mind reader, but I hope there's a leveling off point sooner or later.

JD Prater:                     Yeah I can give a little bit of insight. We just got done with our big Q4 report and so I feel like we were one of the first people to come out and say, these are the rising costs and we're showing the data where, there are other companies out there producing this type of data, but kudos to us for calling them out. Had to get a humble brag in there.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, that's fine. I actually read that report and I was preparing myself.

JD Prater:                     Well, we just got done with Q4 and guess what? It went up again.

Tim Halloran:                Oh great.

JD Prater:                     I think part of it is, we're gonna see rising ad costs. I'm really interested to see how we, as marketers, we've been used and kind of like conditioned to certain results, certain costs. Where, a lot of these new advertisers, I think the report that I saw, only 8% of business accounts are actually advertising. So they have like 5-6 million active advertisers, but they have like 65 million business accounts. So they're really trying to get that other 92%, which is huge. When you think about introducing that many more advertisers onto the Facebook platform, they're already at max ad capacity, where else are they gonna get inventory, right?

Tim Halloran:                Yeah.

JD Prater:                     I still shrug, I don't know. Right?

Tim Halloran:                Yeah that's true. Just go straight up to the Board of Directors. They have to maintain profitability year over year. Their biggest source of profit is ads. They have no more ad capacity, so what is that gonna look like. That's true. I didn't even make that correlation. Yeah.

JD Prater:                     Yeah, I mean, and they've been reporting this. It's not like they've been hiding it. Their CFO has been saying this now for a year and a half. And we're just kind of showing the data that yeah you guys are ... we're seeing the exact same data with the advertisers that are running through AdStage. 2018 is gonna be interesting. I think we've all been kind of blown away with how fast advertisers have jumped onto Facebook, but again, when you've got great targeting and you're able to provide advertisers a really easy ... I'll use air quotes here ... "easy" experience to create the ad, again I would say, hire an agency or hire an expert to run them for you just so you're not losing out on opportunities or ad spin.

Tim Halloran:                Especially if you're spending a decent amount on Facebook, you're making your money back by hiring an agency. The amount of accounts  I've seen that have been ruined by people unfamiliar with how PPC and how paid social work. I just look at the lifetime amount of spend and their return on it and it just blows me away sometimes. I'm just like, "You could've been advertising with an agency a year ago." I don't know, we'll see.

JD Prater:                     All right. Well, let's put a bow on this thing. Thanks again, Tim, for coming on the show and talking about some 2017 Facebook changes that definitely kind of affected you and affected all of us in this last year. Thanks again for coming on and remind the good people where they can find you in the wild.

Tim Halloran:                You can find me on Twitter @timmhalloran. I'm pretty active when I'm talking about Facebook or when I have annoyances that I want to grieve to my other peers in the industry. I'm trying to think what else. I'm on a couple of Facebook ad groups. You might know me from there. I work at Zato Marketing if you want to find out more. Zatomarketing.com, I'm on there and Kirk is too. Thank you for letting me be on here.

JD Prater:                     All right. Well, thanks everyone. That concludes this episode. Until next week. Thanks again Tim.

Tim Halloran:                Yeah, no problem. Thanks JD.

AdStage Team