“Facebook ads don’t work.”

“All my clicks probably came from click farms.”

“I am never going to spend another dollar on Facebook ads again.”

If you’ve ever found yourself saying these things… you’re not alone. Many business owners have tried running Facebook Ad campaigns, only to have the entire affair end in frustration.

Scenarios like this really turn people off the platform: $853.23 in ad spend, 232 clicks, 359 page likes, 0 sales.

If you have a failed ad campaign on Facebook, don’t despair. There may be things you could do to get it working and generating enough in sales/leads to justify the cost.

Here are 10 quick tactics you could try right now to try and bring an unprofitable campaign back to life:

1.) Turn off the Audience Network 

Facebook Ad Manager interface screenshot Audience Network Screenshot

Check the performance by Platform to see if there are any obvious patterns

In your Adverts Manager interface, select Breakdown > Platform for campaigns and ad sets you have already run. You might notice that certain platforms perform a lot better than others.

Specifically, the Audience Network (essentially ads that appear on other mobile apps) may not be giving you as much performance as the other platforms.

Of course, this will depend on the kind of campaign you’re running and on your performance goals. Regardless, make sure you check on this.

2.) Turn off geos (countries, regions, DMAs) that don’t perform

This is the same exact deal as Tactic #1.

In your Adverts Manager interface, select Breakdown > Country (as well as “Region” and “DMA Region”) and take a look at the campaign performance.

If you were targeting an entire continent (e.g. “Asia”), this is almost always going to yield some interesting insights.

Best practice: don’t target more than one country at a time (unless you’re Coca Cola or something). Your campaign audience targeting should be more specific than that.

Another danger when targeting multiple countries: Facebook will just end up serving ads to the places  where the inventory tends to be cheaper, so you may end up with 0 delivery to countries with higher GDP/capita.

3.) Narrow down your audience targeting to < 300k people

Facebook Ads Audience Size Estimator

“Fairly broad” = Understatement of the Year

If you’re targeting too many people at once with your ads, it will be hard to determine what is working and what isn’t.

For test campaigns, pick a test group of a reasonable size (50,000 to 300,000 people). You may have to use a combination of Interest, Demographic, and Behavioral targeting to do this.

The smaller your audience, the more tailor-made your message can be. Take advantage of Facebook’s extensive audience targeting options!

2019 update: marketers report that they are able to run successful campaigns with giant demographic targeting (e.g. millions of people). Facebook targeting algorithms are getting that good!

4.) Stop using CPM (pay per impression) bidding

Facebook Ad Bid Settings

Use manual bidding and pay per action

If you use CPM bidding, you’re going to pay very high CPMs (CPM = cost per 1,000 ad impressions).

If the campaign objective is anything other than reach or brand awareness, always bid per action (e.g. per click, per conversion, per app install).

Note: if the ad account has a low spend (< $10), the option to pay per action (“CPA bidding”) may be disabled. Try flipping the same Ad Set to per action bidding after you’ve spent $10 dollars.

5.) Don’t always use Facebook’s “suggested bid” 

If it’s efficiency you’re after, you should aim to pay the least possible to hit your campaign performance goals.

Sure – if you’re not getting enough volume, you can certainly try increasing the bid to open up the delivery.

Otherwise, try experimenting with lower bids to see if you can still get reasonable volume at that (lower) bid. Maybe paying 50% less per click is all it would take to get to positive ROI on your campaign.

6.) Use different Ad Sets for each Gender and Age Group

If the target demographic is Men and Women aged 18 – 30, this is how I would set up the Ad Sets:

  • Ad Set 1: Women Age 18-24
  • Ad Set 2: Women Age 25-30
  • Ad Set 3: Men Age 18-24
  • Ad Set 4: Men Age 25-30

Men and women will respond differently to ad creatives and the messages within them. Be specific with your targeting, and use age buckets of 4-6 years to speak to people from the same generation.

7.) Get better images and test them

Benefits vs Features in advertising campaigns

When possible, show the BENEFITS (i.e. the end result)

It’s the responsibility of your ad image to grab a person’s attention.

If you don’t get someone’s attention, you won’t even get a chance to tell them anything (through the advert Headline and Body Text).

You’re competing with hundreds of pieces of exciting and distracting social media content. If your image isn’t more interesting to your audience than the latest BuzzFeed article, your campaign is going to struggle.

If you’re getting low CTRs (anything below 0.2%), you need to find some new images to test in your creatives.

Some general tips for images that work well:

  • If your product is targeted at men, show men in your images. If you’re selling to women, show women. Show people the result they seek!
  • Show the final product, not the ingredients.
  • Benefits over features – always. If you’re selling toothpaste, don’t show a picture of the toothpaste tube. Show a smiling face with bright white teeth!
  • Your image should sell the product. If you just go for shock value, you might get stupidly high CTRs but few conversions.
  • Follow Facebook’s recommended image guidelines (typically 1200 x 628 pixels) to make sure the image looks decent on as many ad placements as possible.
  • Use bold, bright colors.
  • If in doubt, project optimism and happiness. Dreary, gray images don’t do the job nearly as well.

Start paying attention to the images used by major brands (whether online or offline). These people have figured out what works long ago.

A great image could get up to 10x higher CTR (and conversions) vs. a boring image.

Pro tip: if you don’t have images of your own, you can get great attribution-free photos from Unsplash and Pexels.

8.) Run at least 2 creative variants at any given time

You should be always testing variations of image, headline, body text, and call to action!

At the start, test 4-6 different images (then move on to testing the other variables once you have picked a winning image).

9.) At the beginning, start small

Start small–don’t blow your entire ad budget on the first day. If it works, you can easily scale it up. If it doesn’t work, you’ll just have wasted money (unless the ad delivery data proves useful somehow). Start with $10-20/day.

Also: some days of the week might perform much better for you than others. Give your test campaign a few days before concluding it doesn’t work.

If your test budget is $150, better to spend $20 every day for a whole week (you can spend the extra $10 on a good book about copywriting, such as Scientific Advertising or Ogilvy on Advertising).

10.) Change your mindset about the Facebook Ad Platform

Morpheus Believe meme

Approximately $26.9 Billion was spent on Facebook Ads in 2016.

Marketers are spending money on this platform because it works.

Chances are, there’s a way you can get great performance and volume out of Facebook Ads. Perhaps the best “quick fix” is simply to change the way you look at the platform.

You must start to believe that you can make it work!