Facebook ad objectives: How much do they impact your ads?

Facebook is one of the longest-standing social media platforms. But Facebook ad objectives are still wildly misunderstood by a whole lot of people.

A bit of quick research reveals that the two most common questions about Facebook ad objectives are, “What is the best objective for Facebook ads?” and “What are Facebook ad campaign objectives?”

There’s only one way to resolve this misunderstanding: science. We ran an experiment to determine how Facebook ad objectives impact campaign performance. Our hope is that the data we gathered will help you choose the right campaign objectives the next time you hop into the Facebook Ads Manager.

Let’s find out once and for all what Facebook ad campaign objectives actually do and which objective is best (or if there even is a best objective).

Hypothesis: Facebook ad objectives target different audiences

When you create an ad in the Facebook Ads Manager, you’ll have to select an objective. And it might be tempting to just smash the “conversions” objective. If you’re not trying to make sales, what are you even doing, right?

But it’s not quite that simple.

As with anything else related to marketing, it’s important to be aware of your funnel.

And that means that you’ll need to choose the right ad objective based on which level of the funnel you’re targeting. For Facebook ads, there’s a typical ad objective for each level of the funnel.

Facebook Ads Manager offers several objectives that fit with each stage of the funnel. But, since we made a video ad for our experiment, we chose the ad objectives that work well for video.

Awareness

This is the top of the funnel. In theory, an awareness ad will be the first ad a new customer will see from your brand. Awareness campaigns are for helping people get familiar with your brand.

At the awareness level, “views” is the best Facebook ad objective for video, in most cases.

Consideration

This is the middle of the funnel, where you want people to actually take their first action toward making a purchase.

“Traffic” (categorized as “Clicks” in the Facebook Ads Manager) is usually the best objective at the consideration stage.

In most situations, you want people to go from Facebook to your blog, a landing page, or some other resource, and you need people to click to get to the next stage of the purchase process.

Conversion

The conversion stage of the funnel is where you actually make the sale or get people to move from Facebook to another part of your sales infrastructure (i.e. getting on the phone with your team or signing up for your marketing emails).

The most common objective at the conversion stage is “leads.”

Leads might sound like a strange objective if you’re trying to get people to make a purchase after they see a conversion ad. But in almost every case, people can’t make the final purchase in the Facebook app. So it’s technically a lead until the prospect actually clicks the buy button and pays for their stuff.

All of this being said, how much does the ad objective actually impact the performance of your ads? Is it possible to just use the “leads” objective for everything and call it a day? What do Facebook ad objectives actually do?

Experiment: What ad objectives actually do

To test our hypothesis, we created a Facebook video ad and ran the same ad in three separate campaigns, each with the same budget ($860) and one of our three core objectives:

  • Views (awareness)

  • Clicks (consideration)

  • Leads (conversions)

The experiment controlled for audience, ad creative, and budget. The only thing that’s different is the ad objective. Any differences in performance must be due to differences in ad objectives.

Here’s how the experiment played out.

Results: Facebook ad objectives work as intended

The data shows that the objective you use will have a dramatic impact on your Facebook ad performance.

Views objective

As expected, the views objective was best at getting people to watch our Facebook ad. It’s performance can be measured in three areas:

1. Reach

The views objective got the most reach, with 71,824 views. Traffic received just 44,638 views. And leads drew a meager 23,382 views.

2. CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)

Views had the best CPM at $7.29 per 1,000 impressions. Traffic cost $8.70 per 1,000 impressions. And leads cost a mind-boggling $30 per 1,000 impressions.

3. Video watches to 100%

With the views objective, 8,409 people watched our Facebook ad to the end. The leads objective performed about half as well, with 4,621 complete video views. The traffic objective got just 2,605 people to watch our entire video.

Views helped more people see our video, persuaded more people to watch the whole thing, and were the most cost-effective objective for getting the most reach with our video ad.

If you’re trying to raise awareness for your brand, you need people on Facebook to see your ads and pay attention to them. The views objective is the way to go.

Traffic objective

The traffic objective is designed to get people to click on your ad. That’s why people often interchange the names “traffic” and “clicks” for this objective.

And this objective is aptly named. The traffic objective pulled in 1,516 clicks. Video views attracted 626 clicks. And leads garnered just 572 clicks.

Traffic is also the most cost-effective way to get clicks. The traffic objective cost just $0.57 per click, while views cost $1.38 per click and the leads objective cost $1.52 per click.

Ultimately, the traffic objective is the best way to get clicks on your Facebook video ad, even compared to the leads objective. However, traffic is designed to target the middle of the funnel—the consideration stage.

As you’ll see in the next section, clicks do not always equal conversions.

Leads objective

The leads objective is designed to do more than just gather views and traffic; this objective is intended to get conversions for your Facebook ad. When you need to make a sale or get someone to sign up to a list, leads target the audience that’s most likely to take the action you want.

And it works. Our ad campaign with a leads objective produced 220 leads. The traffic objective brought in 12 leads. And views snagged a measly 5 leads.

The leads objective also brought in leads at the lowest cost-per-lead, a reasonable $3.96 per lead. Traffic costs $72.18 per lead. And each lead cost us a whopping $173.58 when we used the views objective. That’s a 4,283% higher cost-per-lead compared to the leads objective!

That’s a lot of data. And it might not surprise you all that much to hear that the Facebook ad objectives do what they’re designed to do. But what does it all mean? How do we use this data to make better decisions in our Facebook marketing?

What this means for your Facebook marketing

The fact that Facebook ad performance varies so widely based on which ad objective you use clearly demonstrates a couple of lessons about Facebook ads. And it all boils down to the way people buy things and how the Facebook algorithm works behind the scenes to find an audience for your ads.

Marketing stages matter a lot

First, the difference in performance between the various ad objectives shows that it’s unwise to think about Facebook ad objectives in terms of “best” and “worst.”

If you remember what we said in the beginning of this article, one of the most common questions people ask about Facebook ads is: “What is the best objective for Facebook ads?”

Well, it depends. The best objective for your Facebook ads is the objective that best matches your goal for those ads. There is no one-size-fits-all Facebook ad objective.

More precisely, this means that you can’t ignore the Facebook marketing funnel. Each Facebook ad objective targets a different audience based on where they are in the marketing funnel.

Facebook’s audience targeting is good enough that it will work impressively well — as long as you’ve chosen the right objective based on what you need your Facebook ad to do. But that precise targeting also means that using the wrong Facebook ad objective could burn up your advertising budget quickly, without producing meaningful results.

This is a bit of speculation. But we suspect that one of the biggest differences between the ad objectives is that they specifically target an audience based on how many of your ads that audience has already seen.

People who have already seen one of your awareness ads will be more likely to click on subsequent ads. And those who have already clicked through to your blog or website will be more likely to convert the next time around.

There are lots of other factors that the Facebook algorithm likely uses for ad targeting. But the focus on who’s already seen your ads is probably an important one.

It’s likely a big reason why using the right ad objective at each stage of the funnel will get you the best results. And using the wrong ad objective will deliver very poor results.

The big takeaway

The big takeaway here is that you really need to create distinct Facebook marketing campaigns for each stage of the funnel. Simply running a campaign that targets leads won’t be enough.

  • You need an awareness campaign to draw in new prospects and introduce them to your brand.

  • You need a consideration campaign to nurture those new prospects.

  • Then you need a conversion campaign to remarket to all the people who have already seen your awareness and consideration ads.

There is no overall best Facebook ad objective. You must choose the right objective based on where your audience is in the marketing funnel.

Level up your Facebook knowledge

Which type of Facebook video gets better reach? Live or posted videos? We ran a test to find out.

You need supporting marketing assets to match the funnel

As you may have guessed, simply choosing the right Facebook ad objective isn’t enough.

You have to offer something that gets people to click. And those same people have to leave Facebook to make a purchase or convert in some other way, so you need assets that motivate them all the way through that last mile.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple piece of advice for each stage of the funnel that will help you achieve your Facebook marketing goals.

Tell stories at the awareness stage

Awareness ads are all about getting people to see your brand and become familiar with it. The easiest way to do this is to tell stories. And you do have stories to tell.

Tell the story of how your company was founded. Or tell the story of how one of your products was created, if that’s more interesting.

Stories are inspiring, entertaining, and memorable. Using stories at the awareness stage will help you get the reach you need. And your audience will remember your brand the next time they see one of your ads.

Solve problems at the consideration stage

Most businesses offer some sort of education or information resource at the consideration stage. Downloadable whitepapers and e-books are popular. But something as simple as a blog post also works.

Regardless of what sort of resource you offer, you’re looking to get people to click on your ad to get the information you’re offering. Solving problems is what makes information most valuable to people.

Look for a common problem that your customers have prior to purchasing your product or even show them how to solve the problem that your product or service solves (this is especially useful if it’s much harder to solve the problem without your product or service).

The goal is to give people valuable information that brings them closer to making a purchase. For this, you need people to click, which is why you use the traffic objective at this stage.

Use offers and testimonials at the conversion stage

The conversion stage is where you make the sale, get people to sign up to your email list, or get them to take that last step in leaving Facebook and moving into your external marketing ecosystem.

Presenting an offer, like a discount, or displaying testimonials from other happy customers are your best tools for getting this final conversion. If you want people to convert, make an offer or show some social proof that your product or service works. Or use both.

Power your Facebook ads with science (and video)

The key lessons from this experiment can pretty easily be summed up in three quick points:

1. The Facebook algorithm works. Changing the ad objective had a significant impact on campaign performance, which means that the algorithm is doing its job. And you can’t game the system.

2. Marketing fundamentals still matter. Marketing funnels have been around for decades. It’s long been understood that it almost always takes multiple interactions to make a sale, even for inexpensive and common items. Facebook advertising is not an exception to this rule.

3. Choosing the wrong objectives is expensive. The thing that blew our mind is that using the wrong objective costs up to 4,238% more. Take the time to plan out your marketing funnel and choose your Facebook ad objectives appropriately.

Make sure you create the Facebook ads you need to guide people from awareness to conversion. And choose the best Facebook ad objective for each stage of the process.

If you need to create videos for your Facebook ads (which you should, because video outperforms images on social media), it’s easier than it looks.

It took us about five minutes to make the Facebook video we used in this experiment. (Obviously, we used the Biteable video maker.) It’s the fastest, most affordable way to create stunning assets for all your Facebook marketing.

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