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The Step-by-Step Guide to Retargeting Ads on Facebook and Instagram in 2019

A typical social media marketing plan involves pumping out a ton of content — engaging photos, videos, and witty captions — day after day after day. You may know the best times of day or the best days of the week to post, but are you capturing an interested audience or just shouting into the void?

In today’s saturated social media market, retargeting ads maximize the power of Facebook and Instagram. And when you do it right, it can drive traffic, leads, and sales at a surprisingly low cost. Let’s dig into how.

What Are Retargeting Ads?

Retargeting ads allow you to engage and convert people you already know, as well as people who are similar to those known audiences. This gives you the ability to better tailor your messaging and images, stay top-of-mind with your audience, and improve your ROAS (return on ad spend).

You can retarget people who have already visited your website, clicked on a previous ad, or are a part of your email marketing database.

While the details depend on the channel, there are several strategic decisions you’ll need to make for your retargeting efforts to be successful.

Step One: Define Success for Retargeting Ads

Any great marketing effort needs to start with your goals. Retargeting done correctly can boost your visibility and provide repetition that buyers might need to convert. Do you want to…

  • Promote content on your blog, optimizing for traffic or cost per click (CPC)?
  • Grow your email list, optimizing for leads or cost per lead (CPL)?
  • Promote your products, optimizing for click-through rate?
  • Promote your customer testimonials, reviews, or other social proof, optimizing for traffic?

While retargeting can be powerful at any stage in the sales funnel, consider starting your efforts at the top. Many shoppers won’t make a purchase directly from an ad — they’re too savvy these days.

Instead, consider dipping your toe in the waters of retargeting by using your blog content to engage people who aren’t showing intent to buy a product from you quite yet. Ads promoting top-of-funnel “awareness” content are perfect for reaching people that may need a little more information before buying.

As Shoelace points out, “77% of consumers report they often see too many retargeting ads from the same retailer.” By adding entertaining and educational content to your retargeting mix, you minimize the risk of coming across as too salesy. You have the opportunity to provide a positive brand touchpoint that builds awareness and trust without banging the “Buy! Buy! Buy!” drum.

This is your opportunity to convert visitors to subscribers — either once they click on your blog or with ads optimized for lead generation — so you can continue marketing to them at no cost in the future. (You have lots of options for converting casual browsers to subscribers, but you can’t go wrong with content-powered popups.)

Not only are retargeting ads that feature content excellent for engaging people who aren’t ready to buy quite yet, they’re also less expensive. Our customers’ Facebook ads average a $0.19 CPC, much lower than Facebook’s average CPC of $1.72. You’ll have more money in your budget to experiment with what works and what doesn’t for your audience.

If certain topics resonate more than others, you can start to use those themes and messages to craft product ads or other bottom-of-the-funnel experiments. Similarly, if certain audience segments perform better than others, you can figure that out without blowing your ad budget. (Learn how CPG brand Everly did just that.)

Step Two: Choose Your Advertising Channel

It’s 3AM — do you know where your audience is? Do some research to understand where your primary audience hangs out across the internet. You can easily retarget with Facebook, Instagram, and with display ads on search engines like Google, but it’s up to you to know your audience’s watering holes so you’re reaching them where they are.

A great way to see this for yourself is with analytics tools like Google Analytics. Take a look at your referral sources for your website. If you’re seeing the majority of your traffic comes from organic search, it may be worth doubling down with some paid search retargeting. Similarly, if Instagram or Facebook is one of your top sources, lean into those.

One thing retargeting can’t do is make your audience appear out of nowhere. If you’re not seeing a ton of referrals from Google, for example, you probably won’t magically increase that number with retargeting. Consider doing some user research or sending a survey to your email list to learn more about where they shop and where they find information on deals, trends, or other themes your blog tackles.

Step Three: (Re)target Your Audience

Your goals and your channels together determine your targeting strategy. There are multiple ways to retarget your audience:

Email retargeting: You can upload your email list — or segments of your email list — to Facebook and Instagram to directly target the people you’re already talking to via email. Where this gets extra powerful is through Facebook and Instagram lookalike audiences, so you can target people who are just like those on your email list and generate new traffic and leads.

Cookie retargeting: If you add a Facebook snippet (a small piece of code) to your website, you’ll be able to boomerang people who visited your site but didn’t purchase back into your funnel with Facebook or Instagram ads. This way, you’re reaching people who are already thinking about your brand and considering a purchase, especially if you retarget based on your checkout flow.

Customer retargeting: Segment your email list by those who have purchased and those who have not, and upload it to Facebook or Instagram to build customer loyalty and repeat shoppers. This is a great list to experiment with top-of-funnel content because they already know you (and hopefully love you!).

SEM/SEO retargeting: Choose keywords that match your business, and Google will only show display ads to shoppers who have previously searched for that keyword. That way, you already know the intent of the shopper — they’re looking to find “best summer flip-flops” for example. You can then set up your ad copy and creative to match a set of keywords. In this example, that would mean showcasing your flip-flop inventory.

How to Set Up Retargeting Ads with Facebook Business Manager

Facebook Business Manager isn’t the most intuitive tool in the universe. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to setting up a sample retargeting campaign. First, there are a few administrative tasks to tackle.

1. Add the Facebook Pixel

Before you add your audiences, you need to add the Facebook pixel into your website so that it can tell who has visited your website before and any actions they took while they were there. How you do this depends on what type of website you have. This video from Facebook can explain more.

2. Set Up Facebook Tracking

Then, you’ll need to tell Facebook what behaviors look like on your site by adding specific behaviors into your Facebook pixel code on your website. For an ad promoting a blog post, you’ll want to include page views, but for more product-oriented ads, you’ll need events like add to wishlist, initiate cart, add to cart, and contact. This can get somewhat wonky pretty fast, but Facebook has a great how-to guide you can use. (Or, if you’re a Matcha customer, your customer success manager is happy to help!)

3. Build Your Custom and Lookalike Audiences

Then, you’ll need to create your retargeting audience. Log in to Ads Manager and choose “Audiences.” When you click “Create a Custom Audience,” you can choose what type of retargeting — website (which requires the pixel) or customer database (where you upload your email list).

When you’re promoting blog content to drive awareness and engagement, either your website or customer database will work, but the website will likely be more effective since it’s based on recent behavior. Choose which pixel you want to include, what type of behavior matters, and the number of days you want people to remain in your audience to be retargeted.

Once you create your audience, you’ll be able to create a lookalike audience. Facebook uses its algorithm to generate a list of people to target that “look like” the people you already know. Lookalikes can be super powerful — learn more here.

4. Create Your Retargeting Ad

When your audiences are ready, go to Facebook Ad Manager and click “+Create”. Choose what objective you want to accomplish.

For example, you would choose “Traffic” to optimize for ad clicks to your website or blog. You would choose “Conversions” to generate leads via a popup or form on your website or landing page.

Enter your campaign name, and select if you would like your ad budget optimized at the campaign level. If you don’t select the toggle, your campaign budget will be distributed evenly across ad sets and optimized at the ad level instead of optimized at the ad sets level.

Click “Continue” to edit your ad set’s audience and budget.

  • Adjust gender, age range, and geographic location based on your primary demographics.
  • Here is where you can also choose your custom audience or lookalike audiences that you’ve already set in step three.
  • Add specific interests that pertain to your blog post topic under “Detailed Targeting.”
  • Placements — Choose “automatic placements” to optimize where your ad will show, or select “edit placements” to manually determine whether you want your ad to show on Facebook, Instagram, or elsewhere in Facebook’s ad network.
  • Budget & Schedule — Enter your daily or lifetime budget for the ad set. You can also select a maximum cost per click that you are willing to pay.

Click “Continue” to set up your ad creative.

  • Identity: Select the right Facebook page and Instagram account that you want your ad to deliver from.
  • Choose single image, a video, or multiple images. For a blog post, it’s best to use a single image, but if you’re showcasing products, a video or multiple images typically performs better. Facebook has the option to use stock photography, or you can upload your own. Make sure your images are clear, high resolution, and don’t have too much text in them. (Use Facebook’s text overlay tool to make sure your graphics aren’t too text-heavy.)
  • Upload your image.
  • Update your text — no more than 90 characters. Try to hook your audience by describing the blog post content and why they should click.
  • Add the URL of the blog post or webpage you’re promoting.
  • Update your headline — no more than 25 characters. This should be a clear description of your content or a call to action that captures your audience’s attention.
  • Swap out your call-to-action if you would prefer. In this case, “Learn More,” the default, works well.
  • Conversion Tracking — make sure to switch the toggle on for your Facebook pixel to properly track conversions.

Finally, click “Confirm.” Your ad will be live shortly!

Written by Kayla Voigt for Matcha

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