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On-Demand Webinar: Facebook Takes on Google and Wins

On-Demand Webinar Overview

Facebook has been called “unstoppable” when it comes to generating advertising revenue. With their recent introduction of Facebook Lead ads, the platform has successfully transitioned from an awareness engine to a lead generation machine. During this webinar, we’ll first take a look at Facebook’s impressive growth to discover how they became the leader in display advertising. Then we’ll do a deep review of Facebook Lead Ads, including why they are so effective at generating inquiries that convert, and provide tips for building a successful campaign.

Note: After the recording of this webinar, the Sparkroom agency was rebranded to DMS Digital Agency. Our award-winning. performance marketing technology retains the name Sparkroom.

Presented By

Akeel Haider - Vice President of Innovation and Strategy @ DMS

Akeel Haider is the Vice President of Innovation and Strategy at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Akeel leads the product and service development strategy for Sparkroom performance marketing technology. 

Kathy Bryan - Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications @ DMS

Kathy Bryan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands.

Webinar Transcript

Mike:                           Welcome, everyone, to today’s lead council webinar with Sparkroom. We’re very happy you guys could all make it today. It’s always great to see familiar names on our view list here. As usual, we have a great topic, looking at the results of a white paper put on by Sparkroom around Facebook ads, and how big a role it’s played in performance. So, really excited to hear the results, and learn about what Sparkroom learned through their study. I wanna make a few housekeeping items to remind you that we want you to participate.


If you have questions, please feel free to ask them. In fact, we really wanna encourage you to ask questions. It’s simple. There’s a questions segment on the control panel. Just type the questions there. If it’s appropriate I’ll interrupt our presenters, and ask them the question. If not, I’ll save it for the end. Also, each of you will get an e-mail from me afterward with a copy of the white paper. If you don’t get it, my e-mail address will be at the end of the presentation. Let’s get started. I wanna welcome Kathy Bryan, and Akeel Haider from Sparkroom to the webinar. They’ll take it from here.


Kathy Bryan:               Sure. I’m Kathy Bryan, the VP of corporate marketing and communications.


Akeel Haider:              I’m Akeel Haider, the VP of audience marketing.


Kathy Bryan:               You can see what Sparkroom does. We provide full-service, data-driven marketing and technology solutions. We’re gonna dive into the topic right away. Facebook is winning the display advertisement game. About 2/3 of all digital advertising revenue was spent with Facebook and Google during 2015. Even with search spend excluded, these two took in half of all digital media dollars last year. Of course, I’ll recognize Google for the advertising powerhouse that it is. It held an important role within digital advertising for quite some time. In Q1 2015, Facebook advertising outpaced Google.


Sales climbed to 52 percent YOY in Q1 to $5.3 billion. Profits tripled to $1.5 billion, as well. As a result, they’ve been called unstoppable when it comes to generating advertising revenue. Today, we’re gonna focus on five topics. I’ll talk about how Facebook became the display leader, and give an intro to Facebook lead ads which is a big part of their recent success. Akeel will share five tips for success, and discuss other stuff like cross channel attribution metrics from a recent campaign. Lastly, we’ll touch on Instagram before we open for Q&A. Let’s get started and talk about how Facebook became the display leader.


Most know FB started with limited audience and was used as a place for college students to connect. Back then, it even had a clunky name – The Face Book. Since then, FB has evolved into a venue for people to share personal updates with friends and family – then transformed further into a top location to publish and distribute public content. The majority of top publishers are now news outlets. The list from April includes the most respected newspapers, like the NY Times and Washington Post.


It also includes publishers now like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post – the to two publishers in April. Despite the controversy over the FB newsfeed algorithm being manually manipulated, it’s clear the American public turns to FB to get their news and other stories of interest. In 2013, Emarketer predicted Google would remain the display advertising leader through 2015, but data proved their estimates to be incorrect. FB became the leader in the US the year that wrong prediction was made in that year, 2013. Their revenues have been skyrocketing ever since.


With 82 percent ad revenue now coming from mobile, it’s clear they’re not just the leader for display advertising, but also the leader in mobile advertising. Social ad clicks from mobile phones almost doubled in the past year, and they now make up almost 3/4ths of all social clicks. If you’re paying attention and finding ways to monetize these trends, like FB has been, you found a clear recipe for success. It’s obvious FB was think about revenue streams, when adopting mobile clicks as strategy. As of Q1 this year, 5 billion FB users are mobile-only users.


That’s up 20 percent YOY, and 162 percent since Q1 2014. 894 of those users are monthly active users,, which means they sign on at least once a month. FB instant articles should make an impact, too. It’s boosting the speed of delivery to mobile devices. On average, people read 20 percent more instant articles than mobile web articles. Once they click, because they don’t get bored waiting to load, people are more than 70 percent less likely to abandon the article. On average, people share 30 percent more instant articles than mobile web articles. The introduction of native ad units what successful as well.


Since FB users were regularly engaging with content from news outlets, native ads appear right in the news feed, boosting engagement. And, it’s 20-60 percent higher than the engagement for non-native placements. Because of this, the FB audience network has also grown its native ad placement volume. Now, 83 percent of ads within the network are native. Also, experts anticipate adoption of the native ad format will continue, and by 2020 almost 2/3rds of all mobile display advertising will be in the native format. Videos have played a key role in building engagement for FB, too.


Driven, in part, by auto-play functionality, FB videos have strong functionality rates. On the Q1 results call, the creating and sharing of videos was three times higher YOY. Because most people have sound off on mobile, most advertisers have realized some titles deliver a strong viewing experience. So, people can comprehend the action without having to turn sound on, so they’re more likely to continue watching. The example on the screen from Dos Equis has fun with it. The caption says unmute to witness his mission. It appears they had great success with this tactic, but probably because


Dos Equis had strong brand equity prior to creating this campaign. But, while strong engagement is vital to a successful marketing campaign, engagement with the wrong audience is not an efficient use of media dollars. To meet the demand for tight targeting, in 2012 FB introduced custom audiences. Using an advertiser’s first party data, including phone numbers and e-mails to identify individuals, advertisers can put messages right in front of their specific targets.


Lookalike targeting was added to FB the following year. Similarly, it scales target audience by identifying people who look like the individuals identified through the custom audience matching system. This allows advertisers to target people in their database, and additional people with similar characteristics. Lastly, in 2014, FB launched the Facebook Audience Network.


It allows advertisers to reach their custom, and look alike audiences, within, and outside the FB environment. FB has also focused on beefing up their campaign measurement and tracking capabilities. Currently, you can track performance, and optimize by device channel, audience network, and a variety of objectives. This makes it easy to enhance campaign results over time. For videos, FB provides the standard reach link click – and conversion numbers, but they provide additional intelligence as well – Video views by advertising, unique video views, etc. This provides the data needed to analyze, and optimize, campaigns for improved performance.


To add transparency, and boost tracking numbers, FB is working with a suite of industry-leading, third party data companies like Integral Ad Science, Comscore and more. In summary, FB became the leader in display advertising by boosting engagement, enhancing targeting options, and providing leading trackability for their advertisers. Let’s dive into what excites us most today – FB lead ads. Introduced in late 2015, FB lead ads appear in the FB newsfeed, and include auto-filled forms that streamline the inquiry process.


The process is as easy as 123. You click subscribe, review the auto-filled date, submit, and done. These forms can boost click to lead significantly because the simplicity of completing the form increases the likelihood that it will actually be submitted. They’re auto-filled with user-profile information. For advertisers that need additional data in their inquiries, FB allows for the integration of up to three customizable fields. Of course, these fields require data to be input by consumers completing the forms, which may decrease the form completion rate.


Custom fields aren’t encouraged. FB also allows custom information like disclaimers to be added to the lead ads forms. The guides for lead ads are the same as link ads, allowing for a variety of formats like video. The simplicity has reduced variables for marketers, and has made it easy for marketers that don’t have robust development or creative teams to compete with bigger brands. Because FB lead ad forms are within the FB environment, they’re delivering conversion rates that far surpass the rates achieved when taking people to offsite forums. According to an industry expert, these ad campaigns can easily achieve a minimum click to for rate of 26 percent.


This high conversion rate is decreasing CPAs by as much as 60 percent. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing social media finally emerge as a strong channel for inquiry generation, especially for higher education. According to the recently released Sparkroom Q1 2016 higher education inquiry generation review, the inquiry volume share of voice for social media was up almost 2/3rds YOY. In Q1 2015, social media brought in 2.69 of all higher education inquiries. By Q1 2016 the share of inquiries from social media had grown to 4.43 percent.


We just pulled the Q2 2016 numbers, and it appears the social media share of voices to be flat. We expect it will rise by the end of the year. Conversion rates are staying strong, as well. A Q1 2015 average conversion rate for higher education inquiries generated via social media was 6.18 percent. For Q1 2016 it was 5.13 percent, but the leads had not yet fully-matured, so the rate will likely match the conversion rate of the year prior – meaning we’re seeing social media inquiries scale with no drop in performance.


Why did Facebook lead ads work so well? They created the perfect intersection of people process, and technology with six key factors. No. 1 with 1.65 million active users, and 1.09 billion daily active users, daily, worldwide who spend more than 50 minutes a day using FB, lead ads had an enormous reach. Unlike other ad network who use cookies to identify people across the internet, FB uses its user accounts. So, users are following, engaging, and measuring the actions of real people, not cookies. The Facebook look alike audience modeling algorithm is impressive, and effective. Advertisers can define audiences using existing customer data, and achieve reach magnification.


This means advertisers can scale volumes specifically to consumers with a proven, high-propensity to convert. No. 4, FB was slow, and controlled, as they introduced native advertising into their newsfeed. As a result, their native ads are considered by users to be nonintrusive, and are easily digested as part of the FB experience. No. 5, setting up a campaign is simple. It enables editing and serving of ads across devices.


Plus, a suite of AVIs and third party platforms give developers even more control over campaign management, tracking, and reporting. Lastly, No. 6, FB has integrated with a handful of cloud-based software solutions to allow for the real-time delivery of lead ads, alleviating the need to log in daily to export your leads. Sparkroom marketing software is one of these.


Akeel Haider:              Thank you, Kathy. Although Facebook makes it easy to set up a leads ad campaign, and enables targeting and choosing fields, it still requires strategy for success. At Sparkroom, we’ve been testing the lead ads format since it was in beta, so I put together tip to help you get better success, and in general Facebook advertising. I have five tips.


The first one is establishing campaign objectives – as a business you know your ultimate objectives, but FB enables you to set objectives based on what you’re trying to achieve on the front end – clicks to website, website conversion, social engagement, etc. The object if for lead ads is lead generation, so when it comes to this, what’s most important is you can target your audience by interests and behavior, but the most important thing to know is the custom audiences, and look alike audience are the ones that are the dominating ones.


If you really wanna achieve good results, you need to understand your audience, and target the right audience. The audience is kings when it comes to the Facebook algorithm The way for you to reach that audience is multiple ways. You can build your audience based on your current customers – tell them to come back and purchase again, or create it through people who visited your website, but never converted.


But, the most powerful is the look alike audience. In simple terms, you use your current customers, then it tries to find people who have the most similarities to them. If you have a seed of 1,000 people, suddenly you can reach two million people with similar trades to your converted audience. Now you’ve magnified, and scaled. How to calculate your bids – in general, the recommendation is to leave it at auto-optimize at first, then go back and do manual bidding. But, what’s important to know is FB uses a formula – it’s your bid, times the estimated action rates, plus the relevance and quality of the ad. FB determines the quality by like, shares, comments, etc.


The algorithm you can’t have control over, but you can have control over the bid, and you can influence the engagement of the ad. If the ad is relevant to your target audience, it will automatically increase the probability of the ad being served, as well as reduce your CPC so you can achieve a better performance for your ad.


If your conversion value is X, what you should do is set you daily budget at 25X of the conversion rate. There’s different things you should test with, and this is one with the initial daily budget strategy that’s recommended by FB – taking 25 to 50 times of your conversion value and put it as your data budget. When it comes to creative, aside from audience targeting, is the second most important thing. There are multiple things I’d like to talk about, the imagery and copy must be relevant, but also you have multiple ad formats.


It’s important to test all of them – video, canvas, and any new formats. Another test is placement. Usually we like to create different ad sets based on targeting so we can have more control of different things like budget, etc. In any case, another possibility is placement, and by that I mean desktop vs. mobile, mobile vs. right hand rail, plus Instagram. So, placement is important, too. What I mean by making every second count, we mean video. What we’ve seen is that video has the highest engagement, but you know how to deal with it.


It’s a different type of format all together. For example, the first few seconds are the most important because in those seconds, people are 70 percent more likely to finish it. I should take a step back and say the recommendation is to have 15 or 30 seconds, not more or less. That’s optimal. The first three have to be engaging, and the video has to optimize for mute, and that leaves you to think about how you engage your audience without audio. The imagery and video has to have an impact.


On top of that, we need captions on the video, and what FB has done is they do auto-captioning, but we suggest you go in and add your own captions. Always have the sound off, go in, and add your own captions. When we say test and adjust, take your conversion metrics you’re going after, adjust based on that, and if you set up tracking correctly, that’s the first most important thing. What we like to do, as I said, we like to test the audience itself. We segment our audience by the top one percent, three percent, five percent, etc.


It’s important because sometimes you might have, based on momentum, the top three percent performing better than the top one percent. For example, you may need to exclude the top one percent so you’re not double-serving. Now that we established Facebook lead ads are good, the other important thing is FB has become for everyone an integral part of the holistic cross-channel media planning. The reason is it’s providing to all other channels. Even if you’re doing lead ads, you’ll get the social media from it, a web site click; improve lift to your search. It has an effect on every channel. This is what we see when it comes to digital marketing, and the modern user journey.


Just share data, on a recent campaign, a Facebook direct response ad campaign that we did for a client, what we noticed was, on the high end, an incredible lift to the website conversion. We were driving traffic to a specific landing page, and a specific funnel, and tunneling of traffic – we notice people who saw or interacted with the ad who haven’t converted on a last click basis, they took their time, did research, and came back to the client website and converted there. Through that, we were able to increase conversions on the client’s website up to 76 percent. For the client, it was a revelation.


Kathy Bryan:               Great. Lastly, we wanna provide thoughts on Instagram. Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. Four years later, Instagram has been working to revise their format and policies to match those of Facebook. This means recently they rolled out and algorithm-based personalized feed that is intended to prioritize content, so users see what they most wanna see. As a result, marketing posts are being shown less frequently. This has turned Instagram into a pay to play platform like Facebook.


Of course, advertising spent on Instagram is growing. In Q1 2016 Instagram about 14 percent of social mobile app advertising impressions, and 17 percent of social mobile ad clicks from 200,000 active advertisers. That 200,000 is 54 percent more active advertisers than Twitter. According to estimates from Credit Suisse, 11 percent of FB revenue Q1 2016 came from Instagram. Based on reported growth trajectory of impressions served via large social media automated platforms, Instagram’s advertising revenue will likely continue to climb. Lead ads aren’t available on Instagram, but it should be right around the corner.


With the success FB is seeing in lead ads, extending it to Instagram makes sense. It’s be a benefit to Instagram advertisers because it creates a strong inquiry generation option. It’s generate more revenue for Instagram, and Facebook. Brands that can implement Instagram lead ads the moment it goes live will reap benefits of low-competition and low impression costs. To wrap up, we wanna emphasize three points. No. 1, Facebook is dominating the display advertising market, especially mobile.


It’s essential for advertisers to follow their moves closely in order to take advantage of new opportunities, and keep a competitive advantage over advertiser that are not doing the same. No. 2, social media is not just about brand awareness, and engagement. Advertisers who know how to use social advertising platforms are successfully generating inquiries on this channel – especially with FB lead ads.


As depicted by results we showed earlier, social advertising can lift the performance of other channels at the same time. No. 3, strategy matters. You can’t launch a campaign, hope for the best, and expect strong performance. Be smart, treat social media like any other advertising channel. Define your objectives, then measure, and optimize based on those objectives. Lastly, if you’re not achieving your results on social media, especially Facebook lead ads, don’t be shy about calling in the experts. Typically, the boost in performance delivers an immediate, and dramatic, return on investment


Mike:                           Excellent Kathy, thank you. We have a number of questions. When we look back at the webinar, and the presentation, we talked about leads, performance, and inquiries, and also content distribution. When we look as whole, where do you consider Facebook to be in the funnel for lead generation? For added perspective, when we look at Google, we can assume users are more in a shopping/buying phase. When we look at Facebook, where would you estimate that platform would be In the funnel?


Akeel Haider:              Great question. Based on the platform capabilities, and the audience reach and interaction, it can impact multiple places, in short. What we do is set up a strategy that’s a funnel management strategy. What we’d like to do is create ad with specific objectives. We influence that in the top of the funnel with content marketing. Our departments interact with each other – direct response performance talks with the guys doing the social, and SEO content marketing, and there’s a big influence that can happen there.


When you take lead ads, itself, then you can definitely capture that middle part of the funnel. We’re using it in later stages in the funnel. A lot of successful companies are re-engaging people who fell off the funnel in later stages – like someone who’s about to become a conversion, like if it’s a long lead life cycle – someone who raised their hand, went through an application process, but never converted. We can come back later and re-engage them with that. The answer is we were able to utilize it at multiple stages.


Mike:                           Excellent, thank you. Jean has a question around building the look alike audiences – what’s the minimum number of previous conversions you need to have within Facebook to be able to build a look alike audience?


Akeel Haider:              When you read the marketing material, they say you need so many customers. It seems like between 1,000 and 5,000 conversions is where the optimal seed is to build a look alike audience. If you have a match rate of 40 or 50 percent on Facebook, you really need 2,000 records so you match 1,000 and build a good look alike audience.


Mike:                           When bidding on FB ads, if an ad is doing well right from the start, should I immediately double my budget? What’s your recommendation?


Akeel Haider:              That’s more of a technical question. It’s all about the Facebook algorithm. It takes the algorithm about 48 hours depending on the volume to figure out the best way to serve the ads, and get you more of the conversions, or whatever your objectives are. When you’re at a point where you see success, and wanna increase your spend, there’s multiple ways to do it. I recommend to do it incrementally.


Don’t double it right away because then you’re confusing the algorithm. And, these change because they enhance algorithms. Where we are now, I’d say don’t double your budget right away. Do it in five or ten percent increments, that way the algorithm can catch up to your new budget and you can have the best results.


Mike:                           Thank you. Here’s a legal question. It’s this viewer’s understanding that based on Facebook lead ad terms of use, section E. Lead ads are only explicitly for advertisers, and affiliates and agencies can’t place lead ads to sell, or redirect, or transfer to advertisers. Is this a misunderstanding? It sounds like agencies, and others, are using lead ads to generate leads, and selling them transferring to schools or other companies, and maybe you shouldn’t be. Do you want to comment?


Akeel Haider:              Obviously, we’re not legal experts, and we haven’t heard of that specific section, but my take is the following – Sparkroom itself is not a lead generation shop, we’re and agency. So, when we’re running the campaign for a client, we’re acting as an extension of their marketing team. When you’re running Facebook ads, we’re and advertiser on the Facebook page.


You have to request to become an advertiser on somebody’s page, and you have to have permission from the advertiser. And, you’re asking as them to serve those ads from the advertiser. Again, that’s a marketing take on this. The legal part I’ll leave out because I’m not the expert.


Mike:                           Sure, and it doesn’t seem to be on par with the majority of their advertisers that are doing some possible type of pass-through, or lead generation for different clients or different advertisers. But, it’s an interesting question, and something to look into. I have three questions. A few years ago, advertisers were advised to have multiple messages and creative executions available because Facebook ads had a shelf life of about three to five days. In your opinion, is that true?


Akeel Haider:              A few things – test the ads multiple times, but the lifetime of the ad depends on the vertical of the client, and the campaign itself. We see ads that gain momentum, then die in a month, sometimes two weeks – so, I can’t say with certainty that it’d be X or Y.


Mike:                           If you recall, one example you specifically mentioned – there was a 76 percent lift in web conversions. What was the age that were being targeted? Or, is that common across all campaigns you guys have?


Akeel Haider:              This was for a particular client with a particular demo. We’re talking about a demo, without mentioning the clients, of between 22 and 45 years old. That was the age.


Mike:                           Lastly, we mentioned higher education companies using Facebook more for advertising. Have you seen specific examples of companies in that space doing social media right? Are there any schools that work, or don’t work, that you’ve seen out there that are doing social media right?


Kathy Bryan:               Absolutely. We work with a number of schools, and we actually put up a blog post after researching best higher education campaigns for 2015. I think half had either a social media element that was a strong component, or were primarily social media. I think there are two sides of social media. There’s the social media that’s earned the engagement, and there’s the paid social media. Certainly, the earn in social media has been around for a long time. Schools are really making that part of their marketing efforts. Paid social media is continuing to grow in importance, and in terms of its performance results, as well.


Akeel Haider:              One more thing. If you’re gonna measure everything on a last click basis, and you generated X amount of inquiries, and it’s not really what I’m getting – that’s not the right way to look at it. When you’re able to track – if you set up Google analytics correctly to track various channels, and show conversion path reports, or you have a third party software that does multi-channel attribution for you, or you’re able to track all channels correctly, you’ll see the correlations between those.


You’ll see the campaign value is not just in that last click attribution there, and I think that’s just one thing to keep in mind. What we’re seeing is sophisticated institutions that have figured that out and can see the long term value of it, and have really put more value in it.


Mike:                           Excellent. Thanks Kathy and Akeel. Thank you both for sharing your day with us, and going over this great information on Facebook lead ads. I know we may not have gotten to everyone’s questions. If you wanna follow up, reach out to Kathy or Akeel. You can just go to Sparkroom, and go through their contact page, or give them a call there.


You can also go to and go to our contact form on our website, and I’ll reach out and respond back to you, and get you in touch with Kathy or Akeel, as well. Like I said, you will be getting a copy of the white paper, and I’ll be sending that out to you no later than tomorrow, but I’ll try to get it out to you today. Thank you all for joining us today and thank you Akeel and Kathy for sharing the information you obtained through your experiences. I appreciate it. Thanks again, and I hope everyone has a great day.


Kathy Bryan:               Thanks Mike.


Akeel Haider:              Thank you so much, have a great day everyone.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media SolutionsTM (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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