Practical Ecommerce

Advertising Options to Test (and Expand) in 2016, for Ecommerce

With the new year, advertisers can put mistakes behind them, take note of what worked, and try something new.

At Tailor Brands, my employer, we include marketing tests in every monthly budget. That way we don’t shift money from channels that we know work, and we also have an amount set aside that we could lose. After all, every test won’t work.

Before I address tests, you should get your site’s tracking in order. If you aren’t tracking properly, you’re never going to understand if your tests are working correctly. Consult my guides on setting up Google Tag Manager and using UTM links to track your campaigns for setup details.

In addition to creating a test budget, I’ll offer three suggestions for each for the three leading social ad networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some of these suggestions should be tests, and some should become permanent from the start.

Facebook Ads

There is so much to do on Facebook. Even I am not doing many the suggestions below, or at least not at a large scale.

  • Try interest targeting. I’ve said previously that, on Facebook, you should use lookalike targeting over everything else. But that doesn’t mean the interest targeting options are useless. Far from it. There are plenty of successful campaigns running off just interests. It’s a must-do in 2016.
  • Test your ads. You may be running two different ads, but are you actually learning anything from them? Are you pausing them or creating new ones based on previous data? If not, 2015 is the last year you do it, otherwise you’ll never get ahead.
  • Segment your ad sets. It’s time to stop throwing everything into one group. Split your ad sets by, say, placements, devices, and regions and give the sets different ads. It may seem like a wasted effort, but you’re going to quickly learn what is working, and what isn’t. It will save you a ton of money, and, hopefully make you a ton, too.

Instagram Ads

2015 was the year of self-service ads on Instagram. Let’s make 2016 the year Instagram became a serious channel in your advertising mix.

  • Create separate campaigns Instagram. If you are just turning on the Instagram placement on your Facebook ads, stop. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. Create new images that utilize Instagram’s square placement, take them to Instagram-specific landing pages, and use Instagram specific copy. It’s annoying to see an ad on Instagram that says “use code Facebook.”
  • Make a video ad. Ten seconds will do. Avoid being overly promotional, and it doesn’t have to be shot by a professional. Think about the videos you’ve seen and enjoyed on Instagram. Make videos like that. It shouldn’t be hard to do.
  • Treat Instagram as a separate network. Yes, Instagram, is owned by Facebook. But if you only look at Instagram with the blue tinted glasses of Facebook, you’ll never be successful. Think about how you use Instagram. Is it the same way you use Facebook? No, it’s not.

Twitter Ads

I did not use Twitter in 2015 nearly as much as I thought I would. Recognizing that using each network depends on your audience, there are still plenty of reasons to use Twitter ads.

  • Run at least two tweets per campaign. Never run just one ad. Even if it is for a single-day campaign, you can still learn something by testing two different messages. Don’t forget to use website cards, either.
  • Target at least 30,000 people. It’s as simple as that. Don’t have 30,000 people in your audience? You’re not targeting widely enough.
  • Limit to one objective per campaign. You’re only hurting yourself if you lump everything together. It does no good if you can’t truly understand what’s working. Plus it will be very hard to scale. So, in 2016, create a campaign for keywords, a campaign for user accounts, and a campaign for interests.

Other Networks to Test

StackAdapt is a platform to distribute native ads programmatically, across many websites.

StackAdapt is a platform to distribute native ads programmatically, across many websites.

While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can keep you busy in 2016, there are plenty of other networks to try. Here are a few starting options to consider, but there are many more.

  • LinkedIn. While Facebook continues to expand its work-related targeting, LinkedIn still has a wealth of data use you can use to hone in a specific persona, company, or industry.
  • AdWords. There’s plenty to be done on AdWords. Try expanding globally, especially on your branded terms. It’s an almost sure-fire way to get conversions at a cheap cost.
  • Bing. If you don’t advertise on Bing, start. You can easily export what you’re doing on AdWords into Bing. But I wouldn’t start with all AdWords campaigns. Try your branded campaigns first, then slowly expand by following what works on AdWords.
  • Pinterest. 2015 also saw the rise of advertising on Pinterest. If your business sells products and services that are image heavy, it’s going to be a great fit.
  • Taboola, Outbrain. You’ve likely seen a six-pack of ads at the bottom of a news article that look like links to another article. Well, they’re actually ads, and they’re most often served by Taboola or Outbrain. If you can write a catchy headline and deliver a compelling landing page, this format could be quite a success.
  • StumbleUpon. If you’re looking to get a lot of traffic at a low cost — as low as $0.15 per interaction — consider StumbleUpon. It’s an ad product that is slowly expanding, and worth a try.
  • Native ads. Self-service vendors like StackAdapt let you distribute native ads programmatically. It’s worth a try in this ever-growing format.
  • News sites. You can easily place your ads on the Atlantic and similar sites through their self-service portals. There aren’t as many options as on other networks, but at the end of the day, it’s at least more exposure.

Are you planning to test more in 2016? Do you have a suggestion for another network to try? Please post a comment below so everyone can see it.

Michael Stancil

Michael Stancil

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. steve cusumano January 19, 2016 Reply

    literally, every single time i read an article and think to myself “wow, i love this, who wrote it” it’s Michael Stancil… without fail. super weird. keep it coming.