How to build an automated Facebook advertising funnel
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One of the reasons email marketing is so effective is because you can reach people directly based on their actions and level of connection to your brand or company.

Automated email funnels consistently rank as one of the most effective ways to sell products, increase engagement and sign-up leads.

So why not replicate that for online advertising?

Unfortunately, many marketers don’t take advantage of this strategy and apply it to their advertising campaign. They just assume an email strategy is enough.

Small businesses, content marketers, and advertisers need to start thinking beyond email and embrace automated funnel advertising. The time of just using email marketing to make a final sale or onboard a user is over.

In this post, we show you how to create a simple Facebook automated ad campaign that requires almost zero maintenance.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • The ins-and-outs of automated ad funnels
  • Who should and shouldn’t use this strategy
  • The key differences between an email and ad automation funnel
  • How to set up your funnel for success

What is An Automated Ad Funnel

An automated ad funnel is similar to an email funnel. Ads are triggered based on your target audience’s actions, and other characteristics.

The goal with a funnel isn’t to just drive impressions. It’s to push people towards a pre-defined action, usually some form of email capture or purchase.

An example of an email ad funnel is as follows:

  • Someone lands on a website and leaves without converting
  • An ad is shown for 3 days highlighting the benefits of the product
  • If no one converts, another ad is shown for 3 days highlighting a free download, or another piece of content

The journey differs depending on the action:

  • If someone converts, they are dropped off the automation
  • If someone doesn’t click they continue on the automation, or until the automation ends

You can see how this can be useful.

Blogs could introduce non-converted users to their best content every three days. Small business owners could showcase their products based on the last time someone visited and the content they viewed.

Who Should Use An Automated Facebook Ad Funnel

Unlike what many gurus or marketers say, an automated funnel isn’t useful for everyone.

It really will depend on your website usage and other factors. But here are some situations where an automated Facebook advertising funnel could be useful:

  • It takes a while for people to convert on your site
  • You have lots of inbound traffic
  • You need to build connection before making a sale

The Differences Between Email and Ads

Before we start building a funnel, it’s important to recognize the limitations of an automated Facebook advertising funnel compared to an email funnel.

What You Can Do

Target based on user activity

You can easily target based on someone’s website activities, and interactions with your ads. For example, I could target anyone who engaged with my ad, watched a video or opened a lead or canvas ad. You can learn more about this in our custom audience course.

Target based on demographics

Your funnel can also layer on demographic information that Facebook tracks. Let’s say I only want small business owners to be part of my ads funnel – in my ad set I can easily add the Small Business Owner Behaviour and the Small Business Owner interest.

Reach people outside of email

People spend more time on social media than email. Using an automated Facebook advertising funnel helps you reach people where they spend most of their time.

What You Can’t Do

Target based on viewing an ad

Email automation makes it easy to set triggers based on email opens. Unlike email, there is no way to know for sure if someone actively viewed your ad. And even if I did, you couldn’t set a new action to trigger based on that view.

Target based on micro-actions

With email automations, you can add tags based on actions, set reminders and build much more specific targeting strategies. It’s just not possible in the same way with Facebook ads.

Build detailed, nuanced automation

Look, I love advertising. That’s why we started this site! But we are the first to admit you can’t do everything with ads.

Building detailed, multi-action, and branching automations are hard with Facebook ads. And most times not usually necessary.

In many situations, email is a better medium to onboard a user. Where ads are useful is engaging with someone not yet in your email system, or reinforcing your email campaign.

Individual targeting

Finally and most importantly, you can’t target individuals with an ad funnel. Facebok requires a minimal audience size so individualized targeting isn’t possible.

Setting Up Your Funnel

Now that you understand how an automated Facebook advertising funnel works, and the differences between an email funnel, let’s start building our first ad funnel.

We’ll show you how this works by building a funnel for Online Advertising School.

When you start building a funnel, you need to answer 3 questions:

1. What is Your Objective?

First, figure out what you want to accomplish. What is the action you are optimizing for throughout the funnel? Our goal is to automate making a membership sale on our site using only ads.

2. What Triggers Starts the Automation?

You need to decide what triggers the funnel to begin. The trigger must have a constant source of people, not just one off-viewers.

In our example campaign, it’s anyone who visits the website. But they also must not have given us their email.

3. What Trigger Ends The Automation?

You need to decide what will trigger the automation to end. Our completion trigger is a membership purchase. For this trigger we’d use our “Purchase” event pixel action. A secondary trigger is if someone doesn’t complete the purchase without the automation days we’ve set.

How to Build Your Funnel

To do this correctly, you’ll need to create multiple ad sets and audiences.

Ad Set 1

Your first ad set will start the automation. We’ll start by creating our target audience. For this funnel, we’ll target anyone who visited the website between 1-5 days. This ensures that people will see it even if they log-in less frequently.

Then we need to choose the exclusion audiences.

The first is anyone who’s given their email address by either excluding all email addresses, and/or excluding anyone who’s fired my “CompleteRegistration” pixel event.

Secondly, we need to exclude anyone who’s purchased a membership. We do this by adding our “Purchase” pixel firing event audience.

The ads will send people to a landing page to submit their email address

You’ll want to exclude the next ad set’s audience from this group so they don’t see the ads. To do this, you’ll create an audience of anyone who’s landed on the ad’s landing page.

Your final ad set audience targeting should look like this image below. Be sure to include “Worldwide” as your location.

Next you need to set your budget and bid.

Your budget will depend on your audience size. Remember – the average CPM for smaller audiences can range from $10-30, so budget accordingly. You can also change it if you are overspending or ads are shown too frequently.

We’ve set the bid to daily unique reach so everyone sees it at least once. Costs should also be lower since Facebook isn’t choosing who to reach.

If you choose daily unique reach, you should set your placement to mobile and desktop newsfeeds. Right-hand column is much less impactful and we usually always recommend excluding Audience Network.

Then add your ad creative to the ad set. If the audience is under 10,000 then limit it to one ad creative.

Ad Set 2

The next ad is designed to showcase membership benefits to anyone who’s clicked on the ad, or converted in an email. To do this, you target anyone who’s visited that landing page in the last 4 days.

This forces new people into the funnel as more people click on your ad.

You also want to exclude anyone’s who’s purchased a membership, just like the last ad set.

You should set the bid to daily unique reach with a high bid to ensure it serves every day to each person.

Ad Set 3

The final ad set is designed to do two things:

  • Reach people multiple times per day
  • Build urgency around our offer

The ad creative will explain that our membership is only available at a certain price for the next 48 hours.

In order to limit to 48 hours, we’ll need to set the audience to only people who visited the page between days 5-6 and who haven’t purchased a membership.

To do this, create an audience with the date range of 1-6 who visited your page.

In your ad set, set the inclusion audience to days 1-6 and exclude your previous 1-4 day audience. This ensures only those in days 5-6 will see it.

Set the bidding to impressions so that it will show frequently, and set the bid to the midway point.

You should assume your daily budget will spend entirely when bidding for impressions, so set the budget at a comfortable amount that won’t overspend and still reach enough people.

Final Thoughts

This funnel isn’t perfect. And there’s lots more we could do with it. But it does give you an idea of how to be creative when building automated ad campaigns.

In another post we plan on showing you how to integrate email actions into your funnel to really target your ads based on previous engagement. So stay tuned for that!

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to try building your own funnel. If you have any questions, post them in the Facebook group or send an email to hello@onlineadvertisingschool.com.

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