Digital marketing is full of misconceptions.
Coincidence. Perception. Control. Timing. Personalization. Testing.
None of these concepts would have even occurred to me a year ago when I was graduating college and looking to start my career in digital marketing.
But now that I have been working at Metric Digital as a Marketing Analyst for the past year, my thinking around how companies use paid advertising has transformed forever.
Here are several of the misconceptions I had going into this business, along with how they’ve shifted over the past year. Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a seasoned veteran of digital marketing, or a small or large brand hoping to acquire new customers, pay attention.
The internet is not what you think.
I remember during my job interview for Metric Digital, my response to questions about targeting was solely demographic based. But then I learned about behavioral targeting, and was blown away.
And now, when friends and family ask me what I do all day, they typically want to know more about Facebook’s targeting. It’s a hot topic lately. But most people don't know that Facebook has such substantial information about its users.
The assumption when you get hit with an ad is that it must be based on basic demo information, i.e., college student, female, living in a certain city, etc.
But it’s so much more. There are tons of complex formulas unknown to us.
Lookalikes, for example, help ads reach people who are similar to those audiences that are already interested in a business. These audience could be based on purchases, people who added to cart, people who watched one of your videos for over three seconds, or people who have engaged on your ads, and so on.
And then there’s behavioral targeting. Let’s say you had a recent anniversary, donated money to specific charity, purchased an accessory, or bought a new console gaming system. This information is more than insight into specific things you like. Facebook is learning about you and making assumptions. People who go blind into digital advertising might not realize this.
Another misconception is, the way you see an ad is not how everyone else may be seeing an ad. Facebook can automatically optimize a carousel ad to show the photo that is currently performing the best first. The same ad can also be used across different ad sets or targeting.
Meaning, in one ad set, the photo with the highest CVR and CTR may vary per ad set. And so, let’s say you comment on a carousel ad about the name of the product in the third photo. Someone else's third photo will be entirely different.
What you see isn’t necessarily what someone else gets.
This is a crucial distinction for marketers and brands alike. Because some ads have a specific order. If you wanted to show the customer a particular sequence of pictures to build a narrative around a product or lifestyle, then it would make sense. But if you’re simply showing run of the mill product shots, you would certainly optimize it to hit the right person at the right time.
By the way, it's not a coincidence that you just got hit with an ad showing the exact products in a carousel you were looking at on a site. Before working at a performance marketing company running actual campaigns on Facebook, I didn't know the ins and outs of dynamic ads like I do now.
For example, years ago I would be eyeing and considering buying a jacket on an ecommerce site, and then two days later see that exact jacket in an ad, and then decide to go for it. I certainly had an idea that this was more than just a coincidence, but didn't realize how specific the targeting was. All they have to do is show the products you viewed or added to cart, and you’re sold.
Facebook’s metrics are astounding. Far more robust and hyper relevant than you might realize. Friends and family are always asking me about this. They are shocked with how much data we can see in Facebook and all the things you can optimize for.
But here’s the misconception. Merchants can see data on more than just purchases, clicks, impressions, and so on. Facebook has almost every metric you can think of to understand and gain better insight into why your ad is working or isn't working. If you're running a video ad, you can see metrics like average video watch time, how many people watched fifty percent of your video, how many people watch all of your video, cost per three second video view, etc. That’s unprecedented. Advertisers in the past would have killed for this kind of market feedback.
In fact, if you're running a brand awareness or video views campaign, you can estimate the ad recall lift, which is an estimate of the number of people who might remember your ad when asked within two days. It's unbelievable. And it's all useful information that goes beyond the basics like click-through rate, impressions and conversion. The best part is, when you get super granular, that’s when it gets deeply insightful.
Here’s the surprising reality: No matter if you interact or don’t interact with an ad you see on your feed, you are still a part of the data. You’re still contributing to a test that might be running.
Imagine a brand is running an a/b test between two different variations of an ad. If you see one ad, but scroll past, it will still be recorded as an impression and no click. You will still be affecting the ad and its performance by lowering, if every so slightly, its overall click through rate.
But it’s a helpful reminder that digital advertisers run a/b testing all the time. They find out which headline performs better, what images drive more conversions, etc. Meaning, whatever action a customer takes on an ad, even if that is no action at all, it still contributes to the results.
Digital marketing cannot be escaped.
Ultimately, it all ties back to Google, for the most part. For example, you know how some companies will ask the question. How did you hear about us? Well a lot of times, they already know and all of this data is recorded in Google Analytics. Unless it was from an outside source like a friend telling you. Then there is no record. But if you came from Instagram, or if you came from like a publication like Esquire, it will show up. Ultimately, if a company correctly has GA and their tagging in place, you can usually see how your click is being tracked in the URL you are sent to after clicking on an ad
The final misconception is, there is definitely not a one size fits all way of advertising. What works for one company, might not work for another. It all depends on your audience and brand voice. Lifestyle shots might get the best results for one client who has a big emphasis on the lifestyle and image behind their brand, whereas product focused images will likely work better for a client with a more straightforward approach.
The best way to be successful is to get to know your client's brand and audience as well as they know it, and approach advertising from that unique angle.
Coming into this job as a recent college graduate, I assumed advertisers had the same secret formula of how to run campaigns. But it's all based on the client and the company. Lifestyle shots might be the best for client who has a big emphasis on brand. Others may have straightforward product shots.
It’s true: I had no idea about these nuances until I started working in digital advertising.
But now I can’t not know them. I can’t unring that bell!
And that’s a good thing. Now that I’m attuned to how the sausage is made, I can solve problems for our clients and help them take their business to the next level.