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Why You Should Battle Complexity in Facebook Advertising

By Mark Harnett

We all know that Facebook is a social media giant, garnering over two billion active users a month. With such a vast user base, Facebook advertising allows businesses to target sizeable audiences. You can get granular with your targeting — by a person’s location, age, gender, interests, behavior, and connections. According to Forbes, CMOs still love Facebook because “no matter what audience they are after, it’s on Facebook.”

The Pitfalls of Facebook Ads

Many clients I work with have incredibly complex, customized ads and landing pages to target their different buyer personas and geographies. As appealing as it sounds, there are a couple of major pitfalls that I see over and over again when ad campaigns are overly complicated.

1. Inefficiencies in Creative Management
With so many combinations of offers, image tests, and customized messaging, ad sets become difficult to manage. When you want to make changes to one element such as a copy edit or a button, you may need to change it in 100 different places. You’ll need to budget for all of these creative and management costs.

2. Masking the Big Picture
The most egregious problem is that by making it so complex you mask the big picture. If you’re looking at all the trees (e.g., how each ad set is performing on a Cost Per Action basis), you lose sight of the forest. What are you ultimately trying to do? Generate leads or paying customers?

Simplify Your Facebook Ads

Despite the capability of extreme targeting, I’m going to make the case to err on the side of simplicity. Your best bet is to target larger audiences and let Facebook algorithms do the work.

A big factor with Facebook campaigns is that they get better with more concentrated learning. The more conversions you can get through an ad, the better the algorithms will be in finding more of them. If you split up your ad campaign too much, it takes away from the power of the algorithms.

Here are two real-life client cases to help illustrate my point:

    • TinkergartenTinkergarten, a company that organizes outdoor educational classes for young children across the U.S., was looking to recruit teachers to expand their network. With an additional goal of ensuring that the teachers were a diverse population from a gender, race, and geographic perspective, their initial campaigns targeted certain locations and segments of the population. When we backed off on targeting and created a general campaign across the U.S., however, Tinkergarten doubled the number of applications and the Cost Per Lead dropped in half. They were able to source more candidates by allowing Facebook to learn which ads performed better and optimize for them.
  • InfusionsoftInfusionsoft, a sales and marketing software solution, was running four distinct campaigns to target their small business audience. They ran a nurture campaign, an interactive demo with a sales rep, a live demo/webinar a few times per week, and Facebook lead ads. They spent lots of time managing each of these campaigns and analyzing them by Cost Per Lead. However, digging deeper, we discovered that the best performer (based on Cost Per Customer) was the interactive demo. Infusionsoft redirected the budget solely into that campaign to drive business more efficiently.


As you can see, even though Facebook allows marketers to slice and dice their user base thinly, you’re more likely to find what you need by starting with a wider audience. If you’re looking to drive leads or paying customers, keeping your campaign simpler may make a huge difference in your ROI.

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About Mark Harnett

Mark Harnett has run hundreds of campaigns for both high volume consumer products and high value business contracts. He has made lots of mistakes and also found some huge improvements using many of the techniques outlined here.

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