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Facebook quietly announced a slew of changes to its ads and Page tools this summer.

Aside from the addition of hashtags, most of the updates weren't covered outside of social marketing circles. As a store owner, these changes are meaningful for your business if you currently run Facebook ads or plan to in the future. 

In the next six months, Facebook will consolidate its number of ad units from 27 to less than half of that. In other words, Page owners who've been confused by Facebook's ad options and their long, clunky names will finally get some help.

Let's take a look at what you can expect and how you can use the new ads effectively.

Questions and Offers are Gone

The first change is eliminating two little-used post types: Questions, Facebook's polling feature, and Offers, its coupon-style post format. Neither was widely used, although people have had success in the past with Offers.

Going forward Facebook will be encouraging Page owners to post questions and coupons as text, link, or image posts.

Improved commenting on Facebook, including inline replies and picture comments, will help fans respond to and discuss questions.

If you've never tested posting questions or coupons, now is a great time to get started. Simple, one-sentence questions get a surprising amount of engagement. Either/or questions and fill in the blank sentences also work well.

The ideal topic is one that people have strong beliefs about but that has very low stakes. For example, "How do you take your coffee?" or "Which direction should toilet paper be hung?" not "Which religion is the best?"

Adapt the following example questions to your store's niche:

  • How do you take your coffee?
  • Better summer footwear: flip flops or boat shoes?
  • My favorite Angry Bird is ____.

The elimination of Offers is more disappointing because promotions and discounts are the #1 reason people like brands on Facebook.

Fans want exclusive deals and without Offers, you'll have to share the deals as link posts with coupon codes in the text. You can tease these deals as an incentive for prospective fans to like your Page. Create a custom discount code, like "FACEBOOK13," just for Facebook users who like your page.

Read more about these changes on the Facebook Studio blog.

Three Ads Become One (and Get Social)

For proof of Facebook's ad naming problems, see these three ad formats which are being combined into one:

  • Page Post Like Sponsored Story
  • Page Post Comment Sponsored Story
  • Page Post Ad

One post, three different ads, thirteen words.

The three ad formats above are being consolidated into one. Now, when you promote a post from your Facebook Page, the ad will automatically include likes and comments. According to research from Nielsen and comScore, this social context leads to better performance and return on investment for advertisers.

These changes will begin in the fall.

A Better Way to Drive Sales from Facebook Ads

A Page post link ad is created when you post a link to your Facebook page then promote that link, making it an ad.

Nanigans, a Facebook marketing software company, found that Page post link ads had a 53% ROI while Page post photo ads (with an off-site link) had an ROI of just 24%. In other words, if you want the highest click through rate to your site, post a link (like in the picture below), not an image with a link.

Facebook recently announced three important changes to this ad format.

You can now create a Page post link ad without first creating a post on your Page. This workflow is helpful for creating highly-targeted ads that wouldn't be relevant to your entire fan base.

For example, you can create separate ads for men's and women's clothing items. If you have a product for high school students, you can target teens and their parents with different ad copy and images.

Another handy feature Facebook is rolling out is the ability to upload your own custom image instead of using the default images that Facebook pulls from the link you're promoting. Uploading your own image will ensure that it looks good on Facebook and hopefully get you better click-through rates.

Most importantly, when you create an ad that links off of Facebook to your store, you can choose between an ad in the sidebar or one that appears directly in the News Feed.

According to Nanigans, both link ads and photo ads in the News Feed outperform ads in the sidebar as News Feed ads are much more visible to users who've tuned out sidebar ads.

In my experience News Feed ads work best if you advertise new products and discounts to your existing fans.

Read more about the changes to Page post link ads here.

More Useful Data About Your Fans

Have you ever looked at your Page Insights (Facebook analytics) and thought, "This is great. But what should I do next?" If so, you'll appreciate Facebook's recent efforts to make this data easier to understand and more actionable.

Instead of seeing one big number for "People Talking About This" (your Page), you'll now see detailed stats for Page Likes, People Engaged, Page tags and mentions, Page checkins, and other interactions.

Each post will also have detailed metrics including reach, engagement, and negative feedback. This data will help you gauge which posts are performing best so that you can get better at sharing more of the content your fans like.

Facebook Page Insights for posts

You'll also see more detailed data about people who interact with your Page. The demographics of people engaging with your Page will be clearly indexed against the demographics of your fans.

In the example below, women are 57% of the Page's fans but 72% of the people engaging with the content. Thirteen to twenty-four year olds are also engaging more than expected. Based on this data, you can create more content targeted to 13-24 year old women.

Facebook Page Insights updates Summer 2013

Improved Page Insights are rolling out gradually to all Pages. Once you have the new interface, look for outliers. Find posts that performed especially well or especially poorly. Do more of what is working and less of what is not.

Check which gender and age groups engage with your content and which do not. Start catering to the ones that do when creating content or targeting ads.

Read more about Page Insights on the Facebook blog.

Hashtags Are Here

In mid-June, Facebook announced that it will now support hashtags, a popular feature on other major social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Hashtags help to categorize your posts and make them readily findable for non-followers. For example, you can tag relevant posts about products like #tshirts.

Hashtags are rolling out gradually, so they may not be enabled for your profile or Page just yet.

Until Facebook builds infrastructure around them, hashtags won't be very hugely useful. Eventually, you'll be able to see trending topics and look at (public) content across all of Facebook.

Until now, searching for posts about a specific topic, like your niche, across Facebook was nearly impossible. With hashtags, you'll be able to track conversations about your brand and see what people are saying about other topics relevant to your business.

Read more about the future of hashtags on Facebook.

Next Steps

Facebook announced all of the above in June. These changes are good news for marketers but a lot of information to digest.

Until hashtags become more popular, the most important change is the improvements to ads in the News Feed.

Read over the Facebook blog posts linked to above and subscribe to the Facebook Studio blog to stay abreast of future updates. 

If you have any specific questions, ask them in the comments.


About the Author: Fred Perrotta is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, makers of the ultimate travel backpack and proud Shopify store owners.