Questions the Observer journalists could have asked about Facebook advertising

  • What was the 'lookalike' audience based on? Did they even use this feature correctly? A lookalike can only give you a fixed percentage of people in the country. Depending on the source audience, it might give you the top 1% in the country, but skewed towards people in London, for example. Unless the source audience was a list of local people in the right area, the right age range, with the right interests. If so, where did they get the data for this source list? They could have also made an amateur mistake of creating a lookalike across the UK, then whittling the targeting down to 18-25s in a specific small area - leaving them with an impractical, tiny local audience. It could have been trying to reach just 20 people. With a small audience, you could accidentally show it to them a dozen times and annoy them, leaving no one to click, making your engagement and reach go down and your costs going up. We need details from this Labour advertiser to understand whether the poor performance is simply their failure to apply basic good practice. In my experience, lookalikes aren't that useful when targeting small specific areas, so to even bother using a lookalike suggests it was doomed to fail from the start.
  • What targeting objective did they set? If their aim was to get traffic, then hopefully they used the traffic objective. If not, you're going to get fewer clicks at a high cost. If they used the right objective, what did the ad say? Did it actually call for people to act and click the ad?
  • Did they set a cap on the cost per click? If so, they would almost always be outbid by anyone aiming at the same audience who is using the auto-bidding feature.

Subscribe to Tom Davenport

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.