210: Facebook Wants Advertisers to Cut to the Chase

Last week, Facebook began rolling out a new advertiser restriction, which has already impacted my clients’ accounts. It will most likely be the biggest change in years for marketers on the platform. After Facebook’s analytics showed audiences responding poorly to verbose ads, they cut the visible amount of text available in an ad. Now, audiences will see three lines of text instead of seven above the photo, slideshow, or video content. (The character limit of the headline and subhead underneath remain the same.) That’s 57% less text above the image area!

Advertisers will have a choice between getting their copy to fit neatly into three lines of Facebook text or having a two-line preview with a “Read more…” link underneath those two lines that will expand to the full seven lines of text. This has been how the ads have shown on Instagram for more than a year. So, now both platforms will incentivize advertisers to hook consumers in two or three short sentences—like Google has been doing for two decades.

Who This Benefits

With less text to read, advertisers will be pressed to fit the American consumer attention span. Those who adapt to this space will hold a competitive advantage over those who don’t. For auctioneers who focus on the asset’s benefits and the audience’s perceived need, this will help them get more and cheaper clicks than bid callers who lead with “AUCTION!” Online auctioneers will benefit, because they can shorten auction information and calls to action to just “Bid now,” or “Bidding now open.”

Who This Hurts the Most

Auctions with a diverse quantity of asset categories will feel this pinch more than any other auction type. Large estates, business liquidations, and tax-delinquency auctions will prove the most difficult to describe in the short space. Offline auctions will have to choose between selling the event or selling the assets well.

How to Minimize the Limitation  

THINK LIKE A SIGN MAKER.

Ask yourself what would be most important to say if you had only three to five seconds—because you do. Use only enough text to generate a motivation to click. If someone’s not hooked on the headline, the secondary and tertiary details won’t sell them anyway.

LEVERAGE COLLAGES.

For the past four years I’ve been using collages instead of single images to maximize my advertising copy, especially on auctions with a variety of assets. Facebook’s image window is 1,200 x 628 pixels. I’ve created templates for three, four, five, and six photos to appear together. Facebook allows advertisers to select up to six of these collages per ad. Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine determines which collage(s) will get the most clicks and most efficient traffic for each audience and then adapts the ads to display the top-performing one(s). Having spent almost a million dollars on Facebook advertising, I’ve found that these collages outperform slideshows and videos just short of 100% of the time.

DON’T PUT TEXT ON YOUR PHOTOS.

You can’t cheat the system by putting text somewhere else. Facebook penalizes performance of ads with text embedded in the images—if they approve the ads at all. If you put text in your videos, use it only as captions. Facebook has revealed that you have seven seconds to hook 75% of their users and less than fifteen seconds on the rest. Show the property instead of headlines, your company logo, or a cameo of you talking about the property. 80%of Facebook users view videos on mute.

USE MORE AUDIENCES

Rather than generic text that tries to attract a range of different buyer interests, write succinct copy to each buyer group in separate ad sets. I’ve seen success with this tactic. With a brick ranch, for instance, you might target audiences of:
• investors with “Buy more cash flow.”
• brokers with “We pay buyer brokers.”
• end users with “Buy a home on YOUR budget!”
• flippers with “Make quick sweat equity.”

While this change is inconvenient for almost all of us, it creates another Darwinian opportunity for professional marketers to separate themselves from those unwilling to adapt. Commissions are at stake, if not business models. Whether you outsource your social media or handle it in-house, you’ll be best served by viewing the asset through your buyers’ eyes instead of your own—and then using as few words and characters as possible to sell them.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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