10 Ways to Make Facebook Ads More Effective

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Facebook has become one of the most desirable advertising platforms for the modern business, from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce. For many years, companies have enjoyed the “Freemium” version of social media to help grow their business, but organic results aren’t what they used to be, and now our challenge is to maximize results and reap the benefits of boosting a post as a paid ad.

1) Who are your best customers?

What do the majority of your followers/customers have in common? There are many answers, and they usually differ across to your range of products or services. If you’re just getting started, look at your competition. If you have a store, observe who walks in the door, and who buys something. What did they look at first? What did they purchase? What was the average transaction value? Your product fits into a lifestyle in very specific ways. They are not simply between the ages of 18-65+ and living in your city. Are they retired? Do they have young kids? Are they fashionistas and foodies? Athletic? Home-owners? Drivers? Dog owners? Do they like the page of your biggest competitor? Do they work in a specific field? Are they from the country that your products are specialty imports from? Do they fall within a certain income bracket?

These are the types of things that Facebook has been in trouble for, but showing people something relevant to them is usually a more positive experience than something totally irrelevant that doesn’t suit them. This sociology applies to everything you have ever seen advertised, own, eaten, inquired about, or received as a gift. The demographic wording also changes frequently on Facebook, so you will need to recreate audiences periodically as some targeting becomes unavailable, and replaced with something similar. Don’t rush through this part. You can also put multiple boosts on a single post for different audiences it might appeal to in combination.

Another very important thing to note: People who already like your page are not going to see your new posts. You need to target them separately, and it will often cost much less for the results than acquiring brand-new page likes and customers. The reduction in engagement and sales from organic posts over the last few years isn’t really a reflection of reduced quality, but here’s another article on organic Facebook techniques for 2018. Try this before firing anyone, and read on…

2) Get Exclusive

Just because they like hockey, doesn’t mean they cheer for your team. Just because they’re between 18-65+ and live in Vancouver, doesn’t mean they watch hockey at all. Once you’ve chosen many characteristics to create an audience, and now your potential reach is 3 million, start narrowing it down by “excluding people” from your audience. For example, if you are advertising a steakhouse, your audience might include people who like “BBQ”, “food”, “meat”, but you’re still including people who like “food” so here you can refine it further, to exclude “vegetarians”. Not only does this put your dollars to better use, it also prevents people from seeing it who might become upset, which makes it a better experience for all, including your complaints department, or the lifespan of the ad if it gets flagged as offensive.

3) Select the Right CTA

A CTA is a Call-To-Action, often taking the form of a labelled button. What action do you want your viewers to take? Visit your website? Send a message? Like your page? This depends on the type of business you are, maybe you need to provide estimates and book appointments. Maybe your company is new and you want more people to just know about it. Maybe you need them to come to the physical showroom, because they can’t buy your products online. Maybe you don’t even have a website and they can purchase your products directly through Facebook. Maybe you know that your email newsletter sells way more than your other media, so you want them to sign up to receive more of the useful blog info that this Facebook post is linking to, or you’re a book author and they can sign up to receive an excerpt from your new novel about to launch.

4) Have an Effective Landing Page

If the post is advertising a certain product, make sure this “Shop Now” button isn’t just going to your website, but actually straight to the page that product is on within your site. If it’s a time-sensitive offer, or an exclusive offer only available to your social media followers, consider creating a separate website as a landing page, so it won’t be part of your normal navigation. Install your Facebook pixel into the analytics portion of the website(s) in order to capture some stats about how successful that post was in driving traffic to your site, or making a purchase of that item (unless they left and came back later). A common rule of thumb is to try and make the desired customer action able to be completed within 3 clicks, or 3 loaded pages.

Example: FB post of a new purse in stock <Buy Now> Website shows bag, colour gets chosen <Buy> Billing and shipping info gets entered <Submit> Your purchase was successful!

5) Choose the Right Image

Let’s say your product is more of a service. You might struggle to find the right imagery, in which case stock photos are a good option (though a bit expensive) - How do you choose the right one? The answer is simpler than you might think: Try to find photos that include the same colour as your logo, or other brand colours your company uses. Hire a photographer or designer to create a library for you. For a product, this will be a collection of images of your product specifically, or Photoshopped in. It will save you money on stock images and make your products look more presentable, increasing sales. Your website should have a “lifestyle” photo (staged situation where your product or service would be used) at the top of the page, followed by simple “product” images (white background) that can be clicked on for more information or to be added to a cart. Facebook posts and ads should have a lifestyle image, with tagged products pulling those product photos from your site.

6) Make Your Copy Responsive

What does that mean? When you draft a post, the written portion might get cut off because it’s too long to fit in the space provided. Often, you will be making these on a computer, but most of your users might be looking at it on their phone, or a tablet. If people enjoy the image or video, they might read the text, and if the text is intriguing, they might expand it to see the rest. You should try to make sure that the portion prior to that cutoff is putting the most important info up front, or best, entertaining them a bit with a punchline. Don’t use hashtags on Facebook posts, but do include a link at the end to a relevant page on your site.

7) Leverage Incentivized New Features

Facebook is essentially user-generated, but they still want to have a certain look and feel for their platform, and that often means that creating certain types of content will get you better results in the algorithm. Videos will get more results than photos, and photos will get more than text-only posts. They also want to showcase new features, so for example, creating the ability for customers to make purchases from your page through Messenger (PayPal coming soon), or right now it’s cheaper through their new WhatsApp integration. This is especially good for companies that are service-based, but increasingly for product sales as well. It might take traffic away from your website, but it might make the purchase easier, reduce dropoff and increase your sales. Facebook is running out of adspace, so they launch new features to create more. Read more about that here.

8) Choosing Your Budget

How is the cost of boosting your post calculated? As a freelancer I can tell you, the number that appears in “Boost your post for $(x) to reach #(x) people” varies drastically for different companies. One factor is how relevant/engaging your page’s posts have historically been to your audience. One of the most expensive rates I’ve ever seen was for a nonprofit, which definitely seemed evil, but it was because their donors came from so many backgrounds and were harder to profile for targeting. Similarly, if your photos and copywriting have been a little more handmade and not as polished, it might cost more to get started, and you’ll want to try and improve your quality. It probably also has a lot to do with how many people are competing for adspace in the same type of audiences and product categories you are.

A rule of thumb is that 10% of the budget for a business should generally be allocated to marketing. If you’re not sure where to start, try $30-50 on a post that’s already doing better than your other ones just to get some stats. If you have access to your website data, take a look at the conversion rate of how many people make a purchase (could be 1%-3%), and what their average purchase value is. This will provide a reference point to think about how much you spend per impression, or per website click, etc. An awareness campaign can bring people to your physical store or create word of mouth, so remember that those clicks might not be everything. Customers might be discovering it through Facebook, leaving your site, and then coming back later to make the purchase, but not through Facebook this time.

9) Timing & Duration

Take a look at the Insights section of your page. Think about the timezones your audience lives in and which portion of their day viewing your content is happening. For example, I worked with a province-wide insurance company (Canada, ayyy!), and found people were primarily on our page during weekday business hours. When I was at a food company (grocery eCommerce throughout North America), we were popular at lunch across many timezones. If you work with events, people in your city will usually be viewing it Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon. Try to post at the front edge of these waves, and since it can take a couple hours or a couple days for a post to be approved (or rejected), schedule a boosted post farther in advance to run at that ideal time. Run the same ad multiple times simultaneously, for audiences who are identical, except for their location, according to timezone.

10) Analyze the Data

If you’re just getting started with boosting ads, take a look at your Insights section to get a basic understanding of possible patterns. If you are just starting to boost posts, experiment with it by running one for a longer duration to gain data on when people engaged with it more, and then start to refine that into shorter duration campaigns, with timing based on the peaks you’ve observed. Try to categorize the types of posts, and try running some A/B split tests or other tests to identify subtle changes on the same post that will turn out to make a big difference in how effective they are.

11 Ways: Start Working Remotely on Your Commute

Work Remotely on Your Commute

Think of it like this: There are 24 hours in a weekday divided by 3 segments of 8 hours. #1 is at work full-time, #2 is sleeping (right?), and that #3 segment is actually your "free time". I think a lot of us spend a huge chunk of free time commuting, and daydreaming of working from home instead. What if the pain points of both could be addressed simultaneously?

Pain points of commuting:
- Driving & biking require nearly undivided attention
- Transit requires more time

Pain points of working remotely:
- Missing skills / experience / mentorship
- Not enough time

I used to alternate between all 3 of these modes of commuting. I was surprised to find the traffic often took longer than expected, and crept up on the time it would take to bike or bus. It was more expensive, and I couldn't help but notice a feeling of starting the workday carrying the stress of traffic, fulfilling the workday, and then arriving home stressed from traffic. "The work I do could be done from home" I would think, exhausted. You might as well still be on the clock - Your employer requires that you have this commute to keep the job, but it's not compensated and the extra time lost on commuting actually cuts into your "free time" and ability to have a second job, or side hustle. Some people love their cars, but I thought the drive was an extension of my workday.

Taking transit created space for emails, Shapr, LinkedIn, and anything that could be done on a phone. When I switched to taking transit, I became much more bilingual, spending as much as 2 hours a day working on my French in Duolingo, and bringing it from 15% to 60% proficiency. That's when I realized that the time spent on a commute was a huge opportunity when you don't need to be occupied driving. 

11 ways to start working remotely on your commute:

1) Join groups for Remote / Digital Nomad networks on Facebook, Slack channels, and others.

2) Upload your resume on Indeed or as an email draft and apply for remote jobs during your commute.

3) Learn new skills for remote work - Sololearn for coding, or Udemy & Udacity for software and other hard skills, Duolingo for additional languages, Lynda, Khan Academy.

4) Take on clients for social media, and create draft posts during your commute. Many more people spend time browsing social media during those hours, so your posts can get more organic reach.

5) Draft blog and social media posts on your phone and drop in other content that is easier on your computer later.

6) Use apps like Shapr to network remotely, and spend some time browsing networking events in your area on Meetup or Eventbrite.

7) Listen to audiobooks instead of music - It's an excellent source of mentorship for entrepreneurial personal development and to passively get advice and new skills.

8) Create apps and website redesigns with phone apps like Marvel Pop App, Sketch, InVision and others. It's easiest to use a phone for haptics and to test responsive designs anyways.

9) Get Cryptokitties and to play around with Ethereum. Read cryptocurrency whitepapers, research the mandates and creators, and do your research to determine if trading during your commute is viable.

10) Create an online store and manage it via phone apps, such as being an Amazon affiliate, dropshipping, etc. 

11) Create profiles on Angel.co, Upwork, Toptal, and others.

Whether you call it remote work, location independent, or being an illustrious digital nomad - The resources available to get started are quickly increasing! If you are looking at your first "remote" jobs, sometimes it's good to start with a local company so you can become familiar with the actual challenges that crop up, and stop by in person if needed. If you can retain those clients for long periods, you can consider living in countries where the exchange rate will lower your overhead for living expenses, and sustain the cost of travel.

Share your experiences! What are your best tips for people to get started working remotely as a location-independent digital nomad?

AI & Smart Homes are for the Least Tech Savvy

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"Any product that needs a manual is broken."
- Elon Musk

We tend to think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart home technologies as living in luxury homes, top secret vaults, or still in test phase as prototypes in the labs and Airbnbs of Product Developers. 

In general, we design for 80% of users - Address the largest pain points, which forms your minimum viable product (MVP), and then you iterate on that to refine it further on future releases. That seasoned audience doesn't have a big learning curve to understand how to make the switch from a familiar skeuomorphic button to a hamburger menu. In fact we prefer “intuitive” haptics and gestures, the less of an interface the better! Minimalism is sexy - But how intuitive is it? 

I gave my dad my old iPhone 5c in 2018. Coming from a flip-phone, it was the most advanced phone he’s ever had, and it was incredible to watch his interactions. His large hand held it daintily, and pointing in search of the right letters, found them too small to press individually. In fact, I realized, he types on a keyboard like this as well, searching with pointed index fingers for the correct letters, because he never took classes to use a typewriter in his adolescence, and didn't use a computer at work until the end of his career. 

Now there are new laws coming into effect, following the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in regards to improving accessibility to online design standards. Text to background colour contrast, font size, dictation, and other types of features are going to drastically change the UI of existing contemporary websites, and perhaps even brand style guides, for the online world as we know it. Especially for that 20%.

If Facebook is any indication, there is a huge recent increase in the 45-55 year old age range of people opening accounts. There are also some more elderly “early adapters” starting to emerge. I know this because they share my Facebook posts for a bulk foods client with remarkable frequency. Amazing! But what does it mean for accessibility? 

These demographics aren't as resistant to technology as we’ve made them out to be. It’s time to design for them properly, and that might not always take the form of a larger scale iPad instead of a tiny phone. Maybe we can skip the 44px CTAs and text based UI wth enough contrast, and basically move straight to systems such as Voice User Interfaces? It can even connect to my dad’s Bluetooth hearing aids

“Why can’t people just pick up the phone and talk instead of sending emails” - A common pain point, but expensive to maintain. Chat bots are perhaps an extra-friendly interface if we can get dictation right. Echo and Alexa can offer an extra layer of companionship. What about service dogs? If we can personify a Roomba, surely there’s more potential.

Artificial Intelligence and smart home technologies might largely skip the tech-savvy 80% by comparison, because there are already sufficient tools for their pain points. The biggest demand for these tools is basically going to be for people who don't currently have easier ways to achieve their goals. It's easy enough for me to unlock my door with a key, but for someone with arthritis, a smart lock is much more revolutionary. 

Smart Homes and AI are chiming in at the perfect moment for conversations around accessibility. How might we take a step back from teaching our parents how to use technology, and give them a chance to teach us how they would like these interfaces to be? It turns out the elderly, and people with accessibility barriers are the perfect early adapters after all.

When Tech Meetings Turn Out to be Dates

An actual wedding band, custom-made for a  Microsoft Game Studios  Software Development Engineer.&nbsp;

An actual wedding band, custom-made for a Microsoft Game Studios Software Development Engineer. 

Let's set the scene: You've just attended the "hottest" tech talk on Artificial Intelligence, and a lot of intriguing new ideas are flowing through the audience. They've lined up to indulge the speakers, and everyone else is mingling enthusiastically.

Scanning the crowd, everyone is matched up, flapping their business cards and pulling up responsive portfolios and LinkedIn apps, like quickdraw. You lock eyes with someone across the room, and conversation ensues. It's great, they have a new project they're struggling on a certain area for, and it turns out you know that area really well. Cards flap, websites flow, LinkedIns link. You arrange to meet for a beer and discuss it further. 

The day arrives, and you're armed with a bit more research. Approaching the pub, you shoot them a message, "How can I spot you?" A reply comes through, "I'll be the handsome guy sitting at the bar." You stop at the door. 

Is that something you waive off? Walk in and give them a chance to redeem their stupid joke? Their confidence is positive. They're probably nervous. It can be politely clarified in the conversation. It hangs in the air, you have trouble keeping the conversation on track, and you walk away wiser.

"How might we prevent that?" In my case, I bought a fake wedding band. Where have you drawn a line to make professional distinctions?

We’re Asking Too Much of Developers

Recently I was looking at postings for UX/UI Design roles, and I noticed a pattern. So many of the ads were asking for these designers to have the coding knowledge to build their prototypes. Traditionally, UX/UI Designers are not trained in coding, so those roles would be somewhat hybridized. "Looks like what you’re asking for is a Front-End Developer," I thought out loud. It made me realize - We demand too much of Developers! 

UX/UI Design is a supportive role to help take some of the load off of Developers, who already use creative ideation for problem-solving practical website aspects. Many will attest to their frustration of an interrupted workflow to have to stop and invent something that was omitted from the blueprint.

Imagine this: UX/UI Designers and Developers, are like Architects and Engineers. The architect focuses more on the artistry and design of the building, while the engineer focuses more on the technical and structural side. In a highly cohesive team, these roles work in tandem, bouncing material back and forth to iterate on the best solutions. They understand and contrast each other’s skillsets enough to validate key concepts and coordinate more effectively. 

So how might we support Developers to be able to delegate their massive workload? To hone in and advance their expertise further? How might we support their healthier work/life balance and reduce burnout? Include UX/UI Designers as part of a healthy digital product team to support the success of developers and of the company overall.