Facebook ads are a combination of marketing and technology that some love, some hate, and some simply don’t understand. What’s sometimes seen as a creatively fueled marketing platform is driven by a lot of science — data, metrics, and an ad performance-oriented auction system prove Facebook ads are about technology before anything else.
In 2017, Facebook ads drove nearly $27 billion in sales, a 57 percent increase from 2015. Facebook revealed that 84 percent of its money comes from mobile ads. Both stats indicate that Facebook ads will continue to drive traffic and sales and become integral parts of most brands’ marketing efforts.
But the platform can’t remain stagnant, and brands will need to be prepared. How will technology continue to influence Facebook ads and impact brands’ outcomes? Cat Howell, the founder and CEO of Eight Loop Social, a social media strategy firm that specializes in Facebook advertising, offered a few predictions.
Bots will continue to play a bigger role.
Facebook has enabled marketers to use its instant messaging platform, Messenger, as a way to communicate directly with users interacting with their ads. Here, bots often take over, allowing advertisers to automate their sales or lead qualification processes — the bots can do everything from answer basic customer questions to send promo codes. Marketers simply need to “train” the bots via workflows and scripts.
Howell doesn’t see this bot influence slowing down anytime soon. “AI is even doing creative at this stage,” she says. “But the AI needs to be managed — people still need to set objectives and put parameters in place so the AI knows what to do. It’s all about how you communicate the results or the ROI of the AI’s efforts.”
Does this mean AI will replace Facebook marketers? Howell says they’ll still be needed, but the role will shift; Facebook marketers will simply need to expand their skill sets to use the data from bots. “The role will require data analysis and an understanding of whether the bot is working correctly; Facebook marketers will need to report back to management and clients the outcomes and payoffs,” she explains. “Three people may have been managing an account, and then it will become just one. But that one will provide needed human analysis.”
Reporting will become more robust.
The ROI metrics of Facebook ads would ultimately stay the same; those running Facebook ads are consumed with one thing: How much business is this generating for me? They want to know whether the platform is driving business or awareness and how much each click is costing them. Howell anticipates that although the metrics won’t change, reporting will become more robust.
“When you put automation in place, you’ll pick up on issues happening in sales funnels a lot faster than you can with humans because a human may not understand how to manually interpret that data,” she says. “One thing that’s really cool with AI running ads at the moment that’s hard for humans to replicate is making mass duplicate ads at a scale humans can’t manage.”
They can also manage split tests a lot better, resulting in faster, more thorough comparisons. “Bots are getting great results because they can do testing on a great scale humans can’t at volume,” Howell explains. “Humans on the back end need to identify the end goal, such as where traffic is going, and direct the bot. But bots are understanding exactly what bids others are putting out into market and how they’re winning auctions.”
Facebook’s invasive nature will benefit users.
While people have expressed discomfort about the invasive nature of Facebook, they’re not likely to do anything differently — there are too many benefits. “Facebook Payments is in beta right now and would operate straight through Messenger,” Howell says. “A lot of people are on the fence because they don’t want to give Facebook too many details. Others feel Facebook already knows so much about them, what’s one credit card number?”
People, she says, adapt to change, particularly when it creates more convenience, and this is reflected in the high adoption rates of the Facebook and Messenger apps. And this applies to businesses, too. “Consumerism is only going up, not down. We’re becoming monsters when it comes to consumerism. It’s why everyone wants to advertise on Facebook,” Howell says.
But she does predict that the increasing amount of information being gathered on Facebook’s huge user base is to going to lead to a focus on creating customized experiences for each user. “Budgets will definitely be funneled in that direction,” Howell says. “People want to make sure they’re not leaving any money on the table when it comes to business automation. Marketers are now held accountable to specific results, and they have to track outcomes and create ties between certain actions and revenue streams. Customized experiences, based on data, will fill the gap in showing how specific actions lead to specific outcomes.”
What’s next? A concierge service, Howell believes. “Facebook has so much data on us that it’s only a matter of time before Facebook will start telling people what to do when they’re traveling in other cities, whom they should date — Facebook would really know the kind of person someone’s into. Facebook’s AI is going to start talking to personal AIs like Siri.”
She says ads show how much Facebook knows about us; combining that knowledge with predictive AI will make Facebook a part of our lives beyond our news feed. “The only competitor who could do something similar based on our usage is Amazon,” Howell explains. “If it has a pixel — Instagram, email, etc. — Facebook can use it and go to another level in influencing our lives and matching us with certain things.”
Facebook ads may, at the end of the day, focus on getting brands a piece of the market. But the platform’s emphasis on data and metrics will strengthen — more bots, better reporting, and a concierge service may all be part of the future presented by Facebook’s ad platform. Facebook’s fingers will reach further into our lives, but we just may welcome it.