Tips for Advertising Desktop Software on Facebook

In early 2016 I experimented with Facebook advertising for my downloadable desktop software product.

Spoilers

  • With some effort I was able to get a very high number of downloads via Facebook ads. But those downloads converted to sales at an appallingly low rate.
  • Ad conversion rates started high but dropped off quickly for me. I suspect this is because my ads soon saturated my targeted audiences.

Google Ads vs Facebook Ads

Assume “conversion” here means “ad viewer downloads your software”.

In Google, ads are shown to people already searching for what you offer. You can expect a high conversion rate in a good ad campaign, and can therefore justify a much higher cost per conversion.

You are trying to convince people to download and buy your product to solve a problem they probably weren’t aware of.

In Facebook, ads are shown to people who match demographics but who may have had no interest to date in what you offer. It is something akin to cold calling or magazine advertising. You are trying to convince people to download and buy your product to solve a problem they probably weren’t aware of. Therefore you’ll need a much lower cost per conversion.

Keep this in mind when creating your ads.

Rule #1: It’s all about “Relevance”

Learn how to find an ad’s “Relevance Score” in Facebook’s Ad Manager. Obsessively monitor this. You should be getting at least 9 out of 10. If not, then change your ad copy, your ad artwork, or your demographic targeting.

Is Facebook Right for your Product?

Is your product aimed at businesses (B2B)? Then no, Facebook is probably not a good advertising channel for your product. Do you have a consumer audience? Then perhaps Facebook works; try with the smallest possible marketing budget and test.

You can start Facebook advertising on tiny budgets. I started with €5 per days, a week at a time.

Dedicated landing page

This is a must-have. A dedicated landing page on your website for your Facebook ad campaign:

  • allows “message match”. If your ad says “Download 30 day trial”, then your landing page should continue that message, “Download your 30 day trial now”.
  • is good for tracking.
  • allows freedom for more creativity and change in your landing page without affecting the rest of your website.

As Facebook advertising requires a lot of experimentation, you need to be able to quickly change your landing page. Even better would be to have several landing pages.

Ad Variants

You’ll need to make many ad variants. Facebook makes this easy, and actually encourages it. Variants allow you to obtain a relevance score of 9 or 10. When you have multiple adverts (or variants) in a campaign Facebook seems to automatically use an “multi-armed bandit” algorithm to prefer your higher-performing ads.

A good start for varying your ads is to have a different call-to-action (CTA):

  • Try “Download free now!”, “One month free”, “Improve your xyz”.
  • Try different images.
  • Try video versus image.

Artwork

Get your artwork done properly. You are competing for user attention against everything else on a user’s Facebook feed. Many of the competing items have excellent production values. You certainly need a certain level of professionalism to get user attention.

Get artwork variants done, emphasising different aspects of your marketing message. The artwork should be clear, readable, and attractive even when glanced at for a split second.

Video

Rumour has it ads with video convert well. But they’re expense and hard to do. I have no experience of my own with video in Facebook ads.

Have big captions on your video. Many viewers will watch it without sound. Facebook now auto-plays videos on user feeds, turning on the sound only when the user selects the item.

Targeting

  • Try very precise demographic targeting. For example, a target might be where all of the following are true: is in Canada, Male, aged between 30 and 40, ‘likes’ Tennis. ‘Like’ here means the user has performed a Facebook like, or is a member of a Facebook tennis group.
  • The more precise your targeting the smaller the target audience but the better the conversion rate.
  • Run the same ads against different targets and compare them. Find the targets that work best for you. Remember to check and optimise for that ‘relevance’ score.
  • Ad conversion rate can drop off quickly for a targeted group, so regularly cycle your targeting to a different demographic. In my case, I would change weekly to different countries.
  • This is probably obvious, but if targeting a particular geographical region, make sure your ads are in the language commonly spoken there. In other words, don’t run English ads in France if you want a good conversion rate!

Summary

It is hard to do Facebook advertising well, but Facebook has made good tools for you to do everything possible to be successful. Start small, be professional, make many variations, use precise targeting, and monitor each ad’s “relevance score”.