How to scale Facebook Ads during COVID-19

Hey, Sumo-Lings!Nick from AppSumo's marketing team here.

A big part of our growth strategy at AppSumo is Facebook ads, so I wanted to share some of the things we've learned over the past few months.If all goes well, we can provide some useful information to get back to your business. 

Now we're not saying these tips will work for everyone, but they've been effective for us during these crazy times.You can read more about everything we've learned about Facebook advertising over the years after spending $5 million in the eBook linked below.While these lessons served us well and gave us a solid foundation, we had to re-evaluate our entire strategy to adapt to the new rules of the game. 

Get access to the free eBook here

There's been a lot of talk about how much companies are pulling back spending, and marketing or growth is usually among the first cuts.Now is the time to be defensive, right?Well, in some cases yes – it is necessary (for example, travel and movies ). But with the crisis comes the opportunity, and one of those opportunities is Facebook. With so many advertisers reigning in spending on new growth and everyone staying at home scrolling through social media, it has created a truly unique climate for Facebook advertising.

Here's what we'll cover in this post:

1. How Facebook advertising has changed during the pandemic

    • The usage is very high
    • CPMs are downhill
    • Several spectators are going up

2. Lessons and takeaway from the pandemic

    • Testing is key
    • We're moving from mobile to desktop
    • Ecommerce spending has increased
    • Think about your main genius
    • Reinvest in video
    • See your geos
    • Don't ignore Messenger ads

3. How to apply these lessons to your business

    • What to avoid
    • What to pursue

4. Final considerations

Why Facebook advertising has changed during the pandemic

The usage is very high

Facebook traffic and messaging increased by 50-70% in the countries most affected by the virus. 

At AppSumo, we've seen an increase in overall engagement in our ads in the form of comments, shares, and clicks. Greater engagement doesn't necessarily imply an increase in sales, so it's important to think about what paid ads would be successful for your business.

Clicks on our links have doubled.

CPMs are downhill

We're seeing a nearly 200% reduction in the cost of buying Facebook ads.This allows us to get more quality traffic at a lower price than we've ever had. 

Our CPMs are falling, traffic is cheap right now.

Different audiences are going up

While usage is on the rise, Facebook has also seen its own acquisition skyrocket as people around the world look for ways to stay connected with their friends and family. So you may have more access to older people or less tech-savvy than before. Keep this in mind when making your ads.Now more than ever, you should make it easier for people to engage with your messages and convert them.

Lessons and takeaway from the pandemic

Testing is key

You don't really know what kind of messaging or creative will resonate with your Facebook audience right now.With so many new and different types of people logging in, it's more important to continually test what you say and how you say it.Over the past 3 weeks we have tested over 100 different variations of copies and creatives.The one principle that everyone knows, but has been particularly strengthened recently, is true to your brand .AppSumo has a more lighthearted brand personality, so trying to take on too dark a tone in our messages doesn't work.  

Here are some do's and don'ts based on examples from our real world.You can take a look at all our listings here.

1. DO NOT continue to send the same general message you had before the crisis. When I said we re-evaluated everything, I meant.Even some of our best-performing direct response ads had to change to highlight a more relevant value.This is an example of an ad that was paused due to low performance.


2. Make a balance between the existing tone and the recognition of current events. This advertisement worked because it maintained the lighthearted and humorous tone of our brand while appealing to emotions during the corona crisis. 

3. Take advantage of the power of useful giveaways. Everyone loves free stuff.From webinars to freebies to blog posts, people are looking for answers.Think about how to attract new customers with free content that can actually help, instead of just telling them to buy your product.

4. Highlight potential savings. Here we focus on how our product can reduce subscription costs and highlight the savings or profits that potential customers can achieve. It's an effective way to push the public to action at a time when people are cutting their non-essential spending.

5. Get creative. Kettle & Fire, Slack, and autonomous have killed with fun and topical ads that contain just the right amount of suggestion.(Not our ads, but we suggest our marketing hats to them.)

We're moving from mobile to desktop

There is a big change from pre-corona navigation done mainly on phones (avoiding work at work) or during your daily commute.Now that most people are not on the go (or mobile), social media usage on computers has increased.

What does this mean for advertisers? It's easier to buy things on your laptop than on your phone! You're more likely to subscribe to a newsletter, download a white paper, or actually buy something if you can more easily research the product or read about the company.

Mobile and tablet use is turned off.

This is supported by increasing laptop/monitor sales, while mobile phones and accessories are down 14%.

Desktop usage has increased for us, making it even easier for users to purchase your products now.

Ecommerce spending has increased

With so many bored people at home, retail therapy has been a big part of how many (guilty) people.And while dozens of non-essential brick and mortar stores are closing, many companies are now looking to digital advertising for better ways to monetize their products.If you haven't sold your product or service online before, it's now an absolute must.

Think about your main genius

Lead gen is all about providing value! Just because your business may experience a decline in sales, doesn't mean you have to stop acquiring new customers.Change your messaging to find out how your business can deliver maximum value to potential customers during these trial times. 

Reinvest in video

Video ads have long been among our best-performing ad formats, but now they work exceptionally well.In the last month, we've doubled our video content as their performance continues to improve.In the pre-corona world, the public watched 85% of videos on Facebook without sound.It makes sense: you're at work or in a public setting and don't want other people to intercept the video of your "Cheeseburger Taquitos" recipe.Advertisers have adapted to this, and captions have become best practices.Subtitles are still a good idea, but since everyone is at home, people are watching and listening to more content now.If you can reinvest in amazing product video ads, testimonials or interviews, you'll be rewarded!

(InVideo can help you here too.)

See your geos

We are all reading the news and it has been evident that several countries are affected by this crisis.Some are in complete lockdown, while others are seeking herd immunity.As expected, this affects how people use the internet.Countries like Italy are experiencing significant spikes in use, compared to other countries that have not been hit hard by the virus.Be sure to review ALL your potential geos and test targeting in various ways. 

Don't ignore Messenger ads

Usage has increased by 50% on Facebook Messenger, so if you've never tried messaging ads, now is the time to do so.Think of it as a supplement to your email list, except that this audience has an 80%+ open rate.

How to apply these lessons to your business

What to avoid

How should your messaging change with this crisis?First, don't emit empathy to half that feels disconnected from your product.

It is more important now to think about how our brands can first deal with the current situation, then add real value to people's lives. If you're not connecting your brand with the biggest issues in people's minds right now, you risk looking more deaf than ever.We have a fantastic blog post here on how to capture authenticity with your communications during uncertainty.

What to pursue

First of all, be human .What can you do to help?At AppSumo, we've created a content hub for all things recession-proof, a software fund to get small businesses the software they need, and a remote work academy to help businesses navigate during the crisis.

And it's all free!

So, be essentialJust because your product is considered non-essential during these times, doesn't mean you have to be.Create something that's essential and create a real connection with your audience.Find ways to attract potential customers through free, helpful blog posts, webinars, live demonstrations, zoom meetings, and downloads as white papers/PDFs/e-books.

Finally, it remains aggressivePaid media is cheap right now, so take advantage of it.Reduced CPMs allow you to take less risk and test more. 

Final thoughts

Needless to say, this is a very stressful time for everyone.But I believe there are silver coatings for this crisis and hidden opportunities.Advertising on Facebook is just one of the many ways you can start taking action for your business.

For additional credit, here are some excellent additional references to help you navigate Facebook's advertising strategy during this crisis:

It may take some time to adjust your approach to marketing and it's not always easy.However, those who are willing to adapt to these circumstances can continue to grow their businesses and come out stronger.

In other words, you get it.

Be well, fam.