Out of all the Ogilvy quotes copywriters love to bludgeon people with, the most important is undoubtedly Ogilvy’s view on headlines. If you’re one of the rare marketers who hasn’t heard it, here it is:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Headlines are the most important area of any promotion. If it sucks, no one will click your ad let alone read the opening.
Thing is, headlines are tricky little buggers at the best of times. And even the best writers out there need a little expert help.
So, to help you absolutely rock your next ad campaign we’ve brought in pro advertiser, and former Ogilvy copywriter, Aoife McCleary. Aoife’s worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands including Unilever, Dove, and Costa Coffee.
She’s also been good enough to put her experience working on these campaigns to paper for you in a short 3 part series focusing on Facebook ad creative.
- Part 1 – How to create headlines people can’t help but click (read below)
- Part 2 – How the pros design high converting Facebook ads
- Part 3 – Do long or short Facebook ads convert better?
Over to you Aoife.
Table of Contents
- Why Facebook?
- Facebook Ads: In a Nutshell
- Why Aren’t Ads Working for Me?
- Nailing Your Ad Creative
- Making Every Word Count
- Little Known Headline Secrets
- Final Considerations
Let me tell you a short story.
Once upon a time, I casually stumbled upon an ad for a burrito blanket on Facebook. (Yup, they exist.) A mere 2 seconds of my attention was all I spent on said ad before putting my thumb into gear and scrolling on.
About a week later, I got word my best friend was off work after an accident. I decided to send her something to cheer her up.
You can probably see where this is going…
I ordered her a burrito blanket. And she loved it. Over a year later, I still get photos of people, animals, and random objects wrapped in it.
But this isn’t a tale about the merits of novelty blankets. Or Prosecco-fuelled selfies. Or even friendship.
It’s for all the naysayers out there who claim Facebook advertising doesn’t work.
Sorry, but you’re wrong.
I work in advertising. I create ads. I know every psychological trick under the sun when it comes to the industry.
Yet still, even I fall victim to its allure.
And by the looks of this internet trends report that revealed that e-commerce click-through rates have tripled in the last two years – I guess I´m not alone.
But why Facebook?
Despite no longer being the ‘cool kid’ in town, no other social media platform has been able to knock Facebook off its throne. Barely any even come close.
So if you’re thinking that Facebook might not be the place to advertise for you. Just bear in mind that it has 2.32 billion active monthly users. That’s billions. With a B.
68% of US adults say they use the platform frequently, with 74% of users checking in daily.
Advertising revenue has seen an almost 30% YoY growth.
But if that (and my little story above) isn’t enough to persuade you, here are five more pros…
- Again. It’s where everyone hangs out.
- You can target a very specific audience (more on that to come).
- You can use it to increase your brand awareness.
- You can use it to increase your leads, sales, and revenue (no brainer).
- You can drive repeat business.
Need anything else? No? Let’s talk advertising.
Facebook Ads: In a nutshell
Advertising comes in many forms on Facebook. Not only can you promote posts, but you can also promote your Page, a Group, an event or your own website.
Over the last decade, customization for ads has become very sophisticated. Users can be targeted based on their location, demographic, profile information and previous interactions. Even on Facebook connected platforms like Instagram (and soon maybe even Whatsapp).
Once you’ve created your ad, then you set a budget and bid for the impressions and clicks you want your ad to get.
With a whopping 93% of brands using Facebook ads as part of the social media marketing strategy, it’s the most popular platform for paid social by far.
Most common ad types
In addition to images and videos, you can also choose to engage with your audience using Messenger, stories and even playables.
If you want to learn more about the different ad formats, check out our piece breaking them down.
I’ve tried. But why aren’t ads working for me!?
Maybe you know all this Facebook wisdom already.
Maybe you’ve run five paid campaigns so far. All of which started promising… yet resulted in just a paltry few clicks and 12 likes. One of which was from your Mom.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit frustrated.
Welcome to the club.
This is a common occurrence for many marketers. For many reasons. But don’t throw in the towel just yet. Start by taking a long, hard look at your previous campaigns and see if you’re making any of these mistakes:
1. Wrong objective
As you can see from the Facebook Campaign image below, you have 11 objectives to choose from. Sit down with a pen and paper (old-school af) and figure out EXACTLY what you want to achieve – whether it’s putting your brand in front of lots of new eyes (reach) or views of your content. This should be step one. Check out our in-depth piece on campaign types and objectives here.
2. Wrong people
The targeting options on Facebook are endless. You can get very specific about who you want to reach. So make sure you know who these people are and then focus on the location, age, gender, and interests of your key audience.
3. Going too broad
I’ll use an example here. If you want to target yoga fans with a relevant product, don’t just choose the keyword ‘yoga’. This only creates a pool of millions who will vary massively in terms of true interest level… from the ‘I like watching Netflix in yoga pants’ fan, to the ‘I practice vinyasa twice daily’ type.
Instead, focus on words relating to specific yoga-focused practices, brands, and publications, to get straight to the latter.
4. Unrealistic expectations
Putting $50 on a paid ad doesn’t mean a Jumanji-style stampede of new customers will immediately burst through your digital doors and buy everything in sight. You need to understand what your budget can help you achieve and then set the right bidding amount.
5. Dull creative
If you post the bland content, or the same old, same old all the time, your audience is going to get bored and start… zoning.. ou… 😴 (Ad fatigue is a real thing.)
If you’re guilty of any of the former mistakes, fear not. Some small tweaks to your strategy will certainly help with any objective and targeting issues.
And as for the much more complex matter of the creative – well, that’s precisely what we’re here today to help you with.
Nailing Your Facebook Ad Creative
Inspiring people to want to engage with your Facebook Ad is hard.
Here, you’re not only up against other brands, but you’re also competing with funny imagery of dogs wearing glasses. Super cute videos of super cute babies sucking lemons. And of course, entertaining #GOT memes (*spoiler alert*).
But you CAN break through the noise.
This three-part blog series we’re releasing will help you on your way. Each one brimming with information and guidance on writing the ad, and then choosing or creating the perfect eye-catching imagery to accompany it.
You’ll soon discover that you don’t always need deep pockets and an advertising agency to make effective, creative Facebook ads.
You will however need time. But as George Harrison once crooned;
‘It’s gonna take tiiiime. A whole lot of precious time. It’s gonna take patience and time, to do it, right.’
While there are many things to consider when creating Facebook Ads – today we’re going to focus specifically on the headline.
Finally. We’re getting to the point of this entire blog, you say. 🙂
See the bold copy under the image in the post below? That’s your headline.
As you’ll notice, it’s short, it stands out and lets the viewer know exactly what the key message is in just a few words.
Every Word Counts
When it comes to Facebook headlines, space is at a premium.
While they can vary a lot in length, keeping things short and sweet is best. In fact, according to an interesting study into Facebook Ads by AdEspresso, FIVE is the perfect number of words. How do they know this, you ask? Well, they only went and analyzed the performance of a whopping 752,626 ads to find out.
Facebook also recommends a 25 character limit. Just twenty-five. Precious. Characters.
Again, you can go over this, but you risk having your copy truncated, meaning that your audience could miss out on a key message.
And essentially, you’d waste your money.
And we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
So spend them words wisely.
Facebook Ads Character Limits
Here’s a quick breakdown of the character limits for each section of your Facebook ads.
- Text Description – 125 characters (the bit above the image)
- Headline – 25 characters (the bold headline under the image)
- Link Description – 30 Characters (the short text under the headline)
Secrets to getting your headlines juuust right
Engagement is usually the top motive behind Facebook Ads. More clicks lead to more, well, leads. More leads lead to more sales. More sales lead to more profits. And more profits… yeah, you know the rest.
But in order to get these cherished clicks, you need to approach headline writing in two parts:
Let me explain.
Your headline needs to stand out and catch the attention of your audience, so you need to choose words that appeal to them. And then organize these words into one short, jazzy line. This is the art part. The first element. More on that below.
Secondly, after posting, you need to track how your headlines are performing using the analytics dashboard on your Facebook Insights page. Here you’ll find detailed metrics about your posts and the engagement they earn. This data analysis is the science part.
Then, once you figure out what is or isn’t working, you take this data and go right back to the first step and start writing more headlines to test. And you just keep that ‘art-science’ cycle going until you get your headlines just right.
(You can even test multiple headlines at once, which is called A/B or Split Testing. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
The Art Part
Once you get into the swing of headline writing, they’ll soon start flowing with ease. But to help get things rolling, here are a few tips to effective headlines…
1: Keep things short and sweet
Five words. 25 characters. You know all this already.
Having a concise headline will mean that your audience can immediately see what you have to offer them, and/ or what you want them to do.
Putting it into action:
It may seem like a huge feat to squeeze everything you want to say in such a small amount of characters, but it can certainly be done.
Start by writing out your key message in one sentence. Then cut out words that aren’t super essential and you’ll be left the most important ones. Now it’s time to rephrase, rearrange and rejig what’s left (so it makes sense, of course). And voila, you’ll soon chop those lines into shape. Don’t forget, your image and text description will also help tell the story.
We have got lots great favourite summer looks and more in-store.
We have got lots of your favourite summer looks and more in-store.
Get your fav summer looks
2: Use numbers
Numbers are not only eye-catching, but they can also make a piece easier to digest. They quickly and clearly show the viewer what to expect. A shortcut of sorts.
Which is probably why 36% of respondents in a study by Conductor, were revealed to prefer number-led headlines.
Putting it into action:
Viewers scroll through their feed with a speed that would rival Sonic The Hedgehog. The easier you can make your ads to understand, the more likely you are to have it noticed and read.
To use this technique, first, consider what you have on offer. Then try to adapt the headline to include numbers. But only if it works and is relevant – don’t use numbers for number’s sake.
- A listicle content piece: 10 reasons to choose Jumper.ai
- A promotion: 20% off Jumper.ai products today
- A testimonial: 10,000 people already love Jumper.ai
- Benefit led: Enjoy a 50% ROI with Jumper.ai
3: Get Active
Using active words can work wonders for a headline as it creates a clear image in the reader’s mind of what you want them to do. Which makes it easier for them to imagine themselves doing it. This also makes a headline more straightforward, more concise and flow better.
Putting it into action:
The advantages of using active words are endless. Not only do they put the viewer into the moment, but they also help them create a stronger connection to the brand.
To use this technique, start by writing down your key message. Then simply find the main verb you want to communicate (or add a new one), bring it to the front of the sentence and put the reader in the driving seat.
- We have lots of tasty cupcakes for you to enjoy. → Enjoy lots of tasty cupcakes
- We have a great course for learning how to code. → Start learning code today
- There is a special 10% discount on baby seats. → Get 10% off baby seats
4: Ads with Benefits
Increase your chance of a click by letting the viewer know what they have to gain by engaging with your ad. Whether it’s a discount, a free eBook or a great deal, these type of headlines should clearly highlight your offer, putting the benefit front and center.
Putting it into action:
By explaining how your brand is going to be beneficial to them or how you’ll solve their problem, the viewer can make an instant decision whether to click on your ad or not.
Sometimes the benefit is easy to pull out, especially if it’s a discount or promotion. (Get $20 off tools now.) Other times you need to dig a little deeper to find something that will really make your brand stand out against competitors. So figure out exactly what it is that your target audience will value most from your product or service, and literally spell it out for them.
- Shaving Kits – Benefit: Easy on skin → Choose a razor that cares
- Ladies Shoes – Benefit: Fashionable → Step ahead in the trend game
- Swimming Lessons – Benefit: Experienced Instructor → Learn laps from the best
5: Emotional Language
Inspire. Motivate. Pull on the heartstrings. Trigger curiosity. Excite.
If you want your audience to feel a certain way, emotionally-charged words are the best route to take. They’ll help to connect them with your brand and therefore increase engagement levels… and then hopefully lead to conversions and sales.
Putting it into action:
This is one of the trickier techniques, but can easily be implemented with a little practice.
What do you want your audience to feel when they use your product or service?
That’s the first question you need to ask yourself when using this style. Then your next step is to list out a series of relevant words connected with that emotion. This will really help to get your imagination going. And if you need an extra hand, don’t be afraid to call on the thesaurus.
- Product: Vegan Soap Emotion: Affirmation
- Headline: Unbelievably clean and unbelievably green
- Product: Mascara Emotion: Confidence
- Headline: Get the secret to amazing lashes
- Service: Time Management Platform Emotion: Relaxed
- Headline: Enjoy less stress, more success
By making your target audience feel something, they’ll be more likely to be motivated to act on your message. For more emotional words, check out this helpful list from The Persuasion Revolution.
While the above tips will help keep you on track, please bear these things in mind when writing headlines, and in general…
Keep things fresh
As mentioned above, one of the quickest ways to lose your fans is by posting the same stuff on repeat. It causes ad fatigue. But not only that, Facebook ‘punishes’ brands who fail to refresh their creative regularly, by stopping displaying ads completely.
What to do?
Make sure you change up your copy (and imagery) regularly to keep your content interesting. Small tweaks and rephrasing sentences will help with this, but do try to experiment with some of the new techniques above.
Too much of a good thing
While there’s lots of overlap in the examples above, don’t try to squeeze everything into one headline.
What to do?
Keep things simple by just choosing one or two of the techniques above. The ‘active voice’ is always a good one to implement as it can be used alongside most of the other options.
No one size fits all
There is no one style of headline that works perfectly for every brand every time. So if you’re looking for a blueprint, you won’t find one.
What to do?
Well, your best option is to…
Test, test, and test again.
Don’t be afraid to play around with different types of headlines (and even formats) to find out what works best with your audience. Start keeping a close eye on your analytics and you’ll be soon discover surprising patterns that will emerge.
What to do?
In addition to studying your analytics, hop on-board the A/B testing train. This Facebook feature allows you to create several ads at once and then test them against each other so you can discover what ad copy performed better.
You ARE a writer
Don’t let the fear of ‘oh no, but I’m not a writer’ take over. Don’t forget that you’ve been writing from you were four or five years old!
What to do?
Start by opening up a fresh document and get typing. And just keep typing. Then after your first few attempts, you’ll soon start seeing progress.
In the next blog, we’ll be deep diving into the importance of having good creative on Facebook and choosing the right image. We’ll also be including a ton of resources to help you along the way.
But in the meantime, off you go and get writing those brilliant headlines.