How to Exploit Amazing New Tools & Unlock Insider Secrets

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What if you could Snoop On  All your Competitor's Social Media Ads?

or nearly all of them  

You may remember that a few weeks ago I showed you How to Spy on your Competitors and Nail Tone of Voice. Well guess what! Last week, Facebook released an update that lets you take that even further.

We’ve all been there. You’re slogging away, working your fingers to the bone, wondering how your competitors seem to be doing better than you! What is it about their social media ads that draws customers in? You may only have seen one or two of their ads, and either been reeled in or turned off. But that’s rarely the full picture. Are they running more ads that you haven’t seen? What if you could see them all?

[Back up. That wasn’t evil-genius-super-villain enough.]

What if you could see them aaaaaaaaalllllll?

Well maybe I know a way that you can (or very nearly all of them). And guess what.... it’s absolutely, bonafide, 100% free!

Part of Facebook’s transparency reforms following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Its intended purpose is to help you determine whether or not an ad may be of a political nature. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty handy competitor research tool, though!

Depending on what device you’re using, you’ll have two slightly different ways of getting there. In both cases, you start off by navigating to the page you’re interested in.

If you’re on a mobile device, you’ll see a small “i” symbol that expands to read “Info and Ads”. Tapping that will bring up a new page with two tabs. The Page Information one will show you when the page was set up, and will also let you know if the name has ever been changed. If so, it will also tell you the previous name and the date of change. This is good if you previously provided personal information to “Which Leonardo DiCaprio Non-Oscar-Winning-Role-Are You” but the page it was hosted on is now called “We harvest your personal information and use it to sway an unwitting population to elect a tangerine tyrant”.

The bit we’re super interested in though is the Active ads tab. All it does (and it’s a thing of true beauty) is show you all of the current ads that page is running on facebook. For example, I discovered that a popular social media platform (not one of the ones I often talk about) is running about 23 different ads on Facebook at the time of writing. By studying them all I can get a feel for what they’re testing - different creatives, different copy, different markets, sometimes different offers. If I compare them alongside the one Facebook placed in my newsfeed, I can also get a feel for where their algorithm (and the advertiser) may have placed me in terms of market segmentation.

Let that sink in for a moment. It may not seem particularly exciting, but let’s look at another example. A software provider that was running 17 different ads today targeted me with one aimed at Freelancers and Small Businesses. I could see that there were very few variables being tested - there were three different images, but primarily the main difference was that each one targeted slightly different creative roles. It seems they did a pretty good job with mine!

Who else were they targeting? It seems to me that this would be a useful way to identify some good (or bad) keywords to include in your advertising and SEO. There’s no indicator of how successful these ads are, so you’ll still be making your own decisions based on intuition and gut feeling - but if you’re looking at brands you respect and aspire towards, then chances are you can learn something.

The gift just keeps on giving, as you can also select location if the company is running ads in more than one country. That’s more useful than you may at first imagine; if you could see that one of your direct competitors was targeting english-speakers in Belarus, say, then that may well lead to something! What if they’re running a promotion in one territory but not another? Is this a threat to your activities there? Are they expanding somewhere that you thought you were sitting pretty? All food for thought!

If you’e using a laptop or desktop browser, the “Information and Ads” tool, with all the wondrous riches it holds, can be found below the page name, where the likes of “Home”, and “About" are listed.

Now, disclaimer time! I did mention above that you can see almost all ads. There are some limitations - it’s only the current ones, not expired ones, and definitely not proposed ones (can you imagine ASDA getting the nod about Tesco’s upcoming promotions?). Facebook also advise that there are some exceptions if the page is running multiple dynamic versions, and that some of the formats may be different across other facebook products (such as instagram).

If only Twitter did something similar...

Oh, did I forget to mention? They launched their Twitter Ads Transparency Center... head over to https://ads.twitter.com/transparency and type in the name of the account you want to snoop on. It’ll bring up every ad and promoted tweet they’ve run in the last 7 days, as well as any that were suspended (with an explanation as to why). Many of the same benefits apply here as to facebook. What isn't to love about that?

As ever, let me know what you think, and any practical ways you can use these amazing new tools!

Until next time, #KeepSocialSocial