How to Drive Social Ad Performance With a
Full-Funnel Strategy

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Each phase of the marketing funnel plays a distinct part in delivering success for brands. Direct response marketing campaigns focus on conversion, encouraging customers to take action. But no matter what action they’re taking – signing up, requesting a quote, making a purchase – consumers first need to familiarize themselves with the brand.

Strong performance is driven by strong branding, which is why multiple stages of the marketing funnel need to be activated in tandem. Conversion works best when it’s supported by consideration and brand awareness, and there’s limited value in solely growing awareness if it’s not leading somewhere that moves the business forward. Focusing on a full-funnel approach will ultimately drive the strongest results for your brand.

A Little Less Consideration, a Little More Action

In order to create a fully functioning conversion machine, there needs to be a branding effort at the top to fill the funnel with new customers. Without a strategy in place to capture new audiences, you’ll continue to reach the same existing audiences and performance will decline as ad fatigue sets in. Once users show interest in your brand, they can be nurtured with consideration and conversion campaigns. The more a customer trusts and considers a brand or product, the easier it is to convert them later on.

As more targeting and ad format options become available, brands are increasingly able to measure performance along the user journey and drive real business outcomes like higher relevancy, increased ad recall, new customer conversions, and higher return on ad spend. There’s also a push for marketing to prove the value of every execution as budgets tighten and growth becomes a top focus across many industries. The result of these combined factors is that more brands are shifting to a full funnel strategy every day.

Adaptly data showed that brand spend was more evenly distributed across the full funnel each year from 2016 to 2018. Social platforms are getting better at driving and quantifying performance, and as a result brands are investing more of their conversion budgets into social. Brands are also shifting their social goals away from engagement, so consideration campaigns are decreasing in favor of strong branding and business-driving conversion campaigns. By expanding to a more balanced approach, brands can drive better long-term performance by nurturing a user through each stage of the funnel.

Social Spend Across the Funnel

Brand recognition and trust are key elements that allow your direct response (DR) campaigns to scale. You can only spend so much with the same audiences before your campaigns are no longer efficient. By introducing new people to the brand, you’re able to turn those initial impressions into qualified repeat customers.

Many of our advertisers, in industries like retail, automotive, and financial services, have seen strong results when implementing full-funnel digital strategies. Read on for a few of the key factors every brand needs to think about when planning and executing a campaign across the full marketing funnel.

Planning a Full-Funnel Digital Strategy

The first step to building a full-funnel advertising strategy is to think about your brand’s underlying business goals. That will inform which KPIs are measured at each stage throughout the campaign, which audiences should be targeted, and which ad types you’ll want to serve. Once those choices have been made, you’re ready to execute. Your branding and direct response campaigns can be launched one after the other, or in unison if you already have targeting established for users at different stages of the funnel.

Targeting

Let’s look at a few targeting examples for a theoretical apparel brand running a buy-one-get-one swimsuit promotion. First, the brand wants to run the promotion exclusively for existing customers, in order to retain them as repeat buyers. That targeting strategy will differ from a campaign looking to capture new customers.

In this case, where existing customers are preferred, audiences built from brand CRM lists will be used to generate awareness. The brand will retarget buyers from their database who previously bought sale items and/or swimsuits. Then, as users are moved down the funnel, the brand will retarget those who are showing interest and visiting the site. All the while, we’ll want to take buyer cycles into consideration. By applying specific windows, we can target only users who fit within that exact window – someone who has viewed or added an item to cart in the past two weeks, but hasn’t purchased yet, for example.

Now let’s look at an example where the brand wants to acquire only new customers with the same buy-one-get-one swimsuit promotion. The first step is to exclude existing purchasers from every stage of the campaign. That way there’s no chance of showing an ad to someone who has already made a purchase. To find new prospects, the brand can use audiences built from CRM lookalikes, third-party data, interests and behaviors, and other demographics at the top of the funnel. Then, to convert them, the brand can retarget users who showed interest or took an action, using those same existing-customer exclusions.

In both targeting examples, multiple phases of the funnel ultimately have an impact on the brand’s bottom line. When targeting new customers, the need for branding campaigns is obvious; advertisers have to find those users who haven’t been exposed to the brand and introduce them. Branding also comes into play with the existing customers, helping to make them aware of the sale and keep the overall brand top of mind. Once users become aware (either of the brand itself or of the sale) and click to site, they can be retargeted and driven to convert at the bottom of the funnel. Both types of advertising begin the same way – with branding efforts fueling the machine.

Ad Formats

Depending on the goal, there are different ad types that should be used at each stage of the funnel. Vertical video in Stories, for example, is a great way to generate brand awareness. Canvas ads (now called Instant Experiences) are great for consideration, and App Installs or Buyable Pins are ideal for conversion.

But some formats, like dynamic ad units, work across the funnel. Facebook’s Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences product extends beyond a brand’s current customer base to discover users that are similar to customers, based on the user’s site and platform behavior. For brands that have a catalog of products or offerings to show via dynamic ads, this is one of the best ways to gain new, highly qualified customers who have never been to the brand’s site. Used in this way, dynamic ads are ideal for upper-funnel campaigns to drive awareness of a brand to new users.

The same ad unit can be used for lower-funnel campaigns as well, just in a different way. Using a Dynamic Product Ad, you can retarget based on buyer cycles, target users who have looked at certain products on the site, and serve them the exact products they already explored – plus similar ones.

Knowing when to use which ad units – and when to get creative with the funnel opportunities available in each format – is the key to driving success from awareness down to conversion.

Measuring Performance Along the Funnel

In order to fully measure the success of your digital campaigns, you need to look at different KPIs for each phase of the funnel. Branding campaigns should look at awareness and reach, consideration will look at link clicks or landing page visits, and conversion should track purchases or other lower-funnel actions (add to cart, enter payment info, initiate checkout, account signup, etc). This will vary slightly by industry, but every brand will have groupings that make sense.

When analyzing performance, the attribution window (or the time during which a customer converts) is a key factor for measuring the success of social. Depending on the brand, attribution windows can range from one to 30 days. That window tracks whether the customer converted within X days of viewing and/or clicking on your ad on social. The main KPIs used to measure success are typically return on ad spend or cost per action (such as cost per link click).

Another form of measurement, the attribution model, often makes social appear less valuable than it truly is. Examples of attribution models include:

Last click – Assigns full value to the final trigger before customer conversion
First touch – Attributes all value to the initial customer touchpoint
Last ad event – Only attributes credit to the last platform the ad ran on

Successful marketing is a combination of multiple customer touchpoints along the funnel, and only attributing credit to a single click fails to capture the full picture of a consumer’s journey. When brands use only last-click or first-touch attribution to drive marketing decisions, they miss out on the strong performance that comes with a full-funnel, multi-platform strategy. Multi-touch attribution models are slightly more accurate, giving credit to each customer touchpoint.

Although it’s challenging to prove impact along the funnel using precise metrics and measurement models, it’s easy to look at emerging disruptors and digital-first companies – who built their brands by advertising on social – to see that the opportunity is immense.