Video advertising is becoming the dominant force in the digital marketing space. Mobile is king, and attention spans are dwindling, so you need to be able to connect with your audience through visual content, and nurture relationships that way, all within the span of about 2.8 seconds.
Digital marketers look to Andrew Hubbard when they are trying to understand just how important video is as a driver of online content, since many platforms – such as Instagram and Facebook – are shifting their algorithms to give video ads more clout as they seem to be the ones attracting the most engagement. And that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Rich: He’s the founder of Hubbard Digital, a leading Facebook advertising agency that specializes in helping online influencers sell digital products and services using Facebook and Instagram advertising. Andrew Hubbard, welcome to The Agents of Change Podcast.
Andrew: Rich, great to be here.
Rich: And you’re getting up super early to be here with us, so I really do appreciate that. You’re in Australia.
Andrew: That’s right, yeah. So I’m in a city called Canberra in Australia. So it’s about 3 hours south of Sydney. And yeah, 7:00 A.M., bright and early.
Rich: And it’s 3:00 in the afternoon here in Portland, Maine, which is the same time zone as New York, and probably a 5-6 hour drive. Just to give you an idea.
Rich: I know now you’re doing the Facebook advertising agency, but did you start with a traditional agency model and then niche down to Facebook and Instagram ads, or what was your path to where you are today?
Andrew: So my path was I guess you’d call untraditional, if there’s such a thing as a traditional path to get to an agency like this. I started back when I was in a corporate position, so I was a business analyst and I was just doing things on the side. I was building some mobile apps and getting into the world of mobile apps.
One of the things I figured out along that journey was that I could basically arbitrage at installs and make money on the ad revenue inside the mobile apps. So I’d build an app, put ads inside that mobile app, and then I found out that Facebook was so new then and ads were so cheap that I could buy mobile app installs on Facebook and the value of each user was actually higher than what I was paying to acquire that customer on Facebook.
So I started really getting into Facebook ads then and my focus at the time was driving mobile app installs, which is very different to what I do now, which is driving lead generation and leads through webinars and all that kind of thing. I basically started doing it that way, was in a few Mastermind groups in that world, and they all started asking questions about how I was doing this and could I show them how to do Facebook ads themselves. And so it kind of started I guess you’d call it organically that way.
I was helping people run these campaigns, and then as it grew I started to charge money for that. And then I realized that as I moved away from the mobile app space, I started to venture into other avenues for running Facebook ads and other ways to use them, primarily for that lead generation and business, through the more traditional mean, through webinars, through lead magnets, and all that kind of thing.
And the business moved away from there, and then I really thought to myself I can grow this thing. I consciously went down the path of needing to choose a niche, who do I want to work with. So I made a list of people I would love to work with, “influencers” I guess you’d call them, and went ahead and started to reach out to those people. So what I did was I would go to their website and have a look to see if they had a Facebook pixel installed. These were people that I knew had a big audience, decent website traffic, were an influencer in their world.
And I’d reach out if they didn’t have the pixel on their site and say, “Hey, I notice you don’t have the Facebook pixel installed, this is why you should have it. Do you want me to set it up for you? I can do it for free or I can send you a video so your team can set it up. Even if you’re not running ads now, if you think you might run ads in the future, it’s beneficial.”
And basically I got some responses from that. That was actually a really good campaign. Got some responses to that, got my first couple of clients, we can sort of talk about how that sort of took off if you want to. But basically I landed my first couple of clients that way and started growing the business in the current form at that point.
Rich: Fantastic. And did you choose to focus just on Facebook and Instagram because that’s what you were comfortable with? Like, have you ever tried other social ads or have you done any paid search in that, or is it really just focusing right now on Facebook and Instagram?
Andrew: Yeah, I chose Facebook and Instagram because I think that’s where the biggest opportunity was. I’ve tried Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and never had the same kind of results on such a consistent basis. So I stuck with that, Facebook and Instagram, and on the continual client side, there’s a lot of demand for that, too. Everybody wants to run Facebook and Instagram, and very few people comparatively are talking about Twitter ads or Google ads at the moment.
Rich: So your focus these days seems to be on video ads, why are you so gung ho on video?
Andrew: The focus on video is simply following the lead of Facebook and Instagram. They prefer video at the moment. They’re rewarding advertisers by making ads cheaper for us to show if we’re using video, so video ads are cheaper to run basically. They’re encouraging that and the way that Facebook and Instagram are going at the moment is they actually encourage engagement, and that’s one of their key metrics now is to how a post or an ad is performing. It’s engagement. Mark Zuckerberg came out and he said that they want to build a community where there is meaningful discussion and conversation and it make people’s lives better.
So that directly has fed into the algorithm, and posts or ads that get engagement do better. The simple fact is that all their data shows that videos do tend to get more engagement, they do tend to build a better relationship with the audience, and overall that leads to better performance for us. That’s why we’re really heavily focused on video.
Rich: And when you’re talking about “engagement”, you’re talking about likes, comments, shares, and clicks?
Andrew: Likes, comments, shares, clicks, and with the video it’s actually view time as well. The longer somebody sticks around on a video that’s considered an engagement indicator or metric as well.
Rich: So what are some of the rules of the road when it comes to creating video ads on Facebook and Instagram?
Andrew: So the first thing is, you have to consider the platform. So it’s not YouTube, it’s very, very different to YouTube and other video platforms in that short content is what does best. So shorter videos, I’m talking sub two minutes. I prefer to stick to sub 60 seconds where I can tend to do much better. And that’s because of the attention span of people on the platforms. You just don’t, people aren’t on the platform looking to sit and watch a 10, 15, 20 minute video, they’re just not in that mindset or frame of mind to do that. So we’re finding that very short ads – 60 seconds, 2 minutes – are chock full of value and what work best, as opposed to big long drawn out videos that you often see on YouTube.
Rich: And so what kind of content have you found works really well on these shorter videos?
Andrew: So what we do is always start with a value proposition or with content straight up. So what I mean by that is often you’ll see videos that have a big intro like, “Hey, my name is Andrew Hubbard and I’m the founder of blah blah blah…”, and there’s 20-30 seconds of filler up front that talk about who the person is and what they’re going to talk about. The problem is, with Facebook video literally people’s attention is a couple of seconds at most. I think it’s less than a second that it takes for somebody to make a decision about whether they are going to watch a video.
So they’re scrolling through the newsfeed and they see something, it’s very little…I’ll correct myself, it’s about 2.8 seconds they’ll watch something before they decide. So if you don’t nail that intro and you’re not hawking them straight away, then people will go on. So that’s the first and probably the most important thing. Because if you don’t get that right, then nobody watches the rest of the video, so it’ doesn’t really matter what is seen in the rest of the video.
So starting with something that’s really compelling, something that convinces people to watch. And often what I find is that something that is a bit of a pattern interrupt or something that is a polarizing position often gets people to stick around, as opposed to just sending mediocre content. If you go in and start with something that’s quite polarizing or something that’s quite controversial to your audience, I find that’s a great way to get people to sit up, take notice, and keep watching that video.
So think of conversations like LeBron versus Michael Jordan, what are the conversation starters in your industry like that are going to start a discussion to draw people in. Because at the end of the day that’s what you want to do. You want to get people to watch the videos and you want to create some discussion around that as well. So you want people to jump in the comments, you want people to share it, and all that kind of thing. So that’s the starting point.
Another thing for general quality of great video on Facebook and Instagram is casual. We’ve actually found that casual videos – and I’m talking about holding the camera up and selfie recording it, or whatever that might be – that actually outperforms well produced professional videos in most cases that we’ve tested. So we test a lot of these different videos and formats, and casual actually outperforms in most cases.
A lot of people are scared to create ads because they think they don’t have the set up or the gear. Honestly, if you just record you’ll probably do better than most people that are recording professionally.
Now the exception to that is the Squatty Potty ads of the world, they’re on a different level to most small business owners. But that’s the other key there is just keeping it casual.
Another thing that we want to do, so we have our big intro and jump in and we do add a little something in there. And this is to overcome the problem of skepticism on Facebook and Instagram. And naturally people on the platform are skeptical when they see things popping up in their feed, because we get promised so many things from so many gurus multiple times a day. And so naturally looking at these from a perspective of who the heck are you and why should I listen to you. So we’ll do an intro, we’ll draw people in, and then we’ll have a quick one or two liner saying who we are or establishing credibility or authority.
So for example I might come in and say, “Facebook ads aren’t dead. If yours are failing it’s probably because you’re not using video. This is actually a topic I wrote about in Entrepreneur Magazine last month and it’s something I want to share with you.” That was a terrible off the cuff thing.
Rich: No, but a perfect example where you’ve just established your credibility because not everybody can write for Entrepreneur Magazine.
Andrew: Exactly right. And it’s not a braggy type, it’s just a very casual valid point.
Rich: So you’re not doing it sitting on a yacht, flipping dollar bills, surrounded by women and champagne.
Andrew: No, no.
Rich: There goes my next video idea.
Andrew: Sorry to do that to you, Rich. You can still do it in your Lamborghini in your garage.
Rich: So that’s ok? Alright. I just need to know where to draw the line. So we’ve talked about courting controversy, we’ve talked about doing something exciting in the first 2.8 seconds to let people know what they’re going to get themselves into, about being casual, keeping it under 2 minutes, and also about establishing credibility. Any other tips for creating really good content for these video ads?
Andrew: Look, I think it’s being different. If you can be different and produce some content, that’s a little bit left of field compared to what most people in your industry are putting out there, then I think you’ll do well. From everything we’ve seen, you’ll generally do well.
And what I mean by that is, everybody is talking about seeing things from one perspective. Just change the perspective and think about it from a different perspective. Think about it in a different way and try to present that, even if it’s essentially the same idea or same concept. If you can present it in a different way you’ll stand out from the competition. I mean, that’s what Facebook and Instagram advertising is largely about at the moment. It’s finding a way to be different and actually stand out, because everybody is doing the same thing. If you look at all of the ads in the newsfeed, everybody is doing the same thing, day in and day out.
Rich: So one of the things that I notice as I’m scrolling through my Facebook is, I’m definitely seeing videos – and this is probably my setting – I have it on mute, unless I see something that really grabs my attention. Do you have any tactics about dealing with the fact that many people have their sound off by default in Facebook?
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. So first and foremost – this is really obvious – but I always find it valuable to remind people to get subtitles or captions added to every video. I use a tool called rev.com, they actually have humans in there that go in and create the files for you. It costs $1.00 a minute, so if you’re doing 1-2 minute video ads, it’s $1-$2 to get this done. Really affordable. So that’s the first thing and that’s really easy and obvious.
But the second thing that makes quite a big difference for us – and you’ve probably seen this too – and Gary V. is a great example, it’s adding a bar at the top with some text. Generally if you are taking a controversial position or if you are being a little bit polarizing, then putting a statement in that text bar at the top is a really effective way to get people to stop and pay attention. If you’ve got 2.8 seconds to catch somebody and they’ve got the sound off and the first opening line is your position on a topic, chances are they’re going to miss what you say. Even if they turn the sound on they probably missed half of that introduction anyway. So by putting that in that text at the top we found that we dramatically increased our video average view time as well.
Rich: So we talked a lot about the types of content that are going to be more effective. I guess one question I have is, do you include a call to action at the end of these videos, or is that a little bit too pushy?
Andrew: I’m a big fan of having some sort of call to action in every video. So let me paint a picture of how that would look and I’ll describe the videos in that campaign and the CTAs we’d have. So generally what we’re doing now is we’re respecting the fact that people now – and I heard this mentioned on something I was listening to last week – Google did a study and it used to take about 7 marketing touchpoints before somebody would make a buying decision. Now it’s closer to 22.
So respecting that fact, a lot of the ads that we run are videos, and they’re more content-based, and they’re very non-pushy. So we run a lot of video ads with a video views objective out there to really large audiences, and they are primarily designed to give value and to be content driven, content rich. So you know, 1-2 minute videos, purely with the goal of building out video view audiences so we can retarget everybody who’s watched these videos.
So we’re showing a lot of these content based videos just to bring new people into our world, get them introduced to us, to give them value, and to build that trust. Now that said, even at the end of these videos, I encourage everybody to have a very soft call to action. So let’s say you give 2 minutes of value and at the end you say something like, “By the way, I’ve got a blog post topic that has everything I just talked about”, something really soft.
Then when we’re going for the lead and we’re trying to get people to come in and join our webinar, join our email list, we can retarget all those people in those videos. Very similar in structure, they’ll be a little bit shorter, generally under the 60 second mark, they will have a longer call to action, where we’ll spend 10 seconds or maybe a little bit more, talking about what they’re going to get when they join our email list, sign up for the webinar, whatever that may be, and encouraging them to come across.
But some people say don’t put a call to action in those up front videos that are just warming people up. But I just think if you’re paying money to put ads out there in front of people and people love your content, there’s always a percentage of those people who want more from you at that point. And so it’s always a good idea to have something in there that gives those people an opportunity to do that.
Sure, some won’t be ready. But the ones that are, why make them wait to be retargeted for the next week before they have an opportunity to follow up with you. Give them something up front. And it doesn’t harm the average view time or anything like that, so you’re not doing any damage to your campaigns.
Rich: Ok. We’ve talked a lot about the content that goes into these videos and it seems like you’ve got a whole series that you’re planning out. How do you handle your targeting? What are some of the different tools or options, and do you target differently for video ads than you might for other types of ads on Facebook?
Andrew: So I guess to answer that final part of the question first, we don’t. We target generally the same audience as we do for anything else. Because what we’re doing is we’re identifying our target audience – our perfect customer – and we’re going after that same customer the whole way through. The reason being, we don’t want to end up in a funnel where we show our video views to one particular audience, and then when we go to bring them back as leads and take that next step, they’re the wrong group. So it’s the same audience the whole way through.
So what we do is a very similar process to what I think most people do, but we target a big variety. If we have a client with a large existing customer database, then we’ll start with a lookalike audience based on that customer database and we’ll start very broad. So let’s say 2%, so about 4 million people in that audience, maybe even 3%, maybe even up to 6 million, with those initial video view ads. We’re casting a wide net and we’re using those videos and the content in those videos to filter out and bring in the most interested people. So we’re targeting maybe 3-4 million people – could be up to 6 million – and because of the type of content we’re creating, only the people who are really interested are going to watch 50-75% of those videos and that’s who we’re going to retarget.
We do still rely heavily on interest targeting, we’re not just all about lookalikes. I think a lot of people get into this corner where they start to use lookalike audiences based on email lists, based on customer data bases, website visitors, and they forget about interest targeting. It’s still a really powerful channel.
Rich: Can you give me some examples of how you’re using interest categories for yourself or for a client recently?
Andrew: Yeah. The process that I use is sort them into categories. So we’ll go through and I’ll think about who the influencer is in this space, what tools do people use in this space specifically, what websites do they visit, what conferences do they attend. And we’ll write these groups on a sheet and research and find audiences for each category.
So we’ll go and research – ok, so we have a client in the public speaking niche at the moment – so we go in and we find all the influencers in the public speaking niche, so all the people who are teaching and training on how to become a public speaker, people who are prominent and constantly talking about public speaking, what tools are they using. Public speakers have a range of tools that they use that other people don’t, and that’s the key here. So it’s finding tools and influencers and things that others don’t follow.
So a classic example, you hear this used all the time, if we were targeting a golf niche we could target Tiger Woods, I’m sure that’s the first thing that comes to mind. The problem with something like Tiger Woods is he’s also got a big following of on-golf fans, he’s a mainstream celebrity at this point, so a lot of people like Tiger Woods that don’t really care about golf. And it’s the same in every niche. So for this speaker client we want to make sure that we’re finding influencers and tool and websites and things that are only specific to that.
Now here’s a good example. So when we’re searching for audiences for this client often actual public speakers come up. People like Gary V, he does a lot of speaking, but we don’t want to target Gary V because people who like Gary V, like listening to Gary V as a speaker but don’t like learning from Gary V on how to become a speaker. So there’s a clear distinction there.
But we find that’s a really effective way to do it, creating groups like that and then doing research using Facebook Insights, using Google, using Amazon. Amazon is a good place to look for audiences because they search for books on the topic and you see who read the books, and generally they’re influencers in the space, and well as the books themselves. Sometimes you can target people who are interested in the books depending on how big it is.
Websites. So we’ll research and find a few websites in a particular niche we’re interested in, and then we’ll go to a tool called SimilarWeb, similarweb.com. Put in the website and it will list websites that are similar to that one. So a quick shortcut there to help with the research process as well. And we’ll come up with a massive list and normally we’ll try to find influencers and audiences, and group them together. So we’ve got about 1 million to 2 million people in each audience, and then we’ll go out and target them.
Rich: And are you combining or splitting off these different groups? Like, it seems like you’ve done a lot of very cool research – I especially like the Amazon idea – but then once you’ve collected these people there seem to be a lot of overlapping spheres, almost like a Venn diagram. Are you targeting the whole big bunch of them, or have you narrowed that down to be like, I’m going to go after this audience with this message and this audience with this message, or just the same message but I want to see which one converts at a higher percentage, for example?
Andrew: Good question. So the reason we organize them into groups is because that gives us the ability to easily bunch them together if we need to. So at the end there I was mentioning the audience size, so 1-2 million people is what we like to get started.
And so if we’ve got them organized into those groups of influencers and tools and all these different categories, then I can create an ad set and put some interest in there from the influencers category, and I’ll simply put a few in there and I’ll watch the audience size. Once we get to that 1-2 million a month, then I’ll stop and I’ll create a new ad set. So if that means I get all the influencers in one ad set and I have to put everyone on my list into there to get it into the 1-2 million mark, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. But if I put 5 people in there and it gets us to that mark, then I’ll go ahead and create a new ad set and put the next 5 in that group.
So I do bunch them, and when I bunch them I keep those in those little category groups as well. So I might mix influencers and tools, or I might mix tools and events, or whatever it may be. So I try to keep it like that and we go from there.
So two things if we want to then narrow down if I notice that one ad set group of interests is performing really well, and they are particularly large interests – we’re talking 500,000 people plus – then I will actually separate those out into their own ad sets and have one interest in an ad set if it’s got 500,000+ people. Because I know that we’ll bunch together these interests really well, but I want to know which one out of those 4 or 5 was the best, so I can narrow in on that. So that’s where we’ll split them out and try to target that alone and see which of those five perform the best so we can further push our costs down.
Of course if we’re scaling and we’ve got 2 or 3 of those ad sets that we just talked about and they all perform really well and we want to scale, often then I will combine them further together so we give Facebook one, really large audience to allow us to scale our spend to a much higher content.
Rich: Very cool. A lot of good information in here. Stuff about the influencers and how you’re collecting this information to target different interest groups as well as just the whole break down on all the things we need to consider as we’re creating our video content for Facebook and Instagram ads.
I’m sure people want to dig a little bit deeper, Andrew, where can we send them to learn more about you?
Andrew: The two best places are my website, andrewhubbard.co, and Facebook, facebook.com/andrewnhubbard. Those are the two best places to find me, drop me a message on either one of those, I’m always happy to hear from people.
Rich: Awesome. Andrew, thanks so much for coming by, I really appreciated the conversation and the information.
Andrew: Thanks so much, Rich.
Andrew Hubbard’s Facebook ads success quickly turned him into a highly sought after and trusted authority on the subject. To learn more about how he spins gold with video ads, check out his website, or connect with him on Facebook.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.