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Do Your Facebook Competitive Ad Research!

Published: December 7, 2012

Author: Franco Puetz

One of the biggest mistakes in Facebook advertising efforts is not keeping track of our competitors. It’s very easy to lose sight of this in the shuffle of being one of the early adopters of a new ad type or keeping up with the day-to-day management of your campaigns, but it is a vital step in managing a healthy Facebook advertising campaign.
This post will outline how to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing in your potential impression space on Facebook.
The whole goal behind competitor research is understanding what the eyes of your target demographic are seeing when they browse Facebook. As we already know, each user on Facebook sees a different set of ads dependent upon the targeting options we use to get our ads in front of them. The first step of this research entails creating a user profile (or profiles) as similar as possible to the demographic you are targeting – or, in this case, researching.
There are two ways to approach this in-depth competitor research: create new user accounts for each demographic you wish to do competitive research on; or manually update your own personal profile each time you want to view a new set of ads. If you have some extra user accounts lying around, I would start there, as it’s much easier to use a pre-existing account.
Creating a new email address, or using one that hasn’t been previously used to create a Facebook account, can get you started. If it’s a new account, follow Facebook’s simple steps to get you started – they will shoot an email confirmation to the email address you provided (make sure you complete this step).
The next step is crafting your new account’s Likes and Interests in a way that is very similar to the psychographic targeting you set in place for your target user base.  Get ‘Like-Happy’ and start liking the pages you normally find yourself plugging into your ‘precise interest’ bucket. After you’ve crafted an ideal target candidate for your product or service, you can start your competitive research.
As a Facebook advertiser, you should bookmark this link immediately, or keep it stowed away in your memory:
Facebook ad board
This is an awesome tool you can use to view a multitude of ads targeted at your profile at any given time; this, as you can imagine, is very helpful in competitive research. Here’s an example:
example of facebook ad board
Skimming through the various ads on this page, you will see the types of messages that your target users are getting hit with regularly. Our job in Facebook advertising has been referenced as the occupation of ‘professional distractors,’ and from here I urge you to think competitively to get that job done.
Use the techniques you’ve learned from various Facebook advertising ‘best practices’ blogs and put them to use if your competitors haven’t already established them. If you have a competitor that sees a great deal of success on Facebook, seek out their ads and mimic their tactics. Alternatively, if you’ve established your brand as an effective advertiser on Facebook, use this technique to ensure that your competitors aren’t copying your technique or creative patterns. If they are, it may be a good time to try something new. Finally, the Ad Board page offers up a number of new ideas that you may not have thought of in the creation of your ads. I’ve found a number of fantastic ads using this method, but I’ve found a number of awful ads as well – use your own discretion.
There are a couple of final notes to keep in mind.
First, your target user base will most likely indicate interests outside of your targeting criteria. For instance, liking the page ‘Family Guy’ will open up a whole slew of different ads that user could potentially be targeted by – so you have to use what you see during your research as more of a guideline or hint towards what your target demographic sees.
You will also be unable to see sponsored stories if you haven’t added any friends to your account; this is a fairly simple fix if you are interested in seeing this ad type. Most users on Facebook are very receptive to friend requests – you can add users from your existing friend group, or add active users on the pages you’ve liked, as they will likely trigger a number of relevant sponsored stories for your account.
Happy hunting, Facebook advertisers – I hope this opens up a few new ideas for you and becomes an effective addition to your ever-growing Facebook advertising strategy.  Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions!
– Franco Puetz

1 S Wacker Drive
Suite 2250

Chicago, IL 60606(650) 539-4124


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