In the period following an ad campaign launch on Facebook, many people see performance fluctuate, which is completely normal. You may have seen Facebook use the term ‘learning phase,’ which is the reason for the fluctuation. In this guide, we’re going to learn exactly how the phase works (and affects your campaign), how long it lasts, what sort of edits trigger it, why it’s actually important, and more!
While some companies keep operations close to the chest, Facebook has been transparent about their learning phase. Let’s use their definitions as a base for this guide. According to Facebook, the company’s delivery system learns more and more every time an ad is shown. In other words, it’s continually learning where to show the ad and to whom the ad should be displayed. Over time, this learning improves ad performance.
The learning phase is the period of time at the very beginning when the delivery system still has lots of learning to do. You’ve set the parameters for the campaign, and now the delivery system is working out the best way to display the ad. During this early stage, CPA will be underwhelming, and many marketers feel worried about the unstable performance.
How do you know whether or not your ad is in this learning phase? You will see ‘Learning’ in the Delivery column. Once the delivery system has learned more, it will leave the learning phase. This doesn’t mean you won’t still see improvements (the learning never ends), but it does mean that performance has stabilized; Facebook suggests this takes 50 conversions.
In short, the Learning phase is the time when the delivery system learns how to deliver your ad with stability. It will test different placements and audiences to determine who is most likely to convert.
First and foremost, we recommend letting the delivery system run. If you make huge edits while in the learning phase, it will reset and learn from the beginning all over again. We understand that it might be frustrating, but letting the delivery system learn will lead to improved performance. By the end, the people who need your products/services most will see your ad.
In terms of duration, Facebook believes that most campaigns exit the learning phase after around 50 conversion events, which tends to equate to less than a week. In fact, the Delivery column will actually change after a week if the campaign hasn’t yet left the learning phase. Instead of ‘Learning,’ the column will read ‘Learning limited.’
Above all else, we urge you not to panic if a week has passed. Facebook itself has admitted that 50 is an estimate based on the average campaign, which means that your own campaign may require more or less to leave the learning phase. The amount of time required will depend on the market conditions, whether the ad set has special characteristics, and whether or not you’ve made large edits to cause the phase to reset.
We’ve mentioned that edits cause resets, but does this mean you can’t touch the campaign at all? No, you will be able to make some changes. However, Facebook recommends avoiding large changes to the bid amount and budget for the campaign and/or ad sets. On the other hand, you should avoid touching the ads, the bid strategy, placement, targeting, pausing for more than one week and adding a new creative.
With the bid amount and budget, you may trigger a reset, but it all depends on the extent to which you change them. Most of the time, it comes down to common sense. If you raise the budget from $300 to $302, it won’t trigger a reset. On the other hand, doubling your budget suddenly will cause a reset. We suggest avoiding the above changes completely.
As marketers, the learning phase is incredibly important. During the early days of the campaign, there is no optimization, which means you’ll have a higher CPA with instability. The learning phase is critical because it reduces the CPA and makes the whole campaign more stable. Isn’t it better to go through a short learning phase knowing that you’ll target the right audience at the end? You’ll find several studies that show the success learning phases have had in reducing CPA and increasing conversions.
As soon as the learning phase is over, we can then review the data and make decisions about the future of our campaign. If everything is going well and you’re happy, keep the settings the same and think about a budget increase. If the campaign results don’t match your goal, you can make edits or decide to pause it temporarily.
During this sensitive time, you need to be careful with what actions you take. Some marketers have accidentally reset the learning phase or have continually made changes, not realizing that their campaign is in a never-ending learning phase. We recommend the following best practices:
Unless it’s necessary, be cautious of making changes because they will likely reset the learning phase, in which case you’d lose current progress. To make changes to your campaigns, you need to have evidence that it will improve performance. Otherwise, just wait.
Remember, performance during the learning phase will fluctuate, which means that the initial indications aren’t a true reflection of what you might experience in the future. Just because performance is low now doesn’t warrant a knee-jerk reaction. When marketers panic and make changes, they’re not allowing the delivery system to optimize. Often, people fall into this trap and then convince themselves that the Facebook ad platform is faulty. In reality, they just needed patience.
Many marketers have found that the delivery system struggles after setting an inflated or tiny budget. Not only should you limit the adjustments you make, we also recommend setting a budget that will allow your campaign to get to the 50 conversions required to end the learning phase.
Many marketers think the best solution is to overload their campaign with lots of ad sets and ads. When you do this, the delivery system can only learn a little about each. On the other hand, having only a small number of ads means that the delivery system can learn more, which makes optimization easier. With similar ad sets, learnings are shared.
What if the campaign is still in the learning phase after a week? There are a number of reasons why this might be the case, but it will now read ‘Learning limited’ in the Delivery column. Potential reasons include a small budget, low cost control, too many ad sets, or a small audience. To fix this, you can raise the budget, increase cost control, use fewer ad sets or expand your audience respectively.
Elsewhere, it might be that ad sets in the same Page or account are winning auctions. In this instance, you should avoid audience overlap by combining ad sets. Also, some marketers find that the optimization event doesn’t occur frequently enough. If you don’t reach 50 conversions in a week, you might change to a more frequent event—adding to cart rather than conversions, for example.
Making significant edits will reset the learning phase, but this time you’ll hopefully exit this phase and move closer to a successful ad campaign.
You now know about the learning phase with Facebook ad campaigns and why they’re important; by going through this period of fluctuation, the delivery system will learn how to deliver your ad, which should encourage strong long-term performance.
If you take one thing away from this guide, it’s patience. If you reach one week and you’re still in the learning phase, you may need to make some edits. Otherwise, allow the learning phase to occur and you’ll be in a better position to assess performance from this point onwards because the delivery system has learned how to deliver your ads and where to deliver them!
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