It takes a lot to keep social media ads performing these days. While budget, audiences, and account strategy can all have an impact, the biggest driver of success (or failure) is your ad creative. And the secret to having winning ad creative is to test a lot of it.
There are several ways to test your social media ads, making it hard to strike the right balance between launching new “big idea” ads vs. small tweaks, or iterations, of those big ideas. Thankfully, we’ve found a method that helps us find winning ads fast. We call it the Outlier Method.
The Outlier Method
At Primer, we have a simple, four-step approach for our creative tests that allows us to launch dozens or even hundreds of high-quality social media ads per month:
- LAUNCH: Ideate and launch “big idea” ads based on key questions buyers have. (Get our step by step guide on ad testing here.)
- PAUSE: Pause underperforming ads and determine the ads that beat the account average and become top performers — the “wins” — we call these the Outliers.
- SCALE: Scale the budget for the “wins” and make creative iterations on them for your next test.
- REPEAT: Periodically start a new “big idea” process and repeat steps 1-3. We do this 1-2 times per month for our partners.
With this method, it is easy to launch dozens or even hundreds of ads per month. In this article, we’ll define big ideas and iterations, explain why they’re important, and show you how to leverage both for your social media advertising.
Step 1: LAUNCH
What is a “big idea” in advertising?
For social media ads, a big idea is a brand new idea, theme, or creative style. Generally, for every big idea, you should create 3-10 ads and launch them into one combined “big idea test.” This is also sometimes called research and development, or R&D, testing.
How to create big ideas in paid social ads
When brainstorming big ideas, focus on concepts that do any one (or a combination) of the following:
- Emphasizes a totally different value proposition than your past tests
- Targets a different audience (e.g. change what gender or age range you’re targeting)
- Uses a fresh visual look
- Includes all-new copy and headlines
- Is part of a larger, new “campaign” (e.g. ads that correspond with your brand’s current influencer campaign)
Make sure your ideas are grounded in your buyer personas. Once you determine your ideal buyer, you can then figure out what types of questions they would ask before purchasing. (Tip: Use our easy buyer decision question worksheet to figure these out for your brand.)
These “buyer decision questions” should guide your copy, headlines, calls-to-action, and more.
Resources for creating high-quality ad creative that converts
When you create new paid social creative, you have the opportunity to try a new style or new content for any of the following ad elements. Below, we’ve linked to a few of our free templates so you can hit the ground running sooner:
- Static Imagery
- Image Headlines
- Facebook and Instagram Videos
- TikTok Videos
- Calls to action (CTAs) — See a full list of Facebook calls-to-action and a full list of TikTok calls-to-action
- Headline — This is usually a compelling value prop framed as a next step (e.g. Get 15% Off Now)
- Video thumbnails
- Landing pages
An example of a big idea test
For our partner, Farmstead, we wanted to test an idea that visually shows how much value a customer would get by using Farmstead’s grocery delivery service. For this test, we created 9 images and GIFs, each taking a slightly different approach to the concept.
Step 2: PAUSE
Within 48 to 72 hours after you launch, you should start making adjustments to the ads within your test. Quickly pause the ads that are underperforming in order to focus on the wins. (Don’t sleep on this – you don’t want to waste money on poor performers.)
Find the wins. A “win” is a top-performing ad that is a performance outlier. Wins should have better performance than your account average by at least 10%. They should also have at least 10 conversions.
After figuring out which ads for a test are wins, you can then move on to step 3: SCALE.
Step 3: SCALE
Now that you have identified your winners you can increase the ad spend to the wins and then start to scale. The fastest way to scale is to create at least 3 ad creative iterations on your winning ads
What is an iteration?
An “iteration” is a variation of your previous top-performing ads (i.e., “wins”) in which you change one or two elements. By creating multiple iterations and testing those, you can thoughtfully scale your account’s wins.
By reusing key elements from past top-performing ads, you can also hone in on what really makes an ad work.
For example, let’s say we have an ad with the same image but a bunch of different headlines.
If multiple versions of that ad (with those different headlines) perform, it’s likely that something about the main image is leading to increased conversions.
Once you have a top performer, iterations can help refine performance. Over time, you’ll be able to combine multiple winning elements from different ads (say, one top performer’s headline and another’s image) into a new Franken-ad.
Since each element has been proven to work multiple times over, you should see even better performance when combining them all together.
Tip: For every win, create at least 3 iterations. Focus on changing 1 or 2 key aspects of the ads (see a full list of what to test below).
How to create good iterations
Ways to iterate on landing page wins:
- Change the header section at the top of the winning landing page. You can include a new header/hero image, new headline, and a new subhead
- Include a different call-to-action on your buttons
- Swap sections of the landing page around
- If you have a testimonial section, change which testimonials are there
- Keep the copy the same but change the landing page’s images
- Test a longer or shorter version of the page
- Test out a different signup or purchase flow after your button click
- (If applicable) Swap which product you feature
- (If applicable) Change what audience you’re focusing on (e.g. a women-focused page vs. a man-focused page for clothing)
Ways to iterate on video wins:
Select one or two core elements to test and change within your winning video, such as:
- Different testimonials
- Different call-to-action
- Different first frame
- Different thumbnail
- Change the order of the sections within the video (e.g. swap order of price and UGC sections)
- Keep the captions the same but swap the background imagery for something new
- Keep everything the same but swap for a new color scheme
Ways to iterate on image or GIF wins:
Select one or two core elements to test and change within your image/GIF, such as:
- Keep the copy the same but change the main image
- Keep the main image the same but change the main headline
- Change the call-to-action
- Add animation if there is none
- Change animation to static
- Add or swap the background music
- Try the same image with a different color scheme
How we used the big idea and iteration process to scale Farmstead
Step 4: REPEAT
Keep this process going. As you continue to find wins, iterate on those wins. Then, depending on your budget, you should also launch new big ideas 1 – 2 times per month. This continuous pipeline of new tests ensures that your ad account is never going stale and that you always have ads that can support more budget.
Ready to find some big wins?
Altogether, this method significantly and rapidly expands both the number of ads you’ve launched and the advertising spend you’re putting towards proven top-performers. It allows you to spend with a clear strategy for growth rather than wasting money on a series of mediocre, big idea tests.
If you’re ready to try out our Outlier method, you can D.I.Y. with the help of our step-by-step guide to ad testing for social media ads. In it, you’ll find out exactly how often to test, how many ads to test each month, and how to structure your creative testing.
If you’re looking for help scaling and testing your ads, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll handle it all for you – the creative strategy, design, production, reporting, and media buying. You just enjoy the wins.
Just need help producing the creative? Try our new Primer On-Demand platform and get access to a team of expert marketing designers. Make unlimited requests for images, videos and landing pages.
Book a consultation to get started.