Paid Media Testing Methods & Best Practices

How Often Should I Be Testing and Changing My Paid Media Audiences and Targeting?

When it comes to your approach to your paid media, undoubtedly there are a number of things that come to mind. The schools of thought typically follow one of two directives:

  • Define your creative strategy
  • Define your audience and target markets

Now, in a perfect world, you should be giving adequate thought to defining both of these buckets and approaches, and the overall recommendation on this end would be to define your audience first, and then land on the creatives that would best resonate and represent that audience in your advertising. But we’re not writing this to tell you how to structure your approach (though we’re happy to offer clear recommendations if you want to drop us a line!)

Begin with a Defined Audience and a Clear Idea of your Target Market

Though this is as much a practice of defining your business approach as it is a marketing function, it is important to understand (or at least to form a hypothesis) who your target market is, and build your tactical targeting approach from there. By defining a key focus group and audience set, you can think critically about who they are (from a demographic perspective), and also what they engage with, where they spend their time online, and can craft an overall story that helps you understand how to target these folks.

When thinking about audience creation on paid media channels (called either Ad Sets or Audience Targeting, depending on what platform you are currently working on), it’s helpful to think in terms of other brands, publications, influencers, and accounts that you can utilize as targeting parameters and creation. 

Often times, thinking in concentric circles away from the baseline characteristics of your audience targeting can yield solid results and allow you to think outside the box when it comes to how best to connect with your audience.

Once you have your audience, and related targeting ideas and around who you’re going after and with what tactics, you can marry basic creative with those audiences to get this process started. Across each audience, use the same/a consistent spread of creative to remove those variables, and let’s get to work.

Define your Marketing Test, the Audiences You’ll Start With, and the Timing for your Results/Findings

As we’ve talked about previously, the best tests are only as good as the clarity of the results they bring to the table. Define the audiences you’re testing, the creatives, the budget, and the timing before you’re going to reflect on results or make a change. 

After a set time or budget – recommended minimum would be 7 days or $1,500 – take a look at your ad set breakdown, relative to your KPIs, and start playing around with some of the variables.

  • In your top performing ad sets, tease apart the variable from age, gender, geos, etc., and see what value you can glean from an already successful ad set.
  • In your worst performers, cut them or drastically reduce the spend. There may be value in hanging onto these (especially if there are cooks in the kitchen that are “sure” those are accurate to the brand/product), but minimize the downside to your overall account performance.
  • In the middle, add some variables/targeting considerations from your top performers, and brainstorm new ideas to add to the mix.
  • With all of these, consider that the clock resets, and review the data after a week/few days.

Remain Objective When Reviewing Results

Oftentimes, we run into business owners and founders that are “certain” they know who their audience is. This is typically anecdotal, often outdated, and frequently gets in the way of pressing ahead with the best ideas that data can support.

How can Pivot help? Or how can an agency help?

When leveraging partners, new employees, or an agency resource, it’s beneficial to give a starting point to begin these tests, and to add nuance to the collective approach, but trusting your instincts and being open to flexibility can be at odds with one another. Especially in a shifting data landscape, having multiple people in the room making recommendations, interpreting data, and pressing for results can be helpful if you are interested in growing and staying on the forefront with your business.

What’s next and how can you implement this?

First and foremost, take a moment to understand your brand, your audience, and to pull together your ideal audience segment or persona. From there, build a creative approach that matches that person or those people, and begin building a test methodology and approach. 

Once you have that in mind, it’s time to launch, learn, and to activate the next level in your marketing knowledge!


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