Starting next year, Facebook is making its Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) tool mandatory across all campaigns (i.e., all Facebook budgets are moving to the campaign level.) This isn't exactly new news. Facebook first rolled out CBO in November 2017, and it announced an original mandatory rollout date of September 2019 back in 2018 — though that's been pushed forward to early 2020.
So, we'll all be using CBO soon. But are you ready for it? Sure! It's been around for over 2 years now, but there is still a good chunk of marketers that haven't touched it. And, even those that have may be echoing some concerns over giving "control" over their budget to an algorithm.
We see machine learning playing an increasingly important role across ad platforms. Google rolled out features like Value Bidding and Similar Audiences this year. And, Facebook has been playing with machine learning algorithms for years to maximize budgets. But they haven't been as inclusive as CBO.
So, does it work?
We've been using CBO for a while now at Adlucent for both our campaigns and our clients' campaigns. Let's break down what is, how it works, and why you should definitely consider making the switch before early next year. Because, despite all of the common misconceptions and unfounded fears, CBO is an incredibly valuable tool that's poised to bring more value to your campaigns both granularly and broadly in the following years.
Let's dive in!
What is Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO)?
Currently, you can set your Facebook budgets to either the ad set level or the campaign level. If you've ever set a budget at the campaign level, you may have noticed an option to toggle CBO on. In a nutshell, CBO is an algorithm that optimizes your campaigns by leveraging your budget and bid strategy to identify the best incremental opportunities across all audiences in your campaign.
Facebook already uses algorithms that help maximize your return on ad spend (ROAS). But, this algorithm focuses on what people it should display ads to in each audience you configure. CBO takes this a step further by figuring out which audiences to focus your campaign budget on. So, with CBO, you simply tell Facebook how much you're spending on an entire campaign, and it finds the audiences — then, its incredibly intelligent algorithms focus on which people in those audiences should see those ads. In a sense, CBO is further simplifying campaigns.
Let's say that you set up a campaign with 5 ad sets — essentially 5 audiences. Typically, you would have to go in multiple times a week, depending on volume, and adjust spend to allocate the appropriate resources across all 5 audiences based on performance. If one audience was outperforming the rest, you may bump its budget up in comparison with the other 4; otherwise, Facebook by default would evenly allocate budgets across all audiences at the moment of launch. With CBO, Facebook uses deep learning to discover which audiences are performing the best against your goals (e.g., online purchases), while taking into account which audiences offer the best future opportunities, and allocates more of your budget to those sets.
But with all of this automation, you're losing control, right? Let’s take a look...
How CBO Has Performed For Us
When we first tried out CBO earlier this year, we... didn't like it.
There was performance volatility due to some poor algorithm logic. We're pretty sure this was due to some early system bugs that were making inconsistent purchasing decisions. Honestly, we wrote it off for a bit and went straight back to ad set level campaigns. But, we knew we needed to get back in and play with it a little (it was about to be mandatory), so we ran a few campaigns across it — and it works.
It works really well.
To be honest, we're diligent, hands-on campaign managers, so the idea of shifting any bid-management responsibility to Facebook's algorithm was a little unsettling at first. But, once you get past those initial frictions, CBO has a lot to offer.
Of course, it's maybe a little easier for us since we have our own bid manager Deep Search — enhancing our account managers' decision-making data at every turn. So, we're not necessarily expecting the transition to be as simple for anyone navigating paid social without that support.
When you first run a CBO campaign, it takes a little while for Facebook's deep learning algorithm to kick into gear. You'll have a little natural volatility in the beginning (this is perfectly normal for machine learning algorithms). After a few days, CBO really starts to shine. It distributes your budget to the audiences with the most opportunity, and it's pretty savvy at realizing the value in each audience.
Because it's using real-time signals that Facebook doesn't generally publish until a day after.
Here's what Facebook had to say:
"We optimize your campaign budget in real-time on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis."
These "real-time opportunities" are things like intraday user activity and signals for intent to buy that aren't automatically supplied to 3rd parties in real-time. Facebook has the data, but brands can't always use it in a timely manner. With CBO, your campaigns are automatically using that real-time data, which can lead to some great automated campaign behaviors.
Another thing to note here is that “real-time opportunities” doesn’t mean spend will be pushed to the audience performing the best on average at that moment, but that CBO will find the next best incremental opportunity to push spend, even if it’s within a historically low-performing audience on average.
Seems like the perfect set-it and forget-it solution, right? Well, not entirely.
If you use CBO on autopilot, your campaigns are going to suffer. You'll be targeting surface-level needs. Therefore, Paid Social Media experts should still be managing campaigns. And, you need a holistic paid strategy that incorporates some micro-management with these incredible new machine learning algorithms.
Let's explain further.
Why You Still Need Paid Social Experts to Handle CBO Campaigns
On the surface, CBO seems so simple. You set a campaign objective to target a specific business goal, hit start, and watch the conversions pour in like honey. Simple! Or is it?
CBO is a great short-term solution, but it will never effectively scale business, as it’s extremely near-sighted.
Having Paid Social Experts at the reins of this powerful tool will ensure that you're A) hitting your business goals today, and B) setting your business up for success tomorrow, by focusing on these key areas:
Choosing the right campaign objective for the targeted audience
When deciding what campaign objective you want CBO to run with, you need to make sure you have an understanding of your audience's mindset and where your product best fits. Is your product AOV high enough that the typical customer journey could take up to 2 months? Is it an easy purchase that most people act on within 1-2 weeks? Is there an adoption challenge your product presents that could add another funnel layer in the customer journey? A Paid Social Account Manager needs to work through these questions before turning any CBO-optimized campaign on, or else you risk throwing money at a brick wall.
Making sure you’re using optimal creative selections and messaging aligns to the audience
One of the best things you can do to help CBO hit its max potential is to make sure the creative selections aren't creating any unnecessary hurdles or friction. Creative optimization requires an ongoing understanding of what's available, what works best, and what will help create the best customer experience for anyone eligible to see your brand's ad. To make the most of CBO, Paid Social Account Managers should be trained on what works best on Facebook/Instagram and how to effectively execute and iterate on creative flighting to drive maximum performance.
Extracting insights that make CBO perform well and applying those learnings to future strategies
Lastly, though it more or less builds off the first two points, is that you don't know if something isn't working, or could be working better, if you don't have trained eyes on the campaigns in question. We've found that CBO works better than humans when making investment decisions, but only within the ecosystem that a skilled advertiser created.
What Does All of This Mean?
We would love to see some numbers. Right now, we're pretty sure that most marketers aren't using CBO. And, come next year, there are going to be a ton of marketers and businesses that get really confused, really fast. When CBO becomes mandatory, all pre-existing campaigns are going to be automatically migrated over. And, since you won't be able to set budgets at the ad set level anymore, we're going to make an assumption that there's going to be some friction.
In the announcement, Facebook said:
"You'll have the ability to set one central campaign budget to optimize across ad sets, and we'll automatically and continuously distribute the budget in real-time to your top performing ad sets."
That's a little scary, right? We're putting our faith into Facebook's algorithm, and we don't have a choice. CBO might seem like it’s just a one-size-fits-all approach to campaign management, but it doesn't have to be. Not only does CBO seem to offer better-than-expected results, but you're still going to have control over objectives, creatives, audiences, and, ultimately campaign performance. CBO is smart. But it's not as customized as our own tech or as thoughtful as our Account Managers. Blending CBO's rich real-time triggers and intelligent machine learning capabilities with savvy social strategies is a surefire way to pull ahead of the pack come early 2020.
We highly recommend you start using CBO now. You're about to not have an option.
Are you looking for an agency to partner with to build out your Paid Social strategy? We would love to help!