Understanding and Leveraging the Facebook Audience Network

Posted on April 26, 2018 Mary Merritt

What Is The Facebook Audience Network?

If you've been running ads on Facebook, you might be curious about the audience network, one of the platform options you can opt into when choosing ad placements. By default, Facebook will place your ads automatically "in the places they're likely to perform best" which usually includes the audience network. So if you leave "automatic placements" enabled when creating a new campaign, you are likely already advertising on the audience network, maybe without even realizing it!

The audience network is similar to Google AdWords’ display network - it is made up of a group of apps and websites where the creators and publishers have signed up to include Facebook ad units in their app or publication in exchange for a cut of ad revenue.

Feeling a little behind? Check out our blog on how to get started with Facebook ads!

How to Use the Audience Network

Audience network ads are still targeted using the same demographic, location, and behavioral data that you’re using to micro-target other Facebook ad campaigns, but there are a number of key differences. Rather than appearing as an item in a user’s social feed, audience network ads are closer to a traditional “banner” ad, or a native ad incorporated into an app experience. Ads can show as an interstitial while someone is playing a game, a video ad that runs before a video a user is watching, or as a “banner” style ad in the middle of an article.

As you know, placing ads on the Google Display Network is a completely different experience from using search text ads, and a universally accepted best practice in AdWords is to craft separate campaigns for initiatives on each platform. Similarly, advertising on the Facebook audience network is usually a lot different than placing in-feed or Facebook sidebar ads - and we recommend utilizing separate campaigns for advertising on the audience network.

Many ad agencies have tested campaigns on the audience network, and found that they don’t perform as well as campaigns with news feed ads. Some believe that a majority of clicks from audience network ads are low-quality and “mistaken” clicks. In our experience, some campaign types work better than others on the audience network. Clicks from the audience network are often cheaper than other placement options, but because of the potential mistaken clicks and low quality traffic, we have found the best success with:

  • Brand awareness and brand building campaigns where website visits and conversions are a secondary consideration
  • Remarketing campaigns
  • Promoting apps
  • Campaigns where the ad, landing page, and offer are specifically tailored for short attention spans and mobile users (top of the funnel calls-to-action, etc.) 

Test Audience Network Performance

While some campaign types may perform better, you should always be open to testing your latest campaigns on the audience network, as you may be surprised by the result. Of course, if your Facebook campaigns are optimized for engagement (as they should be! Facebook rewards ads with higher engagement by lowering your CPC), they will not directly translate over to the audience network where engagement isn’t possible. Testing campaigns on the audience network will expand your reach, and may result in a surprisingly high return on ad spend - just make sure to measure the results and compare to similar campaigns running on Facebook or Instagram.

Fortunately, Facebook seems dedicated to making the audience network more powerful, which hopefully translates to more valuable advertising opportunities as new features are added and more publishers join the network. It would be a good idea to keep an open mind about future possibilities on the network - don’t pigeonhole it as a good solution for a narrow set of campaign types. Continually testing variations of your new campaigns on the audience network as it improves might reveal new ideas or better performance than you saw 6 months previously. 

As always, if you're interested in trying out some ads using the Facebook Audience Network but don't know where to start, don't stress - the Nerds are here to help! Contact us today, or leave us a comment below.