Famous American investor Jim Rogers took a trip to Ethiopia.
It was during one of the worst famines in recorded history.
Foreign assistance to Ethiopia was, according to Rogers, commendable… but destined to fail.
See, 3 million Ethiopians were starving. But the country produced enough food to feed 60 million people.
They didn’t necessarily need more food.
They needed an infrastructure to carry the food they had from the rainforest to the desert.
So what’s that got to do with Facebook ads?
FB advertisers find themselves in similar situations when trying to troubleshoot ad campaigns that aren’t working.
Content and copywriting.
“But People Don’t Read Long Ads on Facebook”
Popular belief is that with Facebook ads, only the images matter; the copy does not. (This was particularly devastating for the Copy Hackers team to learn.)
Most marketers also believe that the copy should be short.
But are they right?
AdEspresso recently ran a Facebook Ad Copy Length experiment that challenges this belief. In it, they tested seven different ads for the same offer, where everything was the same for each ad except for the copy. Here’s a summary of their copy tests:
- Variation A: One Sentence, Version A (claim with data)
- Variation B: One Sentence, Version B (question)
- Variation C: Bullet Points
- Variation D: Bullet Points + Emojis
- Variation E: One Paragraph
- Variation F: Three Paragraphs
- Variation G: Six Paragraphs
AdEspresso then polled marketers to see which variation they thought would win.
Nearly half of the marketers polled guessed Variation A: One Sentence would win.
But not only did Variation A NOT win. It also had a much higher CPA.
Turns out Variation E: One Paragraph was the ultimate winner, followed closely by Variation F: Two Paragraphs and then Variation G: Six Paragraphs.
Even better? Not only did the longer copy in these ads bring in the most leads… but long copy also had the lowest CPAs across the board.
That experiment showed a big increase in Facebook ad performance… based solely on changing the copy. (More about it here)
CAVEAT: When you write longer copy, you effectively change the message, too. So an easy argument here is, “Well didn’t the message also change?” Of course it did. Longer copy gives you room to explore more facets of a message, increasing your messaging surface area – or effectively increasing the size of the net you cast, allowing more message to pull in more people.
These results are not just for AdEspresso.
I once took a course from Perry Marshall, a business consultant endorsed by FORBES and INC Magazine. He also wrote the world’s best-selling book on Facebook advertising, and he teaches clients how to successfully write long-form FB ads. One of his clients, Revelation Pets, had a sales increase of 300 percent in the month after taking his course. And another student dropped her cost per lead from $7 to $1.76.
I’ve written about long ad copy and how it helped BetterBack – a company that appeared on Shark Tank – run a profitable campaign.
But maybe you’re still not sure long copy actually works in Facebook ads???
Okay, lemme give you another example. But before we dive into it, think about the size of YOUR email list today. How many subscribers do you have? How many did you acquire last month alone? And how about last week?
With those numbers in mind, take a look at this case study:
Case Study: “I Will Teach You a Language”
uses long Facebook ad copy to get 3000+ subscribers in 1 week
I’ve been running campaigns for I Will Teach You a Language since September 2015.
Founder Olly Richards speaks eight languages and helps others learn new languages quickly through storytelling. For the past three years, FB ads have been consistently building Olly’s email list.
In a seven-day period recently, we received 3,118 opt-ins at £0.54/lead.
The secret is no secret at all: I consistently write lots of ads in which I engage in storytelling, which allows us to get leads at a good cost. I use long copy.
Here’s the ad that brought in all those leads in one week:
And now take a look at the comments! That ad got 2.2k likes, 545 shares, and 443 comments (708 total comments, if we count nested ones).
SIDE NOTE: Also in this example, someone wrote a comment that got 18 replies related to the ad topic. Nested comments are more proof that they’re reading!
Long-form copy has been given a bad rap in the marketing world.
People love to tell you that nobody reads online.
And here’s the thing: that can be very, very true.
But any great conversion copywriter will tell you this:
Don’t write for the people who don’t read online. Write for the people who do.
K, so how?
I’m about to walk you through 10 techniques for using long-form content and storytelling in Facebook ads. These are the exact techniques I follow to get results for my clients. And in case skepticism starts to creep in as you read – or in case you go put a pot of tea on and return to read the rest of this post having forgotten everything you just read – I’m also going to share a few more case studies as we go….
But first, let’s agree on this.
Engagement with your Facebook ads MATTERS.
Long ad copy can be incredibly engaging, and that’s a big part of what makes it a powerful weapon to fight off Facebook ad fatigue. And this is important for two reasons:
1) High engagement helps you get a higher relevancy score, which Facebook rewards with more impressions and lower CPM. Facebook itself recommends working on the ad text when it comes to improving the ad’s relevancy score.
2) Facebook ad delivery does not depend only on bids but also on the user experience. An official FB video says it is also about the user value, which combines both relevance and user engagement with the ad.
Agreed? Aligned? Got that tea made, and ready to hunker down? Let’s do this….
10 Techniques for Writing Effective Long-Form Facebook Ad Copy
Writing high-converting Facebook ads can feel intimidating, but you really don’t need to be an experienced copywriting expert to knock it out of the park.
Good ad copy comes 90 percent from reading and listening, and only 10 percent from the writing itself. Joanna wrote a whole book on listening for your message and teaches it all the time here, here and here.
Ready to test out long-form copy for yourself? These 10 tips can help you see results.
1. Understand and Reflect Your Customer’s Struggle… Specifically
If you were reading a page from your ideal customer’s diary, what would their struggle look like?
Understanding specific pain points and how your product or service can relieve them is key. Below is an example of an ad we ran that opens with a very visceral struggle:
Here are a few key things to note with this Facebook ad copy:
- We built desire before pitching. We didn’t go for the hard sell. We captured attention, provided value… and then appealed to a need. At the end, we finally offered the solution: a downloadable training kit.
- We were specific. We used a singular, detailed story that many people can relate to in order to evoke an emotional connection. We didn’t just say, “She felt like she wasn’t part of society.” We SHOWED how she didn’t belong. If you can apply specific storytelling to a pain point, you’ll see great results.
- We didn’t cut out the stuff most marketers cut out. The parts of the ad copy that most engage your reader are the details. We didn’t lose sight of the need for details, and we didn’t prioritize some random idea of “always be short” over the power of storytelling.
Specificity increases the likelihood that people will take action on your campaign. Two professors at Duke and Stanford University, Dan and Chip Heath, proved this over a 20-year research period. In their book “Made to Stick,” they described how concreteness and specificity make it easier for people to understand and respond to a message, which is what you want to happen in your Facebook ad copy.
In one of the book’s examples, researchers Shedler and Melvin Manis of the University of Michigan ran an experiment (in 1986). Subjects pretended to be jurors for a fictional trial about whether “Mrs. Johnson” should retain custody of her 7-year-old son. Jurors were presented with an equal number of arguments for and against. Experiment groups broke down like this:
- Arguments for custody, featuring no specific details
- Arguments against custody, featuring no specific details
- Arguments for custody, featuring specific but unrelated details (e.g., a description of the boy’s toothbrush)
- Arguments against custody, featuring specific but unrelated details (e.g., a description of the boy’s toothbrush)
How did jurors side?
Jurors tended to side with the argument that included vivid details. Even if the details were unrelated to whether or not Mrs Johnson was or was not fit to keep custody of her son.
This experiment demonstrates the impact storytelling has on an audience. Dan and Chip Heath note, “By making a claim tangible and concrete, details make it seem more real, more believable.” (Bookmark this tutorial on how to be specific in your copy)
2. Frame Your Message with Something Timely
Facebook is for new things. New announcements. New life changes. News. And new forms of news.
So little wonder stories that seem immediately relevant perform well as Facebook ad copy.
A while ago, I saw a story about a missing parrot who turned up speaking Spanish and without its previous British accent. I had a lightbulb moment and knew it would be the subject of my next Facebook ad. Here’s what I wrote:
Many stories that get covered by the media COULD relate to your niche. Spin the story into an ad.
3. Mine the Comments for Facebook Ad Copy Inspiration
The comments section on an ad will be filled with everything from the hilarious to the outrageous.
Sometimes you can mine those comments and turn them into ad copy. For example, someone left this comment on one of our ads:
Of course I couldn’t use the same language left in the comment, but there was a seed of an idea there.
I wondered if, when trying to learn a language, it would actually help to date a native speaker.
So I searched Google for people’s experiences, both positive and negative. What I found became the ad copy below, where we used a different spin on storytelling – and some humour – to make a point.
That Facebook ad copy follows the old copywriting rule: the job of a line of copy is to get your reader to read the next line.
Short copy doesn’t build up to the next line. Long copy does.
4. Use the Power of Analogy in Your Facebook Ad Copy
“Like Jaws in Space.”
That’s how the people behind the movie Alien pitched it. They took something their audience knew and wanted more of… and they connected it to their new product. And it worked – they sold the script and got funding. Because analogies and similes are powerful in sales. They help people understand more quickly – they’re a shortcut for actual knowledge.
For example, if you asked me “What does a Pomelo taste like?” and I answered “Like a grapefruit but without the bitterness,” you’d get it.
Analogies make it easier to understand something new by invoking concepts you already know. I try to use analogies frequently in my Facebook ad copy. They’re an essential part of good storytelling. Here’s an example:
Note that I always try to address what an ad will be about in the first sentence; doing so keeps people engaged. You don’t want someone to read three paragraphs about running before they realize that it’s really about learning Spanish.
Make the analogy clear up front.
Analogies can work for any type of copy. If you saw a headline that read, “A typical bag of popcorn has 37 grams of saturated fat – 17 grams more than the USDA recommends in one day,” would you know just how much this was?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) made this quantity applicable to consumers’ everyday lives. In a 1992 press conference, they announced:
“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings—combined!”
That made the front pages of The Los Angeles Times and USA Today. The Washington Post wrote about it. And it was featured on CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN.
The public response was so strong, in fact, that movie theaters were forced to stop using coconut oil in order to keep up popcorn sales.
5. Write Facebook Ads Based on Common Mistakes or Rookie Mistakes
Let’s say you help people learn to cook Italian food.
You might want to run an ad addressing the common beginner’s mistake of adding pineapple to pizza or ketchup to pasta. (Yes, I got myself banned from Italy.)
Fixing common mistakes for your readers builds trust and demonstrates credibility while offering value. Here’s a Facebook ad that uses this strategy, highlighting simple mistakes and showing the fix.
6. Try Opening Your FB Ad with, “It’s a common misconception that…”
All industries are plagued by misconceptions that affect their image. It’s the reality of life.
If you’re able to address a misconception in your Facebook ad copy, you may clear up a customer’s conscious or subconscious objection. When addressing misconceptions, make sure to explain your stance and back it up with evidence and stories whenever possible. Here’s what this might look like:
7. Turn Your AMAs into Facebook Ad Copy!
Answer Questions You’re Always Asked
What’s one question you’re asked over and over? There’s got to be at least one.
Answering questions that your audience frequently asks will strike a chord with many members of your target audience, who almost certainly have the same Qs. It’s also another great chance to offer value to your audience and build a relationship with them early on. After all, for every person who dared ask a question, there are at least a thousand others who have wondered the same but never voiced it.
This is a high-converting ad we wrote to address a question we were asked regularly:
To start keeping a collection of these questions – so you can write endless ads that follow this technique – try:
- Emailing your list to ask them to submit their questions to you in a Typeform
- Updating your welcome / nurturing / onboarding sequence with an email that invites subscribers to send you their most burning question
- Adding a Typeform to your new subscriber or new customer thank-you page, asking people what they most want to learn from you
- Embedding a form in the bottom of your blog posts, inviting people to submit questions
- Hosting a Facebook ask-me-anything
8. Interview Your Clients and Use What They Tell You to Write FB Ads
When trying to come up with interesting copy, which would you rather do:
- Sit at a cat cafe, staring at a blank page, looking confused, eating a big hunk of cake, getting frustrated and eventually leaving to sob in your car as you cradle your foodbaby.
- Call up a client and ask them a question.
Reaching out to your clients offers a number of benefits. You can ask users how they’ve benefited from your product / service / solution and try to find out what made them convert in the first place. If you can, dig deep. You want to go beyond the general testimonial of, “He’s nice. I got good results.” You want specifics, and asking the right questions can help.
Some questions I like to ask include:
- What was it like before working with / finding our product?
- How did X help you?
- What mistake did you stop making after working with / finding our product?
- How did you address that mistake?
- What’s one new thing you learned, or one benefit you gained, and what difference did it make?
Dennis Yu is one of the most influential people in digital marketing and Facebook advertising, with clients like the Golden State Warriors, Rosetta Stone, Nike and Adidas. For one of his workshops, I asked if I could lend a helping hand with the copy. When he agreed, I immediately asked him to connect me with past students he’d mentored so I could interview them. Below is an example of Facebook ad copy I wrote as a result of those interviews:
Here’s the thing:
Everyone needs to stop thinking of writing copy as a sit-down-and-write exercise. Joanna says this all the time, and I think it’s very true.
Great copy takes what your prospect says / thinks… and puts it on the page. Your prospects then read the copy. And it feels like you’re inside their head. NOT because you’re a genius. But because you listened to them… you documented what they said… and you used it to write the ad they then read. It’s not about you. It’s not about your product. It’s all ALWAYS about your customer.
9. Stop Hiding What Makes You Unique
When working with clients, I play a little bit of devil’s advocate. I’ll mention that there are 875 other companies doing the same thing… why should anyone even consider you?
The other person will immediately get defensive and start listing unique selling points that show how they’re different. I always tell them that those unique selling points are the things they should be writing their Facebook ads about.
Facebook ads can be used to disqualify your competition, giving potential customers reasons to choose you instead. When you say the same thing as everyone else, your selling power weakens and your message is diluted. People assume you have nothing different to offer because surely you would have mentioned it otherwise.
As part of AdEspresso marketing services, I was asked one day to help a client whose ads needed optimizing: www.vivaluxe.com. This is a British brand that sells high-quality, made-to-measure Asian fashion.
During my call with the founder Jay, I asked: “There are lot of online and offline alternatives… what really makes you unique?”
Based on that question, he wrote the Facebook ad copy below:
Focused on differentiators, this particular campaign got £22.2 in revenues for each £1 spent on ads:
What’s unique about your product? Your team? Your service? Your location? Your facilities? Your process? Your motivation? Your story?
Why isn’t any of that guiding your Facebook ad copy?
10. Focus on the Individual-Level “Why” – Not a Generic, Vague Why – in Your Facebook Ad Copy
In 2017 approximately 19.8 million tourists visited London. That was 19.8 million people coming to the exact same place. And they all had different reasons for doing so. Some visited because there were more than 250 museums. Others came to shop. More still came for the food scene, or for business, or to see sites like Big Ben.
Your product or service will likely have many different use cases. It might solve different pain points that mean something different to each audience member.
Facebook ads are waiting to happen in each different use case.
When creating your Facebook ads, you need to consider the top five to 10 reasons that anyone might need your product or service. You then need to branch those reasons off into their own distinct ads. We did something like this for Vesna Hrsto, one of the top 10 naturopaths in Australia & New Zealand and a client of the AdEspresso concierge service.
Hrsto helps people suffering from adrenal imbalances.
One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue is weight gain. Some members of Hrsto’s audience will care about weight loss, others will care about feeling tired, others will care about being moody – the list goes on.
Among her many ads, she ran one about helping people have more energy.
That ad body copy focused not on ALL the whys… but just on one: being tired.
Not only did the ad get webinar registrations at $3.5/lead in the first week we launched it, but it also quickly generated five sales at a CPA of $90.58/sale – for a product that cost $497.
Does Long-Form Ad Copy Always Work, Then?
Long-form copy doesn’t work BECAUSE it’s long.
Short copy can work wonders for highly engaged fans… for high awareness audiences… for markets that are extremely sophisticated… and for smokin’ great offers on products people already know and love.
Long copy can work wonders for newer fans… for low awareness audiences… for unsophisticated markets and disruptive products… and when you need to move a reader through multiple stages of awareness to get to a paid offer.
But keep this in mind:
Crappy copy never works.
Boring copy never works.
Whether it’s short or long, your Facebook ad copy will not move people to yes if it does not engage them. That means:
- Use the techniques above
- Always write a strong hook
- Stop striving for short copy
- Follow the other copywriting lessons you’re learning on Copy Hackers
- Be strategic with your images and videos
PS: Worried about whether your long Facebook ad copy is compliant? Avoid FB ad account problems. Watch this Copy Hackers tutorial on how to write compliant Facebook ads