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How To Split Test (For Brands On A Budget)

Victoria Greene

Oct 26, 2018

Crafting the perfect social ads can be a challenge. Emulating the success of big brands such as Pepsi or Oreo might seem impossible, and nailing the perfect social ad formula often feels like an arcane art. But those campaigns are the result of careful, diligent split testing, chopping and changing to find the social ad that works best. And you don’t need to throw hundreds of your precious dollars at expensive A/B testing methods. Let me break down how even brands on a budget can split test their way to social ad success.

Take advantage of free tools and trials

There is an abundance of tools and apps available online that make it easy for brands of any size to split test their social ads. Many of them are free as well, providing brands with rudimentary A/B testing capabilities. Facebook even includes a split testing function in its social ads option.

However, these only stretch so far for businesses, and you may be left wanting more. If that’s the case, then it’s worth shopping around to find a social ad testing solution that offers a free trial instead. These usually last for around two weeks, and it gives you a chance to spot-test some of your most important campaigns straight away.

And ultimately, if at the end of your free trial you find yourself bereft without the tool (and you can afford it), why not buy it? It will help you tailor your social campaigns further down the line. And if it eventually nets you higher sales and engagement further down the line, it will pay for itself.

And to keep costs down even more, why not partner up with a fellow business owner and go halves on a tool? By sharing logins for the same tool, you can both benefit from split testing at a fraction of the cost.

Start big, then go granular

When you’re split testing on a budget, it’s worth looking to cheap tools and free trials in a bid to save money. But you can cut costs just as easily simply by making considerate choices in how you split test your ads, specifically by making big changes with an aim to go granular.

Start by making big changes to your ads, and then make progressively smaller alterations based on A/B test responses. For example, if you find that consumers respond better to pain points rather than social proof, follow that avenue and change the different types of pain points in future social ads.

Simply making mindful choices in your split tests can help you get more bang for your buck, keeping costs down while maximizing your potential return.

Focus on the core components of your ad

If you’re a perfectionist — and in the world of digital marketing, it pays to be — then it’s easy to get lost down the proverbial rabbit hole when you’re tweaking your ads. But while small changes can affect the efficacy of some social ads, agonizing over the perfect shade of cyan for your legal small print won’t pay off in the long run (especially if you’re on a budget).

Instead, focus on making big changes to your ads. Look at your social ad holistically, rather than putting it under a microscope. While making smaller alterations can certainly impact your social ad’s success, these kind of granular adjustments are only really best made by those with the time and money to do so.

It’s therefore worth making bigger changes to your social ads to gauge their success from a broader perspective. For example, altering the content of your ad’s background image can have a drastic effect on its success, say by using a high-quality photo of a human being instead of a generic graphic. Check out the example from e-commerce knowledge platform Kajabi, below:

The difference between a stripped-back, minimalist graphic and a shot of a smiling woman is striking. Such a big change can have a huge effect on how your ad is received.

And this extends to your copy as well. A drastic overhaul of your title, copy, or call-to-action will give you a greater insight into your customers’ minds than small tweaks.

Start small with your budget

One of the many benefits of social ads is that you can easily control how much you spend on your campaigns. Brands can cap their social ad spend to suit their own budgets, making it easy to test the waters without having too much of a negative impact on your finances.

But when do you know how to up your budget when you’ve got that perfect social ad? As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to set target milestones for yourself.

For example, the average conversion rate for Facebook ads is 9.21% (across all industries). Rather than throwing money at your ads, limit your budget until you hit that milestone.

This method is especially effective if you’re dipping your toe into the world of e-commerce for the first time. Being cautious with your social ad budget is vital when you’re building up an online store for the first time — or indeed if you’re buying a new business entirely. Exchange displays many online businesses for sale from sellers who are often looking for someone to scale them with a considered social ad strategy. It’s a tactic that nets significant gain, especially when executed with care and caution.

Such a tentative approach lets you grow your new business incrementally, preventing you from sinking money into it blindly. Ultimately, you will have to spend money on split testing. But by being cautious and considerate with how and where you spend it, you can A/B test effectively while sticking to your budget.

Split testing is an effective way of fine-tuning your social ads, ensuring you maximize the return on your financial (and temporal) investment. But you don’t need to set aside big brand-level budgets to emulate big brand-level success. With careful budgeting, savvy use of free trials, and considered tweaks to your social ads, you can perform split testing that’s both effective and affordable.

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