Episode 191: How Facebook’s Ad Delivery System Works: Part 2

Facebook's Ad Delivery System Part Two

Ralph and Molly are back with Part 2! Now that you understand Facebook’s ad delivery system, it’s time to explain what that means for your ad copy and creatives.

In this episode, we explain the 3 types of ads that currently work best with Facebook’s algorithm. We’ve included downloadable ad examples in the slides below that Molly will use to show how she creates ads that drive engagement and get favored in the algorithm.



  • Native ads—ads that fit in with the Facebook newsfeed—currently have the highest social proof
  • Molly breaks down the “Offer” Facebook ad strategy she uses to promote a docu-series and how she’s received 10,000+ shares and 22,000+ reactions on the ads
  • Molly talks about the “Conversation” Facebook ad strategy and how it can help you writes ads that create conversations and increase the social proof through user comments on the ad
  • Molly explains the “Tell A Story” strategy that she and Ezra Firestone use and why it has a high share-to-comment ratio


Team Traffic
Facebook Blueprint
Facebook’s Ad Policy
Facebook’s’ Policy on Low Quality or Disruptive Ads
Avoid Creating Negative Experiences with Ads on Facebook
Tier Eleven
Episode 144: Why This is Still the Best Time to Be a Facebook Marketer (Plus… Insights from Facebook’s NYC Office)
Episode 190: How Facebook’s Ad Delivery System Works: Part 1

Click Here to Download Slides

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(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)


Darren Clark:    You’re listening to Perpetual Traffic.

Ralph Burns:     Hello and welcome to the Perpetual Traffic podcast. This is Ralph Burns, your host. This is episode 191 and this is part two of our ongoing description of the Facebook ads delivery system. In episode 190, we got pretty technical and hopefully, you’ve gone back and maybe listen to that episode a couple of times. This stuff is pretty complicated, but the more you understand how Facebook, the algorithm, the auction, the delivery system itself really works, the better you can now understand how to create your ads, how to create your campaigns for the best outcomes that you want for your business.

Ralph Burns:     Just as a summary of what we discussed last week, the ad that wins the auction and get shown is the one with the highest total value. Understanding the three components of total value is what we discussed in episode 190. We talked about bidding, which is something that you can affect, lowest cost auto, lowest costs with bid cap, and then target cost, and then multiplied by estimated action rate, which is recent activity on the ad user characteristics, page history, ad set campaign account history, and then plus user value, which is your post click experience, your bounce rate.

Ralph Burns:     If they click immediately and then back click, that thing. You’re in feed experience what these people have actually done to organic and paid ads in the past as well as a number of other factors. To make this really clear for you, we’ve actually created a download over at Tier 11, no opt in required. Just go to tiereleven.com/191 and get your copy of the Facebook ads delivery system checklist where there’s visual of exactly what we’re talking about here.

Ralph Burns:     You can remember this when you’re creating your ads and make them as effective as you possibly can. Head over to tiereleven.com/191 and get your Facebook ads delivery system checklist. That’s Tier 11, T-I-E-R, spell out the number eleven.com/191. In part two here, Molly is going to be breaking down some of the ads that have been most effective that have leveraged this delivery system and have won lots of auctions exactly what we talked about in 90 so taking what we know in 190 and applying it here in episode 191 where she gives you the goods and some of the best performing ads she’s run in the last three to six months on the platform. So here’s part two.

Ralph Burns:     Molly, we’ve been talking to all this brainiac scientific stuff here on episode 190 all about the platform and how the delivery system really works and the auction and the brains that power it underneath everything, which we all collectively refer to as the algorithm. Now that we understand a little bit more, hopefully everyone understands a little bit more about the three aspects of total value, so how do we apply this? Like what have you seen in specifically recently, in the last three to six months? Cause we know nothing ever changes on Facebook.

Molly Pittman: Never.

Ralph Burns:     You’re doing the same thing today, you were two years ago.

Molly Pittman: Of course.

Ralph Burns:     What have you been seeing recently with all these signals and all these things that we talked about with user value and estimated action rates and all the things regarding the auction, what tactically should people be doing to make their ads more effective? And what have you found out recently?

Molly Pittman: Great question. I think it’s important to know that this of course, is always changing and now that we know the three parts of total value, which affects where you land in the auction, which affects your ad costs, which affects your impressions, you’re probably thinking, “Okay Molly, but what do these ads actually look like?” Like, what’s the copy? And what I’ve noticed the most over the past few months and really the past six months, is that Facebook is weighing social proof in a big, big way as we’ve been talking about but even more than I’ve ever seen before.

Molly Pittman: I think to again understand where we go with copy and creative, you have to know where we were. This used to be the wild, wild west is we keep saying and it was more like a day trading platform. By the way, I’m going to be talking through some different specific ads, and you can find my slides for this portion at digitalmarketer.com/podcast so that you can actually pull up the slides and look at the same ads that I’m looking at.

Molly Pittman: Right now, I’m looking at an ad that is of women who are models, they’re in bathing suits, it’s from a swimwear company, and it just says, “Don’t miss out on our most popular pieces. We want you looking your best this summer” with a URL to go by. When I saw this a few weeks ago, I felt like this was like the epitome of what used to work but doesn’t work anymore. To tell you what works now, I have to show you what doesn’t work. The reason for this is this looks like an ad and years ago it didn’t matter because Facebook didn’t have a mechanism to judge how much someone enjoy the user experience with your ad. Now, when an ad like this pops up, it’s not adding value to the end user’s life. It’s not entertaining them in any way.

Molly Pittman: Ads like these, they don’t get a lot of social, they don’t get a lot of engagement and therefore they usually don’t work very well because they’re showing up and they’re looking like an ad in the newsfeed, which again used to work because we didn’t have all of these fancy factors that go into this auction. And so, what I’m finding that’s working now is a term that’s been used for a long time in marketing, which is native ads, but I mean it in a different way than like an advertorial or a lot of people think of content distribution networks as ways to distribute native ads. What I’m talking about is pretty simple. It’s ads that fit in with the Facebook newsfeed, ads that people want to engage with in their newsfeed because if you run an ad that generates that social proof, generates that engagement it tells Facebook this is good, we are higher in the auction and we are happier marketers.

Molly Pittman: There are a few ways that I’ve seen this work. The first is when you are giving really good content first and really good value first through your offer and when that comes through in your ad, that can help you generate a lot of social proof. And so, what I mean by this is, let me give an example, I run ads for a lot of docuseries. The funnel is that people get 20 plus hours of free video content on a topic that they’re interested in and then we start to sell them other products that relate to that market. The ads that I’m looking at right now are two ads from Naomi Whittel that I ran earlier this year for a free docuseries on the Ketogenic diet.

Molly Pittman: When you see these ads, you’ll notice that there’s not a lot of selling going on. I’m not talking about the benefits of the Keto diet, anything like that, mostly because we’re in the health market, but also because I’m trying to play up the fact that this awesome docuseries completely free. And so you’ll see on these ads, we have crazy social proof. There’s 11,000 shares on one, there’s 8,000 shares on one, there’s 22,000 reactions on one, 13,000 reactions on the other, thousands of comments on each.

Molly Pittman: This social proof is telling Facebook that these ads are good and one of the main reasons that people are sharing this especially is because this viewing of this free docuseries seems very valuable to them. They see that as value, so they want to share it with their friends. It’s very similar to, like my mom sometimes will share different things on Facebook coupons or sales that companies are having because they want their friends to be in the know about this free new cool thing that they could also take advantage of it.

Ralph Burns:     Would you say this is user value, Molly?

Molly Pittman: I would say this is user value, Ralph.

Ralph Burns:     [inaudible 00:09:10] in there.

Molly Pittman: I would say it’s probably user value and could even be action rate too possibly depending, I don’t know how they calculate it, but I think it’s both honestly. And so, the main reason that this worked, and we were able to generate 50,000 leads and 12 days for around a dollar 20 a piece, which I’ve been seen prices like that and here’s on Facebook, especially in a market like this, a huge reason that that word is because this offer, this free docuseries is something of huge value and two more notes here. The creatives for both of these ads are actually three and a half minute trailers for the docuseries that if you watched those trailers, they’re standalone value in that three and a half minutes, you would learn something about the Keto lifestyle.

Molly Pittman: This creative in itself is standalone value. It’s not hugely salesy, it’s just a summary of this 20 plus hour docuseries. The first thing I want to point out about how to get more social proof is ads where you’re offer is very enticing to the end user, whether it’s coupons or lead magnets or webinars or however you’re giving value first, at the beginning of your customer journey, the more you can play up that value of course in your ad and display it, the more social proof you’re going to get because people want their friends to learn about it.

Ralph Burns:     When they click this ad they go to a page that then ask them opt in or is it delivered free from there?

Molly Pittman: Yeah, it’s direct to opt in.

Ralph Burns:     Right to opt in.

Molly Pittman: This goes right to opt in and I was optimizing for conversions and this campaign and just optimizing for leads.

Ralph Burns:     Simple. One thing I would add to that is now user value, cause we’re definitely talking about user value and estimated action rate, coming back to last week’s episode, but user value can be done in a lot of different ways too, like the first ad that you show and that you can get this at digitalmarketer.com/podcast, this is episode 191, is that if you are selling those bikinis, I kept forget if it was underwear bikinis but the point is if you are selling bikinis in your offer is so damn good, I wouldn’t say you don’t have to try as hard on your ad because we have seen offers like that work for example to get a bikini for like $7 or $5, something that’s ridiculously a great deal and provides a lot of value to the customer, once again it’s about value.

Molly Pittman: Yes, and back to that bikini ad, Ralph, they’re basically like, “Look good this summer. Shop our pieces” there’s no offer. If it would have been, “Buy one get one free” it would probably get a lot of engagement because people want their friends to learn.

Ralph Burns:     You got think about value, not just in one way, it’s throughout your ad copy, your creative, your images, your offer, what are you giving them? You give them an irresistible offer for something that probably is worth 30 or $40 and you give it to them for $7 and you have the back end to make up for it as an eCommerce company for example, that’s delivering a lot of value.

Molly Pittman: Is totally is.

Ralph Burns:     It’s going to be shareable. It’s going to be likable. People are going to comment on it, tag their friends, you name it, so keep going, this is great.

Molly Pittman: I love it, Ralph. This is the element I wanted to identify, they can help you get more shares. It’s your offer and how you play up your offer. If you know you have a really strong offer, like for example you’re leading with a lead magnet, those usually get a lot of engagement, that’s a great way to get more social proof. But I’ve got three ways and not everyone has an amazing offer to play up. The Bikini people could have still made the same offer of going to shop, but they could have done one of these other two things to generate more social proof.

Ralph Burns:     Most definitely

Molly Pittman: This second one, I’m actually going to stay here with Naomi’s ads because Naomi’s ads are all free really but the second is if your ad either the topic of the ad, like the ketogenic lifestyle or maybe a question that you pose in the ad, which I’ll show you an example of here in a second, if you can use your ad to start a conversation about something that’s also going to help you get a ton of comments. For example, here with Naomi, just the fact that she’s talking about the Keto diet, if you read these comments, you would die. It’s hilarious but it’s brilliant because people are commenting about that they’ve lost 70 pounds in the last two years because of Keto and they eat bacon every day and their granddaughters happier.

Molly Pittman: There’s these life stories about Keto in these comments, which is showing Facebook, “Wow, people really care about this” and then there’s also people that are saying the Keto diet isn’t good for you. This is something you shouldn’t be doing and you can’t create this for every business but there is a way to do it in a lot of situations, for example, as Ezra has a brand called BeeFriendly, which sells organic skincare.

Molly Pittman: I launched ads that talked about, I think it’s 251 different chemicals on average are in our day-to-day cosmetics. Most women don’t know that. But when you see that in your newsfeed, you’re like [inaudible 00:14:51] this is something that we should talk about and so this idea of conversation, let me show you another example. This was Ezra is most successful ad of 2018 from his brand boom and the reason for this is that he started a conversation while still being within Facebook’s terms of service.

Molly Pittman: It’s an ad for five makeup tips for women over 50, this goes to a presale article, which are five makeup tips for women over 50 which speaks to his audience and then of course pitches his cosmetic products. But instead of just saying, “Hey, go read these five makeup tips” when you check out this ad at digitalmarketer.com/podcast, you’ll see two times that he asked questions that were really strategic.

Molly Pittman: The ad starts out, “Quick makeup tip, do you use powder based cosmetics?” People are already commenting, “Yes I do” “No, I don’t.” “This is what I use.” “This is what I don’t use.” If you’re over 50, any powder-based cosmetics, even eye shadow can draw attention to any lines or texture you have on your face. Well, now people that do use powder-based and they’re over 50 are like, “No, that doesn’t do that to me” They’re commenting, that’s another conversation starter and then the headline of the ad says, “Ditch the eye shadow question?” So you’ve also got people commenting about that. I don’t use eyeshadow anyways.

Molly Pittman: This conversation starting can happen via you posing something that’s might be a controversial topic like the Keto diet or it could just come from asking questions like you see Ezra here are doing with boom, that will lead to more comments and to more social proof.

Ralph Burns:     I think what you’re trying to say is challenging popular perception or conventional wisdom. I think there’s a word in there, I’m trying to think of what it is, it’s controversial, is like, “Yes, you can do it this way” or “you could do it this other way.” So, for example, for Ketogenic, there’s plenty of people who have the Ketogenic Diet and love it and there’s many others that think it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world, is that divisive? Is that controversial? No, it’s differences of opinion but it’s healthy discussion that happens in the newsfeed, in the comments, just like this makeup tips for over 50.

Ralph Burns:     It’s like the conventional wisdom for makeup tips over 50 is women need to get rid of wrinkles, and boom, celebrates women with gray hair and maybe a few wrinkles and you’re beautiful no matter what your age is. So that’s counter intuitive, unconventional thinking that he’s sparking a conversation with his ad, which is exactly what you want and you don’t want it to be like hate speech or anything like that like something really, that’s something that’s somewhat divisive and lots of differing opinions, I think is a healthy debate on a platform like Facebook and Instagram.

Molly Pittman: Yeah. And I think that lives in every market is humans. We want to question things. And so, even if you aren’t taking a stance like Ezra is, for pro age, say you’re just selling dog training, you could ask a simple question like, “Do you walk your dog every day?” And then say, “Hey, did you know that dogs who are walked every day live two or three years longer on average?” Whatever the stat is, “Here’s my course” or “here’s this free lead magnet on how to walk your dog” Even if you’re not going against the status quo, even to just say something like, “Hey, do you walk your dog every day?” Because we’re trained when we read something to want to answer it.

Molly Pittman: Most people are scared to ask questions in ads because questions in Facebook ads have usually been used to like hit on a huge pain point, like, “Are you struggling with Blah, blah blah?” And most people aren’t going to comment, “Yes, I’m struggling with that” because this is a social platform but they will comment to tell you they use powder based cosmetics or that they walk their dog every day.

Ralph Burns:     You have to be really careful with those questions. It’s a question that we get all the time. Can you ask questions like that? Do you use powder based cosmetics is very different than do you have [inaudible 00:19:19]

Molly Pittman: Are you a Christian?

Ralph Burns:     Are you over 50? Are you Christian? Are you African American? African American and single? That’s a policy violation.

Molly Pittman: [inaudible 00:19:29].

Ralph Burns:     Personal attributes, race, creed, gender, any of that that calls out those types of questions, that is not good. Refresh yourself on the Facebook policy cause those policies are updated pretty frequently. I know who’ve talked about them quite a bit. Be careful with your questions, make them provocative but not against terms of service and where that fine line is, these ads right here definitely balanced the two things and they stay on the right side of policy but also get you the results that you’re looking for as far as user value goes in this total equation of how to get better results out of your Facebook ads this provides that and it creates a conversational platform for people to discuss it as well as the products itself and the tips that are delivered here are of high value as well. May we keep using that word, keep using value, value, value over and over again.

Molly Pittman: It matters more than we will ever know.

Ralph Burns:     For sure.

Molly Pittman: Cool. The first is your author and people wanting to share that with others. This second is asking questions and starting conversations on your ads to generate more social proof while still being within terms of service and then the third way that I’ve seen work really well, especially in terms of ad copy and making it really native, is telling a story. I think that there’s something about a story, whether it’s told by a personal brand or a brand brand, I’ll show you guys two examples. There’s something about stories that people can really get behind and stories also look very native in the newsfeed because we’re used to seeing posts of friends telling stories. The ads that I’m looking at right now are two ads that I ran for a Webinar that Ezra and I did a few weeks ago.

Molly Pittman: One of them is just my story of how I came into marketing and I transitioned that story into why they should sign up for the Webinar. The other ad is a story about how I generated 50,000 leads for Naomi actually at a dollar 25 a piece and how I wanted to tell them how I was able to do this. These are two different examples of telling stories. One is more a personal, one is more a story about what I’m going to teach them but I think what’s important here is the language. I could have run ads that were like join my webinar this Thursday. You’ll learn bullet point, bullet point, bullet point, bullet point, sign up here. That looks like an ad when you look at these ads, these look like posts in my newsfeed, so much that a guy left a comment, I won’t read the whole thing, but he said, I’m sitting here at subway and I legit started reading this ad is a friend’s post, not even questioning if I had a friend named Molly.

Molly Pittman: When I read the 50,000 part, I thought, “Oh, that’s nice for her, man, I hope she really does good this year.” Her and the guy looked like nice folks. I feel bad that I don’t remember them, which is weird because I don’t have many Facebook friends, I should remember meeting them. These are the types of ads that are working and even if you’re a brand, it doesn’t have to be a personal brand, but this next ad is from the games a little bit weird, but the game is called hunt a killer. It’s like a board game that couples can play together and I saw this ad actually my friend John saw this ad in his newsfeed and he sent it to me. He’s like, “Molly, his is the perfect example of a native ad” and notice the creative.

Molly Pittman: Notice the creatives on my ads that I ran with Ezra. Those are just photos that we took over the last year. We never meant for those to be ads. They don’t have text overlaid on top of them to scream, “Hey, I’m an ad.” Not that that doesn’t necessarily work anymore, but this is what’s working, this hunt a killer ad. This looks like a couple that I might be friends with. John said he stopped in his newsfeed because he was like, “Oh, what is this? My friends are announcing something” and you can see the amount of shares down here.

Molly Pittman: This is more of a creative example and not necessarily a story example but one more example and then I’ll stop in terms of how a brand can still tell a story, Ralph and so these are from a client I worked with last year, a panda planner, and you guys will see that all I did is I took stories, one for a mom Avatar, one for more of an Avatar of someone who’s dealing with anxiety and all I did was I took their story, the mom, her life is more organized because of panda planner. Now she has one place to keep doctors appointments.

Molly Pittman: These are pretty long ads. They’re not the brand story. Usually consumers don’t care very much about brand story because they know brands are going to tell them something but if a brand shows up in they’re telling a story about a person and you can see we’ve even got images, these customers took these photos on their own, these are personal looking photos, they can give behind this and the relevance score. I took this right when this launched, but this one on the left, 27 shares to 58 reactions even right out of the gate, we had a really strong shared to reaction ratio.

Molly Pittman: Even if you’re a brand, you can tell a story. You just tell the story about your customers, but don’t make it a testimonial. Make it an actual story about stuff that this market cares about or that they might be struggling with. The moms, they’re struggling keeping up with appointments, school activities, all of this, this person was struggling with anxiety and in the middle of a divorce, a bunch of things that have nothing to do with this planner but the planner helps solve the problem.

Ralph Burns:     These are great ads and I think you can use this for good or you can also use it diabolically as well and I think our audience is savvy enough to know the difference between the two. Those are really personal stories in those ads if [inaudible 00:25:40] make this approach or take this approach, especially for the ones that you did for Train my Traffic Person, that story is true.

Ralph Burns:     Make sure that it’s true to begin with and that’s really, really important and I think a lot of people think that when they’re running Facebook ads, they have to have super ultra high quality images and many times that we started seeing this about a year and a half ago to two years ago and I still see some of our customers using these, is native images and it’s not the ones that you would think that even look like Facebook ads because they blend into the newsfeed to stand out and I think you’ve got a couple of great examples here as well as some other ones that are a little bit more highly produced. You got to test them all but what we found is the ones that are sort of the least professional tend to work the best and our experience as well.

Molly Pittman: Of course. We just wanted to cover guys, not only how the algorithm, auction, ad delivery system, whatever we want to call it, how that works, but what that also for what’s your ads actually look like? So with creative, this actually makes Facebook creatives a lot easier because there’s not as much production not that the produce ones don’t still work, but we don’t have to do as much production as we used to, but especially on the copy side, the hook side, whatever you want to call it, really focus on, playing up one of those three areas.

Molly Pittman: Do you have an amazing offer that you really want to play up so that people share with their friends? Which by the way, don’t ask people directly to comment or share on an ad that’s against terms of service, but an offer that is so good and such high value, Ralph, that they want to share. Number two, how can you start a conversation, whether it’s a simple question or whether it’s something a bit more controversial or against the normal way of thinking and then thirdly, is there a story you can tell about yourself or your customer that your audience might relate with that can really help you in terms of increasing this total value that we’re looking to increase so that we can be higher in the auction and get better overall results?

Ralph Burns:     Absolutely. This is the tactics of it. This is really solid. This is far more important today, especially in the last year or so ever since Zuckerberg’s announcement in 2018 that the Facebook algorithm will prioritize meaningful interactions with friends and family over content from brands, so that means that the brands need to be more meaningful and deliver higher user value than ever before and that’s probably the reason why a lot of advertisers had some challenges in 2018 and continue to do so in 2019 because they might be going more for the direct sale or more for like the in your face approach as opposed to really creating some value like the examples that you gave here so this is really, really good.

Molly Pittman: Awesome. Thank you so much Ralph. Actually guys, a few weeks ago, Ezra and I launched a monthly membership for media buyers called Team Traffic, you can learn more at teamtraffic.com. There are a bunch of really cool deliverables that will help you with ongoing education for your media buying journey but what’s really important about this group is that every month, we’re talking about what’s working right now because this stuff changes so fast. We keep you is up to date as we can here on Perpetual Traffic, but sometimes we need to go more in depth. If you’re interested, check out teamtraffic.com, we’d love to have you on the team.

Ralph Burns:     Team traffic.

Molly Pittman: Team traffic.

Ralph Burns:     This has been great. This comes to a conclusion here of how this whole delivery system work. We’ve studied some theory as well as some of the science and some of the nuts and bolts and the physics of it as well as the real application of it here with these ads. Really good stuff here, Molly and we’ll continue to update this because guys, this is constantly changing. Like I said, a year ago it’s changed, two years ago it’s changed. We’ll continue to give you the most useful and relevant insights that we have running real traffic to increase the effectiveness of your ads. This has been episode 191 of the Perpetual Traffic podcast.

Ralph Burns:     Make sure that you go to digitalmarketer.com/podcast and download all the resources that we mentioned here in this episode. Molly, any closing thoughts on this very lengthy discussion on the platform on the ad platform?

Molly Pittman: No, this is just been really fun, and we appreciate you guys listening. As always, I can’t imagine more important information for Facebook advertisers. Share this with your friends please, it helps us and watch this a few times. Watch both of these episodes a few times to make sure you truly understand how this works and we’ll see you guys next week.

Ralph Burns:     Let’s do it. See you.

Darren Clark:    You’ve been listening to Perpetual Traffic. For more information and to get the resources mentioned in this episode, visit digitalmarketer.com/podcast. Thank you for listening.

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)