What actually is the Facebook learning phase? Know the factors that impact the learning phase? Dos and Don’ts!

A few years ago, Facebook rolled out the “Learning Phase” which visibly shows up in the ad set’s view under the delivery status column. The term “learning” pertains to the learning activity of the Facebook AI bot that uses machine learning (ML) to deliver ads. Facebook has migrated to a very complicated self-learning algorithm that deliver ads to the right audience thereby optimising the advertiser’s goal but maintaining the experience of the users.

When does the learning phase start and when does it end?

The learning phase immediately starts when a campaign is newly set up or a new ad set is added to an existing campaign and continues up to 7 days based on the attribution window that is set. Recently, Facebook has reduced the default attribution setting from 30 days to 7 day click or 1-day view, because it believes that if a campaign achieves 50 optimisation events within this time frame it will simply not deliver the desired results. It is an indication that the advertiser should make relevant edits to the campaign for better results. An optimisation event in simple terms is a goal that your campaign wants to achieve. It could be clicks, landing page views, leads or conversions. The faster you complete the learning phase the better your campaign will perform in terms of optimisation events (goals set). Therefore, it is advised not to edit a campaign significantly during this phase.

Can I or should I edit a campaign during the learning phase?

The simple answer is that you shouldn’t alter any campaign settings, because if you do the learning may reset and it will start all over again thus wasting precious campaign time. If it’s a time sensitive campaign, it will impact your time to market.

There may be instances when an advertiser is tempted to edit the campaign during the learning phase such as the ones below, 

  • He simply cannot wait for 7 days to edit when he/she is assured that an important parameter was missed out during the setup phase which in most cases is the audience targeting.
  • CPAs are running at an extremely high cost.
  • The learning phase is painfully slow.

Small edits are fine but significant changes should not be done. To know what Facebook considers as significant edits read on.

How should I edit the campaign during the learning phase without affecting the learning progress of the campaign?

It is always safer to clone the existing ad set in the original campaign and make whatever edits need to be done and run both the ad sets alongside and monitor the costs.

How to exit the learning phase quickly?

As discussed previously, the faster you move out of the learning phase the quicker your campaign will be built for delivery. The creative and target audience are the two most important factors at play. Once they resonate with one another, the Facebook AI bot takes into consideration your bid and budget and works with a multiplier effect. It is for this very reason that the budget that you set should be in multiples of the CPA. It is always advisable to front load your budgets in the learning phase so that you can the learning phase faster. For example, if you set your cost control at an amount “A” then your budget should be “n” times A. The ideal budget would be 20 X A. Once the learning phase is successfully exited, the budget can be strategically reduced to adjust with your business targets. Please note that adjusting bids and budgets are not considered as significant changes and will not reset the learning phase provided the reduction is done in smaller proportions. Up to +/-5-10% is fine but +/-50 or 100% would be significant.

What factors will impact the campaign’s learning phase?

The following significant edits can impact the learning phase: 

  • Any change to targeting
  • Any change to ad creative
  • Any change to optimisation event
  • Adding a new ad to your ad set
  • Pausing your ad set for seven days or longer (the ad set re-enters the learning phase once you unpause the ad set)
  • Changing bid strategy 

Note: When using campaign budget optimisation, switching your campaign bid strategy might cause multiple ad sets within the campaign to re-enter the learning phase.

A change to any of the following areas may or may not be significant, depending on the magnitude of the change: 

  • Ad set spending limit amount
  • Bid control, cost control or ROAS control amount
  • Budget amount 

Note: When using campaign budget optimisation, adjusting your campaign budget might cause multiple ad sets within the campaign to re-enter the learning phase.

What is learning limited and how do I fix it?

When the Facebook AI bot cannot achieve the 50 optimisation events it will hint as “learning limited” under the delivery column. Here are some simple hacks to get rid of “learning limited”

  • Combine ads sets and campaigns
  • Expand your audience
  • Raise your budget
  • Raise your bid or cost control
  • Change your optimisation event

So, we hope to have helped you from a lot of guess work when dealing with the Facebook learning phase and saved those wasted go to market hours. Let me know in the comments below if you have questions or share your experiences with your Facebook campaign’s learning phase.

What is the right amount of bid cap or cost cap should you set for your business on Facebook?

When you look at the Facebook ads manager self-service platform for the first time you may feel a little intimidated by the bid strategy models displayed and wonder what they actually mean and as a result you try and refer the Facebook strategy guide but it doesn’t really tell you how much to bid and what strategy is to be followed for a particular business.

Facebook offers two types of bidding strategies;

  • Cost cap – Best for getting volumes
  • Low cost (with or without bid cap) – Best for controlling bids in the auction when a bid cap is set

The Low cost bidding strategy is an automated bidding model which can get expensive and campaign managers should not be deceived just by the name of it. If you do not set a cost control which in this case is a bid cap, campaign costs can run extremely high and it may affect the overall profitability of the campaign. But if you do set a manual bid cap then profitability of any campaign can be adjusted.

The second method of Cost cap will give high volumes but the spends may be slower than when using lowest cost; if you do not have strict CPA goals and care more about spending your budget, try lowest cost. The learning phase may take longer to exit than the other bid strategy, during which time, costs may exceed your cap; however, delivery should stabilise after exiting learning.If you typically observe conversions over a much longer window than seven days post click, you may observe stronger fluctuation in spend and CPA, but performance should stabilise over time.

Facebook has clearly mentioned that bid cap and cost cap amounts are not the same thing. Do not confuse these with Google bid caps too. Google bidding is based on clicks which eventually leads to a larger action (lead, conversion etc), but Facebook bidding is based on the amount you’re ready to pay for the final action itself.

So then what is the right strategy for your business? What is the right bid cap that you should be setting? What is the cost cap amount for your business? There are no straight answers to this, but yes Facebook still gives results at a very low cost as compared with other ad platforms when done correctly, hence many advertisers still prefer Facebook as a go to platform.

So let’s attempt to get answers to all of these questions!

  1. What is the right bid strategy for your business?

 If you’re starting out a fresh campaign and do not know what cost controls to set (bid cap or cost cap), the Low cost model without a bid cap would be your best bet. Please do not set cost controls right away, this will result in under delivery of campaigns if you bid too low. Facebook will initially try to learn about the audience and creative engagement rate metrics (quality, engagement and conversion) and provide the lowest cost possible but with time, the CPA generally increases and affects profitability. Say you’ve run this campaign for a period of 7 days with a similar window of attribution, you will have enough data to arrive at a cost cap. The cost cap amount is equal to your average CPA or cost per result.  This gives you a good benchmark for your business to work with and to optimize from there.

2. What is the cost cap amount that you should set?

Assuming your average CPA is at INR 200, your cost cap should be set anywhere >INR 200. Normally, +25% i.e. INR 250 should be a sweet spot. Not matter how large the amount you set, you’ll be paying only one paise higher that the competing advertiser in that auction.This amount can now be used to update the existing bid strategy of the current campaign from low cost to cost cap with a cost control set at 250. All new campaigns should be created with this benchmark in mind.

Do not set a cost cap to low but you should set it high enough to get quality performance from your campaigns. With the right amount set it will give Facebook an opportunity to deliver as well as maintain campaign goal quality.

3. What is the right bid amount?

 If you decide to run a Low cost bid strategy with a bid control, start with a bid of INR 10 and keep increasing it in multiples of 10 (10,20,30….) until Facebook shows you the estimation of your campaign goals you want to achieve on a daily basis. In the example below, for a bid of INR 200, I can reach 26K people from my audience daily and get up to 12 conversions.

So, we hope to have helped you from a lot of guess work in setting Facebook cost controls and saved those wasted $$$ in ad spends from extremely high costs. Let me know in the comments below if you have questions or share your views on how you control costs on Facebook.