Split-testing fundamental to success, says IHG

Hotel chain's director of marketing talks about how the brand is using data to improve its social media marketing strategy

If marketers aren’t running split-testing on Facebook ads, they're not doing Facebook correctly.

That was the message from director of marketing at InterContintental Hotels Group (IHG), Lee Siefken, at ADMA’s Data Day 2018.

Lee said given the importance of mobile and social media media in today’s marketing environment, both from a B2B and a B2C standpoint, a split-test approach is fundamental.

“A rule of thumb is never ever run one campaign with one creative because you are leaving money on the table. If you’re not doing this [split-testing], you’re not doing Facebook ads correctly. It’s fundamental,” Lee said.

“As an example, you’re running a campaign and you’ve built yourself a series of three audiences based off your audience profiles. You know enough about your audience to know what creative works. But I can guarantee you, you need to have three or four different creative formats; there needs to be a number of different options.

“So pick your audience, then use three different images, and that’s one test. Then, decide on an audience and have one image and three different types of copy. Create a series. Don’t go too out of control, but make sure you’re testing the areas you know have the greatest impact, and that are going to have the greatest result."

Testing also requires optimisation. Lee recommended assessing performance after a couple of days via data and evolve accordingly.

"Make sure you test creative format as well: Video, static image, carousel. As much as I’m the biggest video champion in the history of marketing, I’ve done tests where I will invest huge money to create videos and then I run splits tests, and the static image out performs the video," she said. 

“That’s the importance of split-testing. You can’t argue with the data, it just reinforces you have to test and give different options, because sometimes the result will surprise."

IHG uses this data to reinforce mobile and social media. Similarly, Lee advised using the data within your business to build a more powerful Facebook advertising strategy.

“You can build really powerful audiences and align with what you do on social with what you do with your normal loyalty strategy,” she explained.

“Use data to increase targeting and personalisation, and looking through a data lens. Once you load that data into Facebook, you can have the best audience in the world. One of the magical things about that platform  is it allows you to test different audiences, as well as call-to-action and creative."

Split-testing and data-driven optimisation have "been enormously effective" for IHG, Lee said. "Facebook is without doubt one of the most powerful channels. But it doesn’t work in isolation, it has to work within a broader strategy," she said. "But if you were trying to really break in and make a difference on mobile and social, this is one of the golden bullets.

“Of course, you can have the best audience in the world, but creative is fundamental... if you want to run a social campaign, you can’t without a great grasp of copywriting and creative execution, which is very difficult. Because how do you find someone who is analytic and who can also make great creative and great copy?

“The changing face of marketing is wonderful, measurability makes it easier to show ROI in many ways, but it is challenging the skillset of today’s marketer." 

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