How to Track Your Competitors' Ads and Retargeting Campaigns

By Tom Benattar | 6 Mar 2019

Everybody likes quick and easy tips. And you’re about to see a few of the simplest tricks in the book. Seriously.

No magic, just a little bit of knowledge that you (probably) don’t already have.

The goal? To see how your competitors use Facebook ads. If you’re a Facebook ads user, you may be looking for fresh ideas. And seeing how your competitors approach the service is a great way to get them.

In a couple of clicks, you’ll know:

  • What they’re trying to achieve. Are they sharing content, looking for signups, or offering discounts?
  • How they write copy. It’s helpful to see the tone they use, and what they put on their calls-to-action.
  • Their visual style. Does it match their website, or do they have something different for Facebook ads?

Just choose a few key competitors, follow these steps, and make a quick inventory of their ads. Then, gather your marketing team and work on beating them at their own game!

Now, let’s do this.

1. How to see your competitors’ social ads

This first tip is almost embarrassingly simple. Hopefully, you’ve never actually paid for this information.

Because the truth is, a company’s Facebook ads are right there for the world to see. Not just in your feed, but on their own page.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Find your competitor’s Facebook page

  2. Click on "Info and Ads" towards the bottom-left of the page:

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Then, look at all the ads!

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It really is astonishingly simple. Facebook made it this way to make the platform more transparent for users. And now marketers get to benefit as well!

2. How to see your competitors’ Facebook retargeting campaigns

This strategy is also very simple, although not quite as foolproof as the last one. The only problem with it is you have to actually see one of your competitors’ ads in your feed first.

There are a few simple ways to make this more likely, of course:

  • Regularly visit their website. Which is a good idea if you want to know what they’re building and who they target.
  • Download a piece of content. Hopefully they’ll retarget you on Facebook, but you’ll definitely get to see their email nurturing campaigns in the meantime.
  • Sign up for something. Or heck, even buy. You may want to do this anonymously, of course.

Then, just pay close attention to your Facebook feed (or sometimes even your Instagram feed). Once you spot a competitor’s ad, here’s what you do:

  1. Click the three little dots at the top right of the ad. Then select "Why am I seeing this?"

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  1. Facebook tells you the main demographic reasons you were targeted:

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It may take you a little while to be able to see through the coded language Facebook uses. For example, here’s another targeted Facebook ad:

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This is actually a custom “lookalike” audience. Facebook lets ad buyers upload their customer lists and then target other Facebook users with similar characteristics.

So this ad isn’t aimed at existing Braun customers, but rather other users who look like Braun customers.

You can repeat this strategy for any ads you find on your feed - competitor or not.

3. Bonus tip!

This one’s completely non-technical - not that the strategies above are particularly tricky.

Want to know how other brands in your industry structure their campaigns? It’s deliciously simple. Every time you see an ad from a competitor, just click on it and see what they wrote in the UTM tag!

For example, here’s one from Officevibe - a Slack tool that helps companies poll their employees:

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And here’s the link: https://www.officevibe.com/why-officevibe?utm_medium=paid&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=retargeting-always-on-mkg-signup&utm_adgroup=productexccontent&utm_content=howteamfeels

The campaign name is “retargeting-always-on-mkg-signup.” Honestly, most of that doesn’t mean much to me.

But it’s true that I’ve signed up for Officevibe through a Slack channel I’m a member of. Now I’m being retargeted to, probably because I personally don’t pay anything for the service.

They could be retargeting users during the onboarding to help them complete the signup process. Or more likely, they know that I signed up but haven’t logged in for a while.

Either way, it’s interesting that they’re retargeting users who’ve signed up. Many companies only use retargeting for users who’ve never completed a form (as a way of generating brand new leads). As a competitor, this is an approach I might want to test.

Here’s one from Hootsuite, a social media company you probably already know all about:

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The link: https://signuptoday.hootsuite.com/pro-emea-eng-br-pplans/?utm_campaign=selfserve-alwayson-prospecting-emea--ner-fr-pua----&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paid_social

The URL contains the phrase “pro EMEA eng” which may not mean a huge amount to you. But I’m writing this from France, which is of course in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia). And my Facebook is set to English.

Hootsuite clearly has a specific campaign to target English-first users in Europe. If I were a competitor, I’d already be looking into what makes that a valuable segment for them.

Why should you care how your competitors use Facebook ads?

Not everyone is a fan of “spying” on the opposition. Some businesses prefer to focus on their own strategy and let their competitors do the same. Every minute they spend thinking about other companies is a minute they’re not thinking about their own.

And for others, the whole idea is just a little icky.

But if that’s you, it’s really just a matter of mindset. You don’t have to beat the opposition - there doesn’t always have to be a winner and loser.

Instead, think about making your own marketing more effective. And the more good ideas you have, the better it’ll be.

And there are few more things to remember:

  1. This information is there for you and everyone else to see on Facebook. It’s not supposed to be a secret.
  2. This doesn’t have to be nasty. You simply want to learn from other businesses who’ve had success. And if it works for your competitors, it’ll probably work for you too.
  3. You don’t have to limit yourself strictly to competitors. Choose businesses you admire and would like to emulate.

In the end, we’re all trying to do the same thing: reach potential customers and help them discover our products. And every little bit helps.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Three quick tips to help you learn how your competitors use Facebook ads and retargeting.

This should give you new ideas for your own campaigns, and perhaps even help you identify different market segments to attract.

The idea isn’t to study their every move like a hawk. Instead, think about how you can make your own campaigns even more effective, based on what others are doing around you.

After all, social media advertising relies on good market segmentation and a lot of testing. So test out one of these ideas for yourself, and see how it helps.

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