A/B testing on social media is a powerful tool for making the best ads for your specific situation.
A/B testing goes back to the days before the internet. Direct-mail marketers used it to conduct small tests on a fraction of their contact lists before committing to the massive cost of printing and mailing a full campaign.
On social media, A/B testing produces insights in real-time. When you make it a regular part of your social media campaign, you can refine your strategies on the fly.
This article will help you understand what A/B testing is and how to make it work for your brand.
No matter how much research you do, not every marketing campaign will get positive results.
That’s why A/B testing is a fantastic method to calculate the best online promotional and marketing strategies for your business.
It can be used to test everything from website copy to sales emails. This allows you to find the best-performing version of your campaign before spending your entire budget on marketing materials that don’t work. While A/B testing can be time-consuming, its advantages are enough to offset the time investment.
What is A/B Testing?
A/B testing (also known as split testing) applies the scientific method to your marketing strategy. In it, you test small variations in your social media content to find out the content that best reaches your audience.
To perform A/B testing, also known as split testing, you separate your audience into two random groups. Each group is then shown a different variation of the same ad. After that, you compare the responses to determine which variation works better for you.
Depending on your social media strategy, you can use different metrics to measure success in the way that’s most relevant to you.
When doing this kind of social testing, be sure to change just one element in the two variations. You’re measuring your audience’s reaction to the entire ad. If you vary the image and the headline, for example, then you won’t know which is responsible for the differences in your two ads’ reception. If you want to test a lot of elements, you’ll have to conduct multiple tests.
Why do A/B testing on social media?
A/B testing is important because it helps you figure out what works for your specific context. There are lots of studies that look at what the most effective marketing strategies are in general. General rules are a great place to start, but general best practices aren’t always the best in every situation. By doing your own tests, you can turn general ideas into specific results for your brand.
Here are a few other benefits to running regular A/B tests on your website and marketing materials:
- They help you understand your target audience: When you see what types of emails, headlines, and other features your audience responds to, you gain insight into who your audience is and what they want.
- Higher conversion rates: A/B testing is the single most effective way to increase conversion rates. Knowing what works and what doesn’t gives you actionable data that can help you streamline the conversion process.
- Stay on top of changing trends: It’s hard to predict what type of content, images, or other features people will respond to. Testing regularly helps you stay ahead of changing consumer behavior.
- Reduce bounce rates: When site visitors see content they like, they stay on your site longer. Testing to find the type of content and marketing materials your users like will help you create a better site — and one that users want to stay on.
Ultimately, you’ll be regaining control of your marketing strategies. No more closing your eyes, pressing the “send” button, and merely hoping your customers will respond.
How Do You Plan an A/B Test?
The first thing to do when planning an A/B test is figure out what you want to test. Are you running an on-site test, or an off-site test?
If you’re running an on-site test, you’ll want to think of all the sales-related pieces of your website, and then figure out which elements to split test.
You might test:
- calls to action text
- calls to action location
- pop ups
- featured images
- the number of fields in a form
With off-site tests, you’re probably testing either an ad or a sales email. Testing ad copy to see which ad drives more conversions can help you focus your advertising efforts. Once you know your ad is converting as well as possible, it’s easier to justify spending more money on it.
The same goes for emails. Send out two versions to your list (randomly selecting which half gets which email), and then track which one converts better. With emails, you can adapt your structure, email subject line, images used, or even your offers.
Knowing what your audience responds best to allows you to write more effective emails in the long run. Once you know what marketing material you want to A/B test, make a list of all the variables. If you’ve decided to test your call to action, you might test:
- the location
- the exact text used
- the button color or surrounding space
A/B testing is a whole process, and it’s common for multiple split tests to be performed prior to making your final decision.
How to run an A/B test on social media
The basic process of A/B testing has remained the same for decades: test small variations one at a time to discover what works best right now for your current audience.
Before you start split testing, make sure you have a clear idea of the results you’re looking for. You should already know your baseline result, which is the results you’re currently getting. You want to test options A and B against each other, but you also want to know that whichever one does better in the test is also doing better than your current results.
Here’s an A/B testing checklist to review before running your first test:
- Decide what feature you want to test.
- Create two versions of the same ad, landing page, app, etc.
- Decide how long your test will run. I suggest at least two weeks, but it may be longer or slightly shorter depending on your traffic and industry.
- Choose a testing tool to help you run your test (more on that later).
- After a couple of weeks, take a look at the results. Which version won?
- Rinse and repeat. A/B testing is most effective when done continually.
Top Elements to Test Using A/B Testing
You can test virtually anything in your marketing materials or on your website: headlines, CTAs, body copy, images, navigation bar placement, etc. If you can change it, you can test it.
That doesn’t mean you should spend months testing every little thing. Instead, focus on changes most likely to have a big impact on traffic and conversions.
On your website, this likely includes:
- The Headline
- your CTA
- any graphic you use in direct correlation to your sales efforts
- the sales copy or product descriptions
- featured image
- button size and placement
In an email, you might test the title, images, links, CTAs, or segmenting options. In a paid ad, especially a text ad (like a search ad), you have fewer things to change, so you might test the main headline, the offer, image, or targeting.
Best Practices for A/B testing to keep in mind
Social media marketing tools make it easy to generate lots of data about your audience, but lots of data isn’t the same thing as lots of insight. These best practices will help you
Know what your social media goals are
A/B testing is a tool, not an end in itself. When you have an overarching social media strategy, you can use social testing to move your brand towards goals that are relevant to your overall business plan.
Have a clear question in mind
The most effective A/B tests are ones that respond to a clear question. When designing a test, ask yourself “why am I testing this particular element?”
Learn the basics of statistics
Even if you don’t have a background in quantitative research, a little bit of knowledge about the math behind your social testing will go a long way.
If you’re familiar with concepts like statistical significance and sample size, you’ll be able to interpret your data with more confidence.
AJ Graphics can help you manage your next social media A/B test. Schedule your posts, track the success of your efforts, and use your results to adjust your strategy.
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