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Understanding The Facebook Learning Phase

When launching a new ad campaign on Facebook, many advertisers may notice that their initial performances fluctuate significantly for a short period of time after it first goes live. However, before you start panicking, it’s important to know that many campaigns go through an initial data collection period, more commonly known as the Facebook Learning Phase.

5 min read

What is the Facebook Learning Phase?

Simply put, the learning phase is the period of time Facebook takes, after an ad campaign has been launched, to work out how it can generate the best possible results for your campaign. Facebook does this by presenting your ad to different people within your target audience and then calculating who is most likely to take decisive action after seeing your ads.

This is how Facebook describes it:

“When we start delivering our ad set, whether at the start of a campaign or after you edit it, we don't have all the data necessary to deliver it as stable as possible. In order to get that data, we have to show ads to different types of people to learn who is most likely to get you optimisation events. This process is called the ‘learning phase’.”

That’s why many experienced Facebook advertisers will tell you that their campaigns often get off to a rocky start as Facebook tries to work out which kinds of users in your audience are most likely to click on your ad or make a purchase. This experimental process, more frequently known as the learning phase, will help you optimise your campaigns and increase the relevancy of your targeting.

It is at that point that you can make an informed decision on how you would like to proceed with your campaign. If you’re satisfied with your results, you can let your campaign continue to run as planned or maybe even decide to increase its budget. On the other hand, if results are still unsatisfactory after a while, you might want to consider editing your ad set in order to improve its performance, or maybe even pause it all together.

So before you panic and set off any alarm bells, keep in mind that subpar results can be completely normal during the initial stages of your campaign launch.

How long does it run for?

The learning phase will commence once you have launched your Facebook ad campaign or when you have made a significant adjustment to your campaign. The learning phase will continue to run until your ad gets approximately 50 optimisation events. That’s when the learning phase finishes and your campaign starts running normally, but with improved accuracy.

But what is an optimisation event I hear you say! An optimisation event is primarily defined by your chosen campaign objective. So, for example, if you optimise for an increase in Traffic, then the learning phase will continue until you’ve received approximately 50 link clicks.

Ads that are going through the learning phase can be viewed in the Delivery Column of the Ads Manager. Here's a little screenshot of what it looks like:

Screenshot Facebook Learning Phase

Keep in mind, though, that if you have selected the Conversion objective, and your conversion window is 7-day click, the 50 conversions will have to take place within 7 days of the user clicking on your ad. Therefore, in order to ensure an effective learning phase period, it’s important that you set a longer time for the conversion window, especially if you are promoting products or services that may require longer consideration times.

If your ad set fails to register 50 optimisation events after a prolonged period of time, Facebook may automatically remove your ad set from the learning phase. Facebook explains that this may occur if your ad set’s optimisation event is too rare and can’t meet its minimum intended target or if your ad is simply not competitive enough in the auction. This may be an indicator that your ad set or campaign needs significant improvement in order to succeed amidst the surrounding competition.

And take this key tip from us: Don’t make any significant changes or edits to your ad set or campaign during the learning phase. Doing so may cause the learning phase to reset itself as it re-examines the new changes you have applied, causing a lengthy delay in your pursuit of positive results. Facebook needs a bit of time to generate the relevant data in order to give your campaign a boost!

And take this key tip from us: Don’t make any significant changes or edits to your ad set or campaign during the learning phase. Doing so may cause the learning phase to reset itself as it re-examines the new changes you have applied, causing a lengthy delay in your pursuit of positive results. Facebook needs a bit of time to generate the relevant data in order to give your campaign a boost!

Editing during the learning phase

As has been mentioned earlier, significant changes to your ad set during the learning phase can disrupt the learning phase and cause it to reset, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all changes will cause this.

If the edit you have made isn’t considered significant, then your learning phase will continue to run as planned and won’t be interrupted. However, if the change is significant and the learning phase resets as a result of it, your campaign will need another 50 optimisation events before it starts registering a regular and stable delivery.

Here’s a list of changes or edits that Facebook would consider significant during the learning phase:

  • Any change to targeting
  • Any change to an ad creative
  • Any change to optimisation event
  • Pausing your ad set for 7 days or longer (the learning phase will reset once you resume the paused ad set or campaign)
  • Adding a new ad to your ad set

Changes to these two areas may be considered significant or insignificant, depending on the magnitude or size of the edit.

  • Bid cap or target cost amount
  • Budget amount (This doesn’t count if you’re using the target cost bid strategy, in which case your budget changes won’t be considered significant amendments

So if you increase your budget from €250 to €255 then the learning phase won’t be likely to reset. However, an increase from, for example, €100 to €800 would may very possibly cause it to reset.

And that’s it, now that you’re aware of the importance of Facebook’s optimisation process during the learning phase, you can keep a watchful eye on it the next time you launch an ad. What do you think of Facebook’s learning phase? We would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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