How To Spy on Your Competitors Using Their Facebook Ads

Ad transparency is the name of the game for the world’s biggest social media platforms.

And Facebook is no exception.

First, they made political and “issue” ads more transparent earlier this year.

Then, the platform just announced they’d be expanding Facebook ad transparency to apply to all Pages.  

This means any user can click a button on a Page to view what ads they’re running and on what platforms (e.g. Instagram, Messenger).

You can also see other Page information, like past name changes and the date it was created.

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - ad transparency
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Clearly, this is pretty momentous stuff.

Not only is this effort towards greater Facebook ad transparency major news for users, but also for advertisers.

You can now spy on competitors’ Facebook ads unlike ever before.

We’re not suggesting you steal their secrets and report their ads.

But, we are saying you can conduct a Facebook competitor analysis that takes their best practices and does them one better for your own benefit.

Yes, they can spy on your Facebook, too.

But, as long as you have a strategy in place that combines Facebook ad spying tools with your own best design practices, you’ll stay a step ahead of your competition.

We’re looking into what the new Facebook ad transparency announcement entails.

We’re also discussing how you can use this new feature to spy on competitors’ Facebook ads.

In addition, we’ll take a look at some other Facebook ad spying tools you can incorporate into your strategy.

It’s time to learn how to leverage Facebook ad transparency to beat the competition and create your best ads.

Facebook Ad Transparency: An Overview

Cambridge Analytica

You may remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal, whose lasting influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit vote are still being fully analyzed.

You may also remember that it was Facebook that was used by the data-collection company to enact its nefarious plot.

The 87 million profiles that were mined for data were clearly enough of a reason for Facebook to make some changes.

That and these astounding statistics:

  • Between 2015 and 2017, over 3,000 ads were identified as coming from fake, Russian Facebook accounts.
  • Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. viewed at least one of these ads.
  • 44% of those that viewed these ads did so before the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
spy on competitors' Facebook ads - political ad authorization
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The First Transparency Policy

When Facebook rolled out their first round of ad transparency policies in April, 2018, it was a part of a series of internal changes made to enhance security and authenticity on the platform.

The policy required Facebook advertisers to become authorized in order to run political or other “issue” ads.

The process of authorization verifies both the identity and mailing address of the advertiser.

The Second Round of Updates

Then, Facebook went a step further at the end of June, 2018.

Amidst the GDPR privacy updates and other concerns, user security and authenticity has been a priority now more than ever.

So, Facebook has expanded their ad transparency to include all Pages – not just political ads.

Under this rollout, you can view ads from a Page that are running on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and affiliated networks.

And even if a Page isn’t advertising to you directly, you can view both the above-mentioned ad information as well as any additional Page information, like date created and name changes.

The goal of it all, direct from Facebook, is as follows:

“By shining a bright light on all ads, as well as the Pages that run them, we’ll make it easier to root out abuse.”

How to Use Facebook’s New Feature as an Ad Spying Tool

So now understanding the background of ad transparency, it’s time to consider how you can use it for the benefit of your business.

First, you need to learn how to view the ads your competition is running before launching into a more comprehensive Facebook competitor analysis.

Start by visiting their Facebook Page.

Then, press the “Info and Ads” option along the sidebar (on desktop) or by the profile name/picture (on mobile).

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - Ralph Lauren

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - mobile

When you think about how to spy on competitors’ Facebook ads, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

spy on your competitors' Facebook ads - Info and Ads page

Now, you can spy on competitors’ Facebook ads right from their own Page.

Just scroll through this section to see their ads in full, both on their main Page and related ones.

3 Other Ways to Spy on Competitors’ Facebook Ads

Conducting a Facebook competitor analysis means doing more than just accessing their Page info.

As helpful as this new Facebook spying tool is, there are additional practices to keep in mind.

To make your strategy of spying on Facebook ads even more effective, consider the following three tactics.

1. See What Their Customers Love – and Hate!

You don’t need fancy software and expensive add-ons to spy on competitors’ Facebook ads.

One of the most effective (and simplest) strategies is to look at the comments on the brand’s posts to see what customers are saying.

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - Target

This can range from the good to the bad to the ugly.

Just take Target’s Facebook page, for example.

It looks like one customer, Tevis, is an unhappy customer due to Target’s gift card activation delay:

“Wal-Mart is right down the street and Amazon is a click away. DONE with my Target Runs!!!!!”

If Target is one of your competitors’, take note and offer your gift cards as immediately usable.

Also notice how the brand responds.

First of all, they make the effort to respond to all customer concerns.

Then, they provide a reason or course of action the customer can take to solve the problem.

Whether it’s a positive or negative review, using these as Facebook spying tools is a simple yet efficient solution.

2. Conduct Competitor Keyword Research

Knowing what keywords your competitors are going after can help you outrank them.

By creating Facebook ads and content that you know your audience is searching for, you can better reach and engage them.

There are plenty of tools for keyword research available.

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - BuzzSumo
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You can use these to spy on competitors’ Facebook ads by taking their company’s Page or website URL and running it through the tool.

The results that follow are all terms you should implement into your own Facebook advertising strategy.

 3. Keep Your Enemies Close

It’s not necessarily a Facebook spying tool, but you could consider it a part of recon.

The “Follow” button on a business Page ensures you’re the most up-to-date on your competitors’ Facebook activity.

spy on competitors' Facebook ads - Follow button

All you need to do is press “Follow” at the top of a profile to be subscribed to updates via your News Feed and notifications center.

You can even prioritize which of your competitors’ updates to see first.

These tips for how to spy on competitors’ Facebook ads are all pretty straightforward.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile.

Between using Facebook’s latest ad transparency feature and these additional tips, you can conduct a comprehensive Facebook competitor analysis.

As you start spying on Facebook ads, use what you learn to craft your own best Facebook ad ever.

It’s easier than you think.

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