Black Friday and the entirety of Q4 is the biggest time of the year for Facebook advertisers, especially for ecommerce brands and agencies who serve them.

Preparing your strategy ahead of time will make all the difference in taking full advantage of the holiday season.

My name is Kevin Urrutia and I’m the owner of multiple ecommerce brands and Co-Founder of Voy Media, a Facebook ads agency where I’ve worked with high profile brands like Lacoste, Zumba, and Paw.com.

In this guide, I reveal my complete strategy for Facebook ads in Q4 including my step-by-step approach for more advanced tactics for each period during Q4. Keep reading to learn how you too can craft the perfect Q4 strategy for your campaigns.

Key takeaways
  1. Break up your Q4 strategy into four periods, each with their own goals to maximize sales and ROAS
  2. If you have a smaller budget, prioritize Black Friday weekend over holiday campaigns
  3. For bigger budgets, start prospecting as early as October 1st to build up retargeting audiences
  4. Make discounts and promotions big, clear, and available to all without coupon codes
  5. Use campaign automation to maximize sales and reduce wasted spend

Black Friday and holiday periods in Q4

I breakdown our Q4 strategy into four different periods, each with its own distinct strategy. Here’s how I breakdown the periods:

  • Period 1 is Pre-Black Friday - October 1st to November 23rd
  • Period 2 is Black Friday and Thanksgiving week - November 23rd to December 2nd
  • Period 3 is Pre-Holiday - December 3rd to December 18th
  • Period 4 is Holiday - December 19th to January 1st

Period 1: Pre-Black Friday

During the first period of Q4, keep running purchase conversion campaigns while also building up your email lists, like VIP lists, early deal lists, lead magnet opt-ins, giveaway opt-ins, and running shopping sprees so you can later email them with your big Q4 offers.

Then you can upload your email lists as custom audiences and build lookalike audiences from them for the rest of your Q4 campaigns.

Period 2: Black Friday and Thanksgiving week

This time, the focus is on sales because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You should use big and simple discounts like 25% off to attract customers. If you can’t do discounts, offer holiday bundles with some sort of digital component or with free shipping.

You want to make it easy for customers to get the discount so don’t require them to use a coupon code - just make it site-wide. This will increase your store’s conversion rate, cut down on customer confusion, and result in less support requests.

Period 3: Pre-Holiday

This period is December 3rd through the last day your store can accept orders for it to be delivered in time for Christmas, which means period 3 can go as late as December 22nd or 23rd. These are the types of offers I run during this period:

  • Buy one, get one free (BOGO)
  • Mystery bundles
  • Incentives to buy back again
  • Family packs and giftability
  • Urgency before last shipping date

Period 4: Holiday

Period 4 is post-Christmas to the new year. This period is perfect these types of offers:

  • Urgency before last deal of the year
  • Clearance sales
  • Tax savings deals (B2B brands)
  • New year resolution offers (fitness, habits)

Black Friday Facebook ad strategy for smaller budgets

If you have a small budget and you’re limited to just a few creative assets, then you should expect to moderately increase sales volume while shooting to maintain a high ROAS in Q4.

To achieve your goal with limited resources, use dynamic product ads (DPAs) during the busiest period, which is period two. These types of ads are great for you because you don’t need to make your own creatives. Facebook builds them for you automatically and they can be easily modified to fit other ad formats as well.

In order to maintain a high ROAS, you’ll want to target people who already know about your brand and products - so completely avoid cold audiences. I recommend making an audience of people who’ve interacted with your ads in the last 30 days.

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Black Friday Facebook ad strategy for medium-sized budgets

If you have a medium-sized budget, you should expect to increase sales volume and keep a solid ROAS during your Q4 Facebook ad campaigns.

Because you’ll have a decent budget to work with, you can and need to target audiences who are beyond your most-likely-to-convert groups of people. I recommend running (and testing) the following audiences:

  • Custom audience of people on your email lists
  • Ad engagers up to the last 180 days (break them into buckets)
  • All previous purchasers

This strategy works to maintain a high ROAS because you’re still using audiences of people who already know your brand and products, which you can expect to have a higher ROAS than cold audiences. Not only will you be targeting previous purchasers and subscribers who already like and trust you, but also people who at least have heard of you by targeting previous ad engagers.

This strategy really shines when run during periods two and three, the times where you can expect people to be most likely to make an online purchase.

I also recommend using some of your budget to get more creative with your Facebook ads (both video and image) and create really nice graphics to go inside your email campaigns.

Black Friday Facebook ad strategy for medium to large-sized budgets

This strategy is for people who have a $200,000 budget or more for the three months in Q4 and you should expect to dramatically increase sales within your ad spend KPIs.

Because of your high budgets, you’ll focus heavily on prospecting early during period one to build up your audiences in preparation for periods two and three. So to start, you’ll want to run ads with early offers, run giveaways, host shopping spree events to gather event responses, get people into your email funnels, and run captivating videos to build video-view audiences.

I love running shopping spree events to build hype for my clients in this category. We run event campaigns saying we’re having a special event in the near future and encourage them to sign up to get notified of a special deal when it goes live. An added benefit of running events is people can invite their friends to the events, and when events are edited or coming up, event responders get Facebook notifications.

Here’s how I’d breakdown a Q4 ad spend budget for this strategy:

  • 45% prospecting
  • 40% remarketing
  • 15% retention

If the size of your remarketing and retention audiences are limited, you can plan ahead to put more budget toward prospecting campaigns.

To succeed with this strategy, you’ll need to take advantage of your high budget to make and test offer-specific creatives (video and image) and create and test offer-specific landing pages.

When you start your early prospecting campaigns in the first period, test out various offers before rolling them out completely. Then you can use the results of your test in your email campaigns and you should see great results because you know which offers work and which don’t.

Start building audiences before Black Friday

When following the above strategies, you’ll see you should be targeting different audiences based on the goal of the period you’re in.

In preparation for the later periods in Q4, you should start prospecting early in period one in order to build retargeting audiences that you then target for your conversion-focused campaigns as the cost of traffic begins to rise.

Audiences to build through prospecting before Black Friday

Retargeting and remarketing audiences are the most cost efficient audience types and to take full advantage of them, you’ll need to make sure you can grow them as much as you can before costs rise during Black Friday through the end of the year.

Here are the remarketing audiences I recommend that you begin to build in preparation of the later periods of Q4 in addition to the ones listed above in each strategy:

  • Video viewers (75%+)
  • Fans and followers of your Facebook and Instagram page(s)
  • Facebook and Instagram engagement audiences (up to 180 days)
  • Website custom audiences (viewed content in last 30 days)
  • Facebook Messenger users
  • Email lists
  • Lead form submissions
  • Event attendees

In order to build these audiences in a cost effective way, you can, for example, run campaigns for video views, page likes, and traffic campaigns to top-of-funnel content on your website. For these campaigns, you can target lookalike audiences (even up to 10%) of both purchasers in the last 30 days and people who viewed content but didn’t purchase in the last 30 days.

You can also experiment with broad audiences, which have a cheaper CPM than lookalike audiences. However, broad audiences might only make sense if you have a large budget or know your audiences well.

Audiences to target for high conversions during Black Friday

During the week of Black Friday, I recommend running campaigns targeting the following audiences to maximize sales:

  • All of the retargeting audiences built in period one
  • Newsletter, customer, and VIP customer email lists
  • Previous purchasers (up to last year)
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Audiences to target to maintain momentum after Black Friday

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday through the rest of the year, you want to maintain the momentum you’ve built up so far. During periods three and four, I recommend the following audiences:

  • All of the conversion-focused audiences used during Black Friday
  • All of the retargeting audiences built in period one (test to see if profitable)
  • Lookalike audiences of previous purchasers (test to see if profitable)

How to make successful Black Friday Facebook ad creatives

The types of creatives that will work best for your campaigns will always be unique to the brand and products you’re marketing. Therefore the best place to get creative inspiration is your previous creatives that had the ROAS and CPA you’re happy with. Then, see how you can take that style and tweak the angle to apply to your offers.

Here are some general guidelines you should consider when crafting your creatives:

  • Make at least 3-5 creatives per offer/angle
  • Focus on eye-catching shots that are 1x1
  • Create 9:6 images for Instagram stories
  • Transform user-generated content into video creatives
  • Keep your messaging holiday-themed, clear, and simple

Examples of Black Friday big discount ads

There are two keys to advertising your big discount effectively.

  1. Capture attention with a stunning visual
  2. Include the discount in big letters in the creative so people can’t miss it

This DIFF ad is a good example of a creative that gets your attention and their product, the sunglasses, are front and center. And once the attention is captured, people can’t miss the big discount of 50% off.

With big discount ads, you shouldn’t be trying to convince cold audiences of the value of your product. With these ads, you’re making an announcement to audiences who are already interested in your brand and product and might already have an idea of what they want to buy.

Here’s another example of a big discount ad from Spoke. The model’s pose, the white paint on the stairs in the background, and the “20% OFF” text do an excellent job of capturing attention, highlighting their pants, and announcing the discount.

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Examples of Black Friday user-generated content (UGC) ads

Here’s another example from Diff that uses user-generated-content in combination with a buy-one-get-one-free offer:

Notice how clear the value proposition is: buy more, save more. The user-generated content also falls in line with what the brand is posting on Instagram, which is a lot of photos from happy customers.

For user-generated content (testimonials, photos, and videos), you can use a real testimonial from one of your clients and hire an actor to read it. A great example is from True Classic:

credit: True Classic

Filmed from a smartphone, it has the appearance and feel of a video one of your friend's made with clips of user-generated-content cut in for a trustworthy-feeling testimonial.

Examples of mystery bundles in Black Friday Facebook ads

Clothing brand Ivory Ella uses mystery bundles every holiday in Q4. Ranging in price from $35 to $100, they can make great gifts. Here is an ad in vertical format giving away one of these holiday bundles, perfect for Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

credit: Ivory Ella

The call-to-action for this ad is to tag their friends (to increase reach and build an engagement audience) and to go to ivoryella.com/vip to signup where they ask for a phone number, which they then can use to build custom and lookalike audiences.

The mystery box is enticing because it not only saves money but also saves time otherwise spent on picking each individual item in the box. Plus, it’s great for someone who is out of ideas on what to buy for their friends and family.

Examples of shopping sprees in Black Friday Facebook ads

As previously mentioned, Ivory Ella ran giveaways to people who signed up for their free VIP list. In this example, Ivory Ella then ran an exclusive shopping spree ad for those "VIP" members.

In a carousel ad format, they advertised an entire weekend of discounted shopping for only their VIP members.

In this situation, it's kind of required to use a coupon code to keep it exclusive for members only.

How to use automation to improve Black Friday Facebook ad performance

During Q4, you’re likely to have a lot more campaigns, ad sets, and ads running at one time. It can get really crazy fast - especially if you’re an agency and you or your account managers are running campaigns for multiple clients and ad accounts.

That’s why you need to be using automation to help you manage your Q4 Facebook ad campaigns. With the right automations in place, you’ll never waste too much of your budget on underperforming ads, you can immediately seize scaling opportunities by automatically increasing budgets, and more.

Of course, my automation tool of choice is Revealbot. It’s by far better than the native Facebook automated rules. Here are the automations I set up in Revealbot for all of my brands and clients.

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On the Safe Side

This automation will pause ads if their spend reaches 2-3x your average CPA, preventing any ad from wasting too much budget, but still giving it a chance to succeed.

"On the safe side" Revealbot Strategy

If you use this Revealbot Strategy, make sure to change the $50 to 2-3x your average CPA or whatever you’re comfortable with.

Forfeit the game

This other money-saving automation will pause an ad set if it has a low ROAS after spending half of its daily budget.

"Forfeit the game" Revealbot Strategy

Depending on your ad sets’ budgets in Q4 and the Q4 strategy you’re using, you may need to adjust this to include more than just today’s budget. Also remember to adjust the ROAS limit you’re comfortable with.

Jump-start

When I’m using manual bidding, this Revealbot Strategy guarantees I’ll get the lowest manual bid. I set my initial bid very conservatively and this automation will increase my bid every so often until my ads start getting impressions.

"Jump-start" Revealbot Strategy

This Revealbot Strategy out-of-the-box increases the bid by $0.50 every 30 minutes, but I’ve also had success by increasing the bid by 7% every 2 hours. The exact increments and frequency is up to you.

What I like about manual bidding paired with this automation is that there’s a lot of competition during Q4, and instead of letting the Facebook algorithm determine my costs with auto bids or spending my own time adjusting budgets manually, I can automatically outbid our competitors without lifting a finger.

This rule can also be set up to be reset at midnight. So, for example, if at the end of the day your bid reached double your initial bid, you can reset it at midnight so it starts the new day with the baseline bid, guaranteeing your the lowest possible bid on a daily basis.

Surfing

In order to spend more budget profitably as soon as the opportunity arises, I use a scaling strategy commonly referred to as “surfing.” Revealbot has a Strategy for it and what it will do is increase the budget by 10% every hour if it is exceeding your ROAS target.

"Increase budget if half is spent with high ROAS" Revealbot Strategy

It’s often used in Q4, when conversion rates are much higher, you want to spend as much money as possible, and you have a limited amount of time to take advantage of a good day. Remember to adjust the ROAS threshold to your ad account’s ROAS target.

Alternatively, you can set up the rule to increase by 30% every 3 hours.

Conversion rate monitor

You can also set up automations just to get a notification in Slack or email in case something goes wrong that needs your personal attention.

The Conversion rate monitor Strategy is an example of a notification-only automation that notifies me when my conversion rate drops more than my liking.

"Conversion rate monitor" Revealbot Strategy

Automation with Revealbot is a game changer and I couldn’t be as successful in Q4 without it.

Final tips to make your Q4 successful on Facebook and Instagram

  • Upload your campaigns and ads in advance to get them approved early on. There have been many instances where ad approvals get delayed during Q4.
  • Schedule period two’s Black Friday ads to turn on at 6 PM local time, which is right after the Thanksgiving meal, when people are more likely to browse their social feeds.
  • If you have the budget, start prospecting early before the cost of traffic begins to rise