Even if you’re new to advertising, you’ve probably heard that ad testing and optimization are everything. Experimenting with creatives, messages, ad types, audiences, and more help you pinpoint the most effective strategy with fewer mistakes.
Advertising on Facebook is no different.
Meta’s flagship platform offers enormous potential for advertisers, including unprecedented audience and ad customization.
But all those nifty options mean you need to do more testing, not less.
Fortunately, Facebook ads learning hands a crucial stage of advertisement experimentation over to the pros.
What is the Facebook Ads Learning Phase?
Facebook advertising starts in the Meta Ads Manager (formerly Facebook Ads Manager.) From here, you can create ad campaigns, ads set, and individual ads.
Anytime you launch a new ad or ad set, it enters what’s known as the Facebook ads “learning phase.” (Learning phase also starts or restarts when you make “significant edits" to an existing campaign set – more on that below.)
During the learning phase, Facebook’s algorithms experiment with your ad to learn when and where to place your ad.
The delivery system actively tests new audiences, different placements and delivery times, and more.
All the while, it gathers information about how your ad performs in each situation based on who interacts with it, where, and at what time.
You can think of it almost like automated A/B testing for multiple facets of your ad. Better yet, A/B testing is run by a company with millions of data points at its disposal.
How Does Facebook Ads Learning Phase Work?
The Facebook learning phase is essential for boosting your ads’ optimization based on your chosen objective. But to determine the most optimized placement and audience, Facebook needs to run a few experiments for each new campaign.
For instance, say that you create a new ads campaign with a traffic-based objective.
During the learning phase, Facebook will test your ad on different audiences and placements to determine which combination(s) lead to the most clicks on your website.
The goal is to figure out what configuration leads to the highest chances of Facebook users taking the desired action.
It’s important to stress that Facebook learning phase is considered an experimental phase. Because your ads jump around to different people and places, you may see higher costs and fewer clicks or conversions during this stage.
However, the learning process is essential for Facebook’s algorithms to optimize your campaigns and produce better results later.
(In other words: don’t panic if you don’t see great results immediately. You’ll get there!)
How Long Does Facebook’s Ads Learning Phase Last?
Facebook’s ad learning phase is designed to last seven days, or until 50 desired “optimization events” occur. The clock starts when you launch a new ad, a new ad set, or when you make a “significant edit” to your campaign.
Ad sets that deliver 50 or more optimization events within a week exit the learning phase faster. Ad sets that don’t may require more fiddling.
Bear in mind that the exact optimization event depends on your objective goals, like website traffic, product views, post interactions, or conversions. The harder your objective is to achieve, the less likely you’ll reach the 50-mark requirement.
For instance, you’re generally more likely to see 50 page views than 50 sales in a week. If you expect you’ll have trouble meeting your selected Conversion Event, you might switch to an easier goal to ensure you’ll exit the learning phase sooner.
Three Phases of Facebook Ads Learning
The Meta Ads Manager plainly states which step of your optimization journey each creative and ad set is on. You can find this information under the “Delivery” column in your ad account. Here, you may see one of three phases:
Learning Limited Phase
We’ll take a closer look at each.
Facebook Ads “Learning Phase”
When your delivery column reads “learning,” your ad is in – you guessed it! – learning phase.
As outlined above, this is when Facebook’s algorithms are actively gathering information to better optimize your ad(s).
Once you reach the coveted 50-event mark, Facebook will use its insights to run your campaign to its fullest potential.
Facebook Ads “Learning Limited Phase”
Not every campaign hits 50 optimization events within a week; quite the contrary.
If you find yourself in this bucket, you’ll notice that your delivery window reads “learning limited.”
Facebook notes specifically that the learning limited phase is not a punishment for poor ads.
Rather, it’s a sign that the ad delivery system is unable to optimize your campaign performance with your current setup.
Generally, you enter the learning limited phase due to factors like:
A low bid cap or cost cap
A small audience size
A small budget
Running too many ad sets at once
Other ads in the same account are beating out your own ads in auctions
Each of these factors can produce infrequent optimization events and prevent your ad from hitting 50 events in a week.
That doesn’t mean Facebook stops running or optimizing your ad – just that you didn’t achieve Facebook’s preferred metrics.
How to Exit the Learning Limited Phase
If you find yourself staring down learning limited in your delivery window, don’t worry!
Remember, your ad enters learning limited when it fails to hit 50 optimization events in a week.
But that doesn’t mean your campaign can’t be (or currently isn’t) a success.
It all depends on the metrics you’re looking for.
For example, if you have expensive products or a smaller audience but achieve a fairly high ROI, your campaign may have achieved your goals.
However, if you see that message without achieving your desired results, it may be time to shake things up a bit. Steps you can take to fix your campaign may include:
Combining existing or new ad sets or campaigns. When one campaign includes more ads or ad sets, Facebook has to spread your budget around. Focus on just 1-2 ad sets per campaign to help you exit the learning limited phase faster.
Expanding your target audience. The more people see your ad, the more likely you’ll see 50 desired interactions within a week. Consider incorporating target-based or custom audiences or increasing your targeting radius.
Raising your budget or jacking up your bid or cost control. Setting a higher target cost means Facebook has more room to experiment. It’s that simple.
Switching Conversion Events. Generally speaking, users are more likely to click an ad or add products to a cart than convert immediately. Switching from rarer events (like sales) to more common events (like click-throughs) can move you to the next phase faster.
Making even small changes can help your ads achieve peak optimization and see more results in less time. Long-term, which means paying a lower cost for more stable results.
Facebook Ad Active Phase
Once your delivery column reads “Active,” you’ve officially left the learning phase for a full-fledged campaign. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In advertising, there’s always room for experimentation and optimization down the road!
How to Exit the Learning Phase
The learning phase is a time for Facebook’s delivery system to learn about your ad set and audience.
As a result, it’s likely your budget and ad performance will take a hit as Facebook experiments and gathers data.
That’s completely normal! (If a bit disheartening for the unprepared.)
If you want to learn how to exit the learning phase on time, here are a few tips to consider
#1: Optimize Your Ad Spend from the Outset
Facebook research suggests that setting aside about 20% of your budget for learning phase produces optimal results.
Spending too little or too much can skew the algorithm’s ability to reach your optimal audience.
#2: Limit Yourself to Fewer Ad Sets
One of the most detrimental actions Facebook advertisers take is setting up multiple ad sets at one time.
Doing so means that each individual ad set will deliver less frequently, wasting more budget while reducing the number that successfully exits the learning phase.
Instead, try consolidating smaller ad sets into larger campaigns to consolidate deliveries. You might just find that's enough to see your results improve.
(Facebook also notes that ad sets with longer conversion windows may take more than 7 days to exit the learning phase.)
#3. Optimize for High-Frequency Events
Facebook users are more likely to click or even shop around than they are to actually make a purchase. If you want to see more conversion events, you’re better off choosing low-effort, high-frequency events.
In other words, don’t count on 50 “Purchase” events in a week – instead, choose something like “Add to Cart” or even “Clicks.”
#4: Consider Your Audience Size
This one’s simple. Facebook’s 50-event requirement doesn’t change based on audience size. You’ll need to hit that goal whether your audience is 50-strong or 5 million-strong.
Setting a larger target audience gives you a bigger pool to fish from, increasing the likelihood of a catch.
#5: Enable Dynamic and Automatic Placements
Facebook recommends using automatic placements to allow the platform to learn and optimize on its own terms. It’s hard to beat over a decade of intelligence-gathering and market research.
Using dynamic placements also means that Facebook can adjust your ads to specific situations.
For example, if you run the same ad in multiple languages, Facebook can send the right ad to the right language speaker.
On the other hand, if your ads are already allowed on all placements and you’re not seeing fantastic results, you might restrict placements yourself. From there, you can limit Facebook’s testing parameters to the best-performing options.
#6: Set Up Meta Pixel
Without Meta Pixel (formerly Facebook Pixel), Facebook can’t properly track and tag your ad performance. Ensure that Pixel is installed and running properly before launching your
campaign so Facebook can properly credit your success.
#7: Avoid Making “Significant Edits”
The most important thing to remember during the learning phase is not to make any “significant edits” to your campaign. If you do, you might fail to exit the learning phase on time – in fact, you might even reset the clock.
Facebook considers the following “significant edits” that could cause an ad set to re-enter the learning phase:
Campaign Level Edits
Large budget changes (smaller changes may not impact when you exit the learning phase)
Large bid amount changes (smaller changes may not impact when you exit the learning phase)
Bid strategy changes
Bear in mind that making campaign-level edits might not affect just one ad or ad set, but every ad within the campaign. Avoid making such large-scale changes unless absolutely necessary or when your ad(s) have left the learning phase.
That said, what counts as “large” financial changes may vary. While a $1 or even $10 change on a $100 budget probably won’t impact your exit time, going from $100 to $500 likely will.
Ad Level Edits
Any edits at the ad level – including changes to your creative or description – count as significant changes.
Ad Set Level Edits
Optimization Event changes
Adding or subtracting creatives
Pausing your ad or ad set for more than 7 days
#8: If You Must Edit, Edit All At Once
If you don’t exit the learning phase on time or else need to fix problems before your 7 days are up, you can. However, it’s best to note all the changes you need to make and complete them simultaneously.
Consolidating your ad and budget fixes means that you only have to return to square one once. Then, if possible, wait until you exit the learning phase before reassessing and readjusting your ad.
Key Takeaways: Facebook Advertising Learning Phase
Facebook’s learning phases are another way that the social media site deploys its algorithms and vast databases for advertisers’ benefit. Each step offers insights into your campaigns, as well as the way Facebook’s algorithms operate.
Unfortunately, for most advertisers, the purpose of the learning phase is to get out of the learning phase.
But don’t underestimate the performance potential (and free optimization) that Facebook offers with its learning phase.
The learning phase is a crucial step to achieving the best possible optimization and learning from potential mistakes. You may learn about brand inconsistencies, poor messaging, and your audience’s preferences for ad creatives and placement.
Take this opportunity to test new marketing tactics, collect data, make timely edits, and most importantly, learn. After all, that’s what the learning phase is all about!
(And if you’re still stuck, you can consult our resources or those on Meta Blueprint for more inspiration and guidance.)