May 16, 2024

What is the Learning Phase on Facebook: The Ultimate Guide

Have you been wondering what the “Learning Phase” on Facebook is all about? Here’s the ultimate guide to answer your questions.


In today’s marketing landscape, social media advertising is an essential tactic for businesses to reach their target audience. Although there are many platforms available, Facebook Ads is touted as one of the best tools. Why? Well, it offers robust targeting options, a massive user base, various ad formats, and detailed analytics—just to name a few reasons! And a big FYI: when it comes to using this ad platform, it’s important to understand how its algorithm works. 



One of the most important concepts to know is the “learning phase”. What is the learning phase in Facebook Ads? Let’s get into it! This article is the ultimate guide to the Facebook Ads Learning Phase explained in a digestible way, providing valuable insights for beginners looking to enhance their social media advertising skills.


Table of Contents:


  • Introduction to the Learning Phase
  • How Does the Learning Phase Work?
  • Factors Influencing the Learning Phase
  • How Long Does the Learning Phase Last?
  • Strategies to Optimize the Learning Phase
  • Best Practices
  • Significant Edits 
  • Learning Limited
  • Troubleshooting 
  • Conclusion



Chapter 1: Introduction to the Learning Phase on Facebook 


The Learning Phase is an important aspect of Facebook Ads optimization. Once an ad is published, it will enter its learning phase where the algorithm gathers data and adapts to deliver the best possible results for your ad campaigns. Understanding this phase is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your advertising efforts.



The Learning Phase begins when a new ad campaign is launched or when significant changes have been made to an existing one. During the Learning Phase, Facebook’s algorithm starts gathering data on how users interact with your ads. This includes actions such as clicks, conversions, likes, shares, comments, and other relevant engagement metrics.



Chapter 2: How Does the Learning Phase Work?


During the Learning Phase, Facebook’s algorithm begins to explore different combinations of your ad content and target audience settings with the intention of trying to figure out what works best. Facebook’s goal is to give us the best result for our budget, which is why the learning phase is imperative. Along the way, it’s taking notes on how people interact with your ads – what catches their eye, when and who is most likely to engage, and which ad elements make the biggest impact.



As it gathers this data, the algorithm starts to piece together patterns. It starts to recognize which groups of people are really into your ads, when they’re most active, and which parts of your ad content resonate the most.



By the end of the Learning Phase, Facebook’s algorithm has figured out exactly how to make your ads perform better. It’s learned everything it needs to fine-tune your ad campaign and make sure it’s performing to the best of its ability, based on the parameters you set. 



Chapter 3: Factors Influencing the Learning Phase


Now, let’s talk about things that can throw a curveball into the Learning Phase. There are many factors that can affect how long the learning phase takes to complete and how well it works. Keep an eye on aspects such as how great your ad looks, who you’ve targeted, how much cash you’re splashin’, and the goals you’ve set for your ad. These are the keys to making sure your campaign performs well.



One important thing to note is that while your ad is going through its learning phase, the performance will likely fluctuate. Knowing this, don’t stress if you see numbers jumping around. Your cost per click or how many people are clicking through will likely rise and fall. It’s all part of the algorithm’s experiment phase as it tries out different ways to get your ad noticed. Just hang tight, and things should smooth out once it’s got the hang of things.


Chapter 4: How Long Does the Learning Phase Last?


The duration of the Learning Phase can vary depending on a number of factors.  Elements such as the size of your audience, budget, and ad complexity. While it typically lasts for a few days, it can extend up to a week or more for campaigns with significant changes or limited data.



We’re often asked: Which elements of my campaign will affect the duration of the learning phase on Facebook? Great question. 



  • Audience: The size of your audience plays a major role. If your target audience is small, it may take the algorithm a while to gather enough data to make a decision. If you’re targeting a larger audience, there will be more data available which can result in a faster learning phase. 
  • Budget: Similar to the audience size, if your budget is limited then it may take longer for the data to flow in. 
  • Ad complexity: In contrast to the audience size and budget, more isn’t always merrier when it comes to the learning phase duration. When an ad is more complex, it will require more time for the algorithm to learn. What makes an ad complex? Well, multiple variations of headlines, images, or CTAs can all contribute to more time spent in the Facebook ads learning phase. In our opinion, a complex ad is still a great thing! It may just require a bit more patience.  

Chapter 5: Best Practices


During the learning phase, ad sets are less stable and usually have a higher CPA (cost per acquisition). To avoid behaviours that prevent ad sets from exiting the learning phase, Facebook recommends to:



  • Wait to edit your ad set until it’s out of the learning phase.


During the learning phase, performance is less stable, so your results aren’t necessarily indicative of future performance. By editing an ad, ad set or campaign during the learning phase, you reset learning and delay our delivery system’s ability to optimize.


  • Avoid unnecessary edits that cause ad sets to re-enter the learning phase.


Edits that meaningfully change how your ad set might perform in the future can cause an ad set to re-enter the learning phase. Only edit your ads or ad set when you have reason to believe that doing so should improve performance.


  • Avoid high ad volumes.


When you create many ads and ad sets, the delivery system learns less about each ad and ad set than when you create fewer ads and ad sets. By combining similar ad sets, you also combine learnings.


  • Use realistic budgets.


If you set a very small or inflated budget, the delivery system has an inaccurate indicator of the people for whom the delivery system should optimize. Set a budget large enough to get at least 50 total optimization events and avoid frequent budget changes (which can cause an ad set to re-enter the learning phase).



The learning phase is necessary to help the delivery system best optimize ads, so you shouldn’t try to avoid the learning phase completely. Testing new creative and marketing strategies is essential for improving your performance over time.



Chapter 6: Significant Edits 


The following are considered significant edits:



  • Any change to targeting
  • Any change to ad creative
  • Any change to optimization event
  • Adding a new ad to your ad set
  • Pausing your ad set for 7 days or longer (the ad set reenters the learning phase once you unpause the ad set)
  • Changing bid strategy



Note: When using Meta Advantage campaign budget (previously known as campaign budget optimization), switching your campaign bid strategy might cause multiple ad sets within the campaign to reenter the learning phase.



A change to any of the following areas may or may not be significant, depending on the magnitude of the change:



  • Ad set spending limit amount
  • Bid control, cost per result goal or ROAS goal amount
  • Budget amount



Note: When using Advantage campaign budget, adjusting your campaign budget might cause multiple ad sets within the campaign to reenter the learning phase.



Chapter 7: Learning Limited



If your ad set isn’t getting enough optimization events to exit the learning phase, the Delivery column reads Learning limited. Learning limited isn’t a penalty – it’s an indication that your budget isn’t being spent effectively because the ad delivery system can’t optimize performance with your current setup.



An ad set becomes learning limited when it is unlikely to receive around 50 optimization events in the week after your last significant edit. This diagnosis can happen any time after you create an ad set or make a significant edit to an existing one.



Generally, an ad set becomes learning limited when the ad set is limited by small audience size, low budget, low bid or cost control, high auction overlap, an infrequent optimization event, or other issues such as running too many ads at the same time. If an ad set is limited by a low bid or cost control, a tooltip will appear when you hover over the learning limited status.





There are multiple ways to fix learning limited ad sets to improve performance.



  • Combine ads sets and campaigns. Combining ad sets and campaigns will help you get the results you need faster, which means you’ll see stable results sooner.


  • Expand your audience. The larger the audience, the more opportunities for people to complete your optimization event.


  • Raise your budget. If your budget is too low to receive around 50 optimization events, the ad set is unlikely to exit the learning phase.


  • Raise your bid or cost control. If your bid or cost control is too low to receive around 50 optimization events, the ad set is unlikely to exit the learning phase.


  • Change your optimization event. Consider choosing an optimization event that occurs more frequently. For example, move from purchases to add to cart.



If a learning limited ad set receives 50 optimization events since your last significant edit, it will move from Learning limited to Active.



In Summary


Mastering the Learning Phase is essential for achieving success with Facebook Ads. By understanding how it works, monitoring key factors, and implementing effective optimization strategies, you can maximize the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns and reach your target audience with precision.



Take action today by applying the insights shared in this guide to elevate your social media advertising efforts. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned marketer, embracing the Learning Phase is key to unlocking the full potential of Facebook Ads. Start optimizing your campaigns and watch your business thrive in the digital landscape.



Happy advertising!


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