Nick Shackleford is the co-founder of an American e-commerce marketing agency called Structured Social. He has personally spent over $100 000 000 on Facebook ads his agency spends over $15 000 000/ month which is insane. He is an absolute master when it comes to running Facebook ads.
Nick has been the man behind some of the biggest Facebook advertising campaigns, like Apple’s global promotion of the iPhone 7, iPad Pro, and iWatch. He was also the owner and the man behind the e-commerce store that popularized fidget spinners in 2017 and currently, he is running his own marketing agency Structured Social, and the Geek Out Affiliate Mastermind.
In this article, we are sharing his path from being a soccer player to becoming one of the top Facebook media buyers, his experience in the online marketing industry, and his ideas on how to launch and promote brands sustainably with Facebook ads.
Nick was born and raised in California, USA and he grew up playing soccer as a goalkeeper. At age 16, he went on to play professional soccer for the LA Galaxy team as a substitute goalkeeper until he realized that it wasn’t bringing value to him. At this moment he was earning only $30 000/ year as a substitute player and he felt like he couldn’t grow that amount exponentially unless because it was under a fixed contract.
During his free time, he was going to university to study Copywriting Journalism. He had an internship at a marketing agency that gave him the opportunity to work in a marketing agency that did experiential marketing. He also started to train young children how to play soccer which helped him to earn an extra $40 to $50 per day on top of his LA Galaxy salary.
Working at PepsiCo
While training the kids, he met Rachel Bucky who was one of the childrens’ moms. Rachel was a CPG marketing executive at PepsiCo and she offered him a position to join the Pepsi marketing team. His task was to be the voice of the Millenials and to provide views and ideas from their perspective. This became his first job in marketing and it exposed him to the large brand marketing dollars.
"I was hired as a millennial voice of Pepsi because there were mostly 40 to 60 years old men and women in the team. I remember one day sitting in these meetings with much older guys and they ask, "How do we drive more revenue? I was like "Let's do Facebook". So, one creative agency walked in to do this idea and they were given a contract with a $50 000 activation and they were supposed to roll it out in 2 months.", Nick says.
Nick was shocked by the fact that a couple of guys just walked in and they were easily handed $50 000 just to go try out his idea on promoting on Facebook. This is what caught his interest to learn about Facebook Ads.
Switching to Facebook Advertising
Nick declared his concern and need to learn Facebook ads to Rachel who in turn linked him to her niece who guided Nick through Facebook media buying. Nick was then hired by a marketing agency in Los Angeles that was in charge of some of the biggest brands and companies including Ford, Nissan, and many more.
During his time there, the agency got a contract with Apple and Nick was put on the team that was to run Facebook campaigns promoting the launch of the iPhone 7, iPad Pro, and iWatch.
Nick says, "It was a gift because it was my first introduction to what marketing dollars really meant. Before that, I knew a $40 000 to $50 000 salary and I was living in California in a middle-class house. As soon as they give you a budget they ask, "Hey, how many people would you like to market towards in the UK?" We then check the total impressions it's going to take and the cost and then they say, "Here are your millions of dollars to play with." That broke all limits for me."
Running Apple’s Facebook Campaigns
Between 2016 and 2017, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook had the idea of taking their marketing to digital channels before his competitor Samsung caught up. Nick’s team was handed the task to run Facebook ads globally to promote Apple’s hero products at that time which were the iPhone 7, Ipad Pro, and iWatch. His team was given a budget of over $100 000 000 for the campaigns.
The team divided the work into regions like North America, South America, Europe, Asian-Pacific, CIS and so many more. The budget was split and deployed according to the total number of impressions they could receive from each region. The goal was to make sure every Facebook user sees their ads at least 2x or 3x. The team members picked regions to run campaigns and were given the cash to buy them out.
Nick says, "It shattered all my understanding of budgets and what we can do. When you work with a lot of brands that have VC funding or they're publicly traded, they seemingly have deep pockets right and so you don't have to think about getting an ROI. It's just like "How do we get through this budget?", or else I will not get that budget again for next quarter because they look at me and tell me that I can't get through that money".
They had to get rid of that budget by deploying it everywhere on Facebook.
Lessons Nick Learned from Running Apple Campaigns on Facebook
Nick says that at this time, Facebook was only rolling out their ads to the News Feed because there were no other ad spots like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and many others.
He learned that, if you're spending enough or if Facebook deems you important, they're going to give you every resource available. Facebook gives you their ads manager API and some tools that you can use to optimize for better performance.
Nick says, "At that time, Facebook would essentially come to us and say “Hey, in your business manager, you can get access to these restricted audiences. Since you're Apple and you have this much budget, you have the access to these audiences." On normal BM, there are about 10 lookalike audiences but here we were given up to 20 audiences that other people couldn’t touch. This was before the data restrictions that we currently have today. Audiences that included income, races, and more. Imagine what having a combination of income, race, and geolocation targeting would mean if you're running credit ads. You could do some dangerous stuff."
Moving Away from Apple
Nick moved away from Apple because at the end of the day it kept him frustrated because there was disrespect to returns and ROIs. There were no campaigns other than asking people to upgrade their phones because they want people to go onto the newest thing and they start phasing out the old models. The main objective was "Reach" because they needed eyes on the products. It was all under Tim Cook’s initiative of "We're going digital." and Nick and his team were part of that trend and that’s why he left.
However, this mindset lead him to the success he had with the direct response fidget spinners.
Popularizing the Fidget Spinners
After Apple, Nick ventured into starting e-commerce brands. Nick and his partner started up the Fidgetly brand that was behind the fidget spinner trend that took over the internet. With Fidgetly, Nick says that they hit $1 000 000 revenue within their second month in business.
Nick says that Fidgetly taught him that if you have the right product, at the right time, with the right positioning, you are definitely going to win.
According to him, he says that the angle that worked best for him was selling the fidget spinners to school teachers that would buy in bulk. It was a trend he noticed earlier and he had to dig in further to ask why they were doing so. The majority of them said that they were teachers of children with special needs and these spinners were allowing the children to stay calm, and not pick or tap or hit their desks. So the children would sit and spin it during their lessons. So Nick focused on advertising using this angle and got multiple bulk orders.
He also admits that there were other dropshipping and e-commerce stores selling these spinners but he was the first to create a well-known brand Fidgetly. That was what gave him an advantage against the competition and the market perceived Fidgetly fidget spinners to be more valuable and trendy.
The success of the fidget spinner didn’t come just directly, Nick and his partner Jake had tried an e-commerce store selling hoverboards but they ended up losing $30 000. Hoverboards were very heavy to ship and they would heat up and catch fires. That killed his hoverboards business.
The fidget spinners were different and they brought immediate success from the start. They were easy to market and easy to ship because they were small and could even fit in envelopes and pockets, unlike the hoverboards.
"As soon as Fidgetly touched an ad on Facebook, we started seeing a conversion per $2 of ad spend. I called Jake and I was like, "You need to get as many as possible because there's no way that this is real." We were looking at the numbers like that's a $25 purchase on a $2 conversion. All we had were mainly three ads, we had the one angle talking to the teachers doing bulk purchases, we had an influencer at the time who was a muscle guy that had a lot of followers, he did a wall squat while spinning it, and we had a Fidgetly pro-team of kids throwing it around and doing cool tricks." Nick explains.
Nick also made it a trend in terms of who can collect them. He created some of the Fidgetly(s) as collectible limited editions and also did brand collaborations. He did this for long enough before people understood it was a marketing tactic.
Life after Fidgetly
After the fidget spinners trend died, Nick understood that he was good at marketing rather than handling products. So he worked with other good marketers like Tim Burd and finally, he started his own marketing agency, Structured Social.
At Structured Social, he partnered up with brands selling multiple products that became popular online. He has had many brands going to him to promote their e-commerce stores alongside his own stores too that make millions in revenue per month.
Nick says, "I sold magnetic eyelashes — I've done a couple of millions on magnetic eyelashes, electric flame light bulbs, dog grooming brushes, vanity mirrors, makeup brush cleaners, teeth whitening, charcoal face masks, and so on. This all happened because at the time you didn't have to buy anything, you could just dropship and make money without really caring."
The reason why Nick started Structured Social is that he wanted to stop selling dropshipping products and focus on selling branded products. To him, this was the difference between having a sustainable business that's replicable versus one that makes quick money and dies, making him move on to the next thing.
Building Structured Social
Nick built Structured Social after realizing that we could market and could lead a team. Currently, his team has over 50 people and made almost $16 000 000 in the q4 of last year.
Structured Social runs ads for clients and partners that sell and ship their products internationally.
Lessons Learned After Spending over $100 000 000 on Facebook Ads
Nick says that the biggest lesson he has learned is confidence. Confidence is what gave him the ability and belief to accept and take on large budgets. It helped him to know his campaign targets, understand his numbers and all the ads positionings.
However, the foundation of this is having a well-laid out plan and process beneath. Proper planning before taking all the campaigns live, or even before creating the content for the ads and the copywriting.
This is important because once you go live, you go straight to losing cash but it’s the plan you’ve set that will show you where to go and fix in order to get a positive return.
To him, campaigns are like having a leaking bucket. Once you start pouring water into the leaky bucket without understanding where the hole is, you will lose the water until you find the area causing the leak. Same to campaigns you need to plan and have ways to trackback to identify the leaking holes. If something doesn’t work or it works, you must know when to double down and when to trackback.
Nick Shackleford has been a prominent figure in the online marketing industry for the past couple of years. He is part of the organizers of the Geek Out Events, and he has also spoken at many events like Affiliate World where he shares his Facebook marketing techniques that he has discovered over the years.
A few unique ideas he has shared are that ad copy is more important than the creative and that it’s the first 5 seconds of the video ads that matter the most when it comes to getting results especially during prospecting cold traffic and hooking them in.
To learn more from Nick Shackleford, you can check out his Youtube channel and social pages under the username Nick Shackleford or @iamnickshackleford.