Mystery Solved: Facebook Advertising

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 10.18.34 AMFirst let it be said that Facebook advertising can be very effective both in terms of cost and in terms of achieving certain marketing goals. In my experience it is particularly effective for increasing your fan base. It’s not so effective at direct sales. It’s much easier to acquire “Likes” on Facebook than it is to acquire actual customers. I’ve had very little success in getting people to, say, purchase tickets to an Off-Broadway play directly from Facebook, but great success in getting them to “Like” the play’s page. Not that sales can’t be made, it’s just more difficult. Also, it doesn’t mean that those “Likes” aren’t valuable. They are very valuable. The number of “Likes” a page has can translate into exponentially greater exposure of your page content which eventually can turn into higher revenue. While numbers vary, research has shown that Facebook fans are significantly more likely to buy from or recommend pages they “Like”.

For the most part, Facebook advertising is easy to execute. Once you’ve created your page, Facebook encourages you to start advertising right away, placing “Promote Page”, “Boost Post” and “Create an Ad” buttons all over the screen within easy reach. At the appropriate time, Facebook will request that you supply a funding source such as a credit card or PayPal account. You can also grant administrative privileges to another Facebook account holder and give them permission to manage the ads for you. I’m intentionally not providing step-by-step instructions given the fact that the Facebook interface changes on a moment’s notice. I’d rather concentrate on the philosophy and strategy behind using Facebook advertising as part of your overall content marketing mix. Besides, Facebook continually refines its ad experience to make it easier for you.

There are several different types of Facebook ads, but since my business mission involves simple and affordable marketing for the neophyte, I’m only going to discuss three: Page Promotion, Boosted Posts and Marketplace Ads. Using these three basic types, you’ll be able to attract eyeballs relatively quickly at a relatively low cost.

Page Promotion

Sample Page Promotion

A page promotion ad is pre-formatted and automatically links to your Facebook page. If you’ve just set up a new page, I encourage you to use page promotion first. Depending on what you spend, this will boost your fan count pretty quickly.  Approximately 16% of your fan base will actually see whatever content you post in real time so the higher the fan count the more exposure your content will receive from the get-go. You can spend as little as $5.00 a day and have an effective ad, depending on the type of page you’re promoting. By “effective”, I mean you will generate “Likes” on the page. Whether they’re the ones you want remains to be seen.

Garnering desirable fans is a function of targeting. When you place the order for your ad you will be given an opportunity to refine your audience based on things like age, gender, location and interests. Pick ones that make sense to your business but also give you a large enough audience. Facebook will show you exactly how large the potential pool of Facebookers is as you make your targeting selections. If you only have a thousand potential audience members you’ll need to cast a wider net as this size is not likely to yield great results. I try to have at least a million people in my target audience. Over time you’ll discover the optimal pool for your business.

And now a few words about pricing. This is the biggest mystery of all. You can choose whether you want to pay per thousand impressions (Cost Per Thousand or CPM) or per click (Cost Per Click or CPC). Generally, the difference between the two has to do with who’s assuming the most risk. In CPM advertising, you, the consumer, is assuming the most risk in that you may get many eyes on your ad but no clicks. You will have no performance guarantee and will still have to pay for the impressions (the number of times someone had an opportunity to see your ad). In CPC advertising, Facebook is assuming a bit more risk in that they are only going to charge you when someone actually clicks on the ad. It’s difficult to say which one is better. It often requires some experimentation to see which one works for you. Fortunately, this is easy to do on Facebook by setting up several different ads under different pricing models and seeing which ones perform the best. You can simply stop the ads for which you are not getting the cost/benefit you expect. In my experience, the cost over the life of a campaign to generate a Facebook fan should average about a dollar. When it’s a lot more or a lot less I start examining the quality of the fans we’re capturing, for better or worse.

Facebook Boosted Post SampleBoosted Posts

Now that you’ve started to build up your fan base, look to promoting the specific posts that you make on your page. Depending on your budget, you probably don’t want to promote every post. It’s usually more efficient to promote only certain items such as articles from your blog or special events/offers. By promoting your post you dramatically increase the number of people who will see it and interact with it. It’s easy to do. Simply click the “Boost Post” button that appears at the bottom of the post as soon as you save it. As with page promotion, you will be able to choose your audience and your budget. According to Facebook, boosted posts appear higher in your Likers newsfeeds. They can also reach beyond your fan base to reach a wider audience, such as friends of friends and targeted demographics.

Marketplace Ads

Facebook Marketplace Ad SampleFinally, after you’ve promoted your page along with its posts, you may want to think about running an ad for something outside of Facebook, such as your store, website or blog. Using Marketplace Ads, you can generate click-throughs to an external source. Marketplace Ads consist of a maximum 25-character headline, a thumbnail photo or graphic and up to 90-characters of text. It’s important to experiment freely with Marketplace Ads because even a change in punctuation can make a difference in the click-through rate (CTR).  Facebook has fairly strict rules about how ads can be formatted, phrased and punctuated (see the Facebook Ad Guidelines here). You can’t use all uppercase, profanity or too many exclamation points (Holy ****!! REALLY!!!!), but here are some tried and true tricks for clicks:

  1. Faces: It ain’t called Facebook for nothin’. Facebook ads tend to perform better when you use a human face for the thumbnail. Corporate logos don’t perform as well and abstract graphics do even worse.
  2. Questions: A headline phrased as a question draws curiosity. “Ready for retirement?” is better than “Get ready for retirement!”
  3. Instructions: What do you want the viewer to do? Always end your ad with a call-to-action (CTA). “Click now!”, “Visit our website!” or “See our special offer!” are all acceptable CTAs. This is a good place to use an exclamation point.

Facebook now automatically generates formatted ads for all three platforms – desktop, tablet and smartphone. So far, I’ve seen smartphone ads dramatically outperform the other two. The good news is that Facebook handles all of it for you so you really don’t need to be concerned with choosing the right one.

This article has only scratched the surface of Facebook advertising. I could do a much deeper dive into each aspect of it but the point is to introduce you to something that is relatively cheap and easy to add to your simple content marketing mix. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your specific problem feel free to contact me and we’ll brainstorm a solution together.

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