Both accessible and complex, Facebook advertising is a unique tool for businesses and organizations of all sizes to accomplish a wide range of objectives. Goals can include something as straightforward as increasing attendance to a Facebook event, or as nuanced as targeting past customers with special offers. Whether you are the marketing coordinator at an e-commerce startup or the social media manager at a midsize established company, Facebook Advertising offers many affordable opportunities to help you reach new and existing audiences in a meaningful and profitable way.
My name is Edwin and, for the past five years, I have been using Facebook advertising for businesses and organizations in various industries across the country and around the world. In future posts, we will parse specifics of each area covered below. My goal in this piece is to begin your transformation into a superhero… advertiser.
Taking the Strategic Perspective
Before we begin looking at the tools, let’s play make-believe for a moment. You are now the owner of a small brick-and-mortar paint supply shop in your town (congratulations!). Next week, you have a big event planned with deep discounts and workshops on products. It’s time to get the word out, so you hire a graphic designer to make a beautiful promotional image—and it really looks great!
Next, you hire one of those planes that tow banners behind them, investing all of your advertising budget to have it fly your promotional image across the country so as many people as possible can see it. Soon after, the event arrives and no one attends.
This isn’t a huge surprise. When Facebook advertising is used randomly, without care for strategy, objective, or proper audience targeting, it is not unlike this story, and will yield similar results.
The key to Facebook advertising, and the topic of our first best practice, is to apply specific available tools to support your company’s goals as directly as possible.
Basic Types of Facebook Ads
Facebook categorizes its tools into three sections based on your marketing objective: Awareness (getting people to pay attention); Consideration (getting people to engage); and Conversion (getting people to take an action). This may become more clear if you open the ads manager and click “Create Ad.”
This categorization make sense for Facebook, but I like to group them a little differently based on their utility. Here is how I like to categorize and think of the tools available, and what they can actually accomplish:
Some ad types can be used to increase exposure on Facebook:
- Grow the audience of a page
- Increase audience engagement with a specific post (boost it!)
- Encourage people to check out and consider RSVPing to a Facebook event
We can promote actions related to your website:
- Send people to the website
- Encourage them to make a purchase
The last is directing the audience to take specific action:
- Accept an offer
- Buy a product (you can track this on the back end)
- Watch a video
- Download an app
There are others not mentioned here, but hopefully this summary of ad core functions can help you think of Facebook as an advertising tool. Now ask yourself: What can these kinds of ads accomplish for my business? This brings us to the second best practice.
Applying Different Ad Types Effectively
Now that you have an idea of what the tools available can do, let’s look at some very basic applications. Each of these examples is meant to get you thinking analytically about how to use the tools to meet your needs.
Example 1: Brand Awareness Campaign
A company wants to expand the reach of their brand, so they’re doing a PR push. They turn to Facebook and choose to:
- Create an ad asking people to “like” the page in hopes of growing their long-term audience at a cost-effective rate.
- Boost a post that contains a link to a news article about the brand.
- Create a click-to-website ad with multiple images and test them on a few target audiences.
- Produce a branding video and distribute it as a video ad.
Example 2: Drive More Web Sales
A company wants to expand its online sales, so they use Facebook to:
- Promote blog posts and landing pages created to engage the customer using click-to-website ads.
- Run a boosted post for a giveaway to encourage new customers.
- Distribute product focused ads to already qualified audiences (such as people who have recently read their blog).
Example 3: The Big Event
A nonprofit is going to have a large event, so they use Facebook to:
- Use an event response ad to encourage people to RSVP to the event page.
- Distribute a video that promotes the event with a video ad.
While these are all pretty basic ideas, the takeaway message is this: If you have a goal in mind, Facebook probably has a tool to help reach it. In a future post, we will break down some actual client campaigns and look at promotions that worked.
Targeting and Audiences
Now that we’ve got some tools, how do we actually get to the people we want to reach? When you create an ad, one of the biggest tasks is targeting the right audience. Facebook allows you to do so based on particular characteristics, including:
- Demographics (e.g. household income or relationship status)
- Behaviors (e.g. online spending)
- Connections to Facebook pages (e.g. “friends of people who like your page”)
The targeting tool is very, very extensive. Sometimes the sheer amount of options overwhelms a new advertiser. In the future, I’ll show you how to navigate these depths and provide some detailed examples and ideas to make the process flow naturally for you. Right now, check out these general tips to get your mind working on how to reach the right people.
Best Practices for Targeting
- Think about who your customer is—from where they shop to what content they consume. The more you know them, or try to know them, the easier it will be to create Facebook audience based on interests.
- Try to be specific with the targeting. For instance, if you were targeting dog lovers you might use interest keywords like Pomeranian, Chow, Golden Retriever, pet supplies, or pet care. Make your targeting criteria unique, interesting, and even niche if that’s appropriate.
- Experiment with different audiences. Try exposing a couple different test audiences with the same low-budget ad, then pick the winner for a bigger campaign.
- Always Be Testing (ABT). It’s the old rule of advertising. Some advertisers will always dedicate 5–10% of an advertising budget to test a completely new audience.
- Use Facebook’s detailed inclusions or exclusions targeting features. This allows you to target a group that meets two or more criteria, or does not meet certain criteria (i.e. people who like dogs AND live in California AND are 30 years old AND DON’T like cats). These options are available when you are in the targeting options while creating an advertisement.
Audience Best Practices
- Show ads on Facebook to anyone who has been to your website by using a “Tracking Pixel,” which is a piece of code that you or your webmaster puts in the HTML of your website. For websites built with WordPress, there are some very easy plugins to accomplish this.
- This “Pixel” tracks the people that come to your website, then saves them as an audience on Facebook that you can send advertisements to on Facebook. This pixel can also track sales transactions on your website that come from specific Facebook ads.
- Upload an email list to Facebook using the “Custom Audience” tool, which will then match those people’s names and email addresses to find them, and creates a saved audience that you can target with ads.
- Create “Lookalike” audiences. That is, target people who Facebook thinks are similar to existing audiences. These can be a great tool when used properly.
- There is a lot of conflicting information about target audience size out there. Some sites will tell you that your audience has to be one million people or more for Facebook to optimize the cost of displaying the advertisements. Others will suggest going as small and focused as possible. The reality is that the rule is simply whatever works. When we start a new campaign for a client, we will try testing out tiny super targeted audiences, midsize audiences, and then large audiences all at once with low budgets to see what works best in each case.
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but these elements gesture toward a well-rounded application of the targeting tools available.
Facebook Insights and Analytics
In your ads manager, there is a treasure trove of data available for your review. Some of it is a little hidden, but don’t feel intimidated. Click around and check it all out. Trust me, you won’t break anything! Let’s take a look at ways to leverage this data to make the best possible decisions for cost-effective advertising.
- Pay attention to cost per action on the post. Well-targeted ads should see clicks in the $0.25 to $0.75 range, depending on the nature of the ad. If the cost is well above that, something might be off. If it’s well below that, kick back and relax: You are a pro.
- With that said, give Facebook some time to optimize the ad. The first quarter or third of the promotion time will cost more as Facebook learns who engages with the content (dispersing to several subsets of your targeting audiences, perhaps), before the cost begins to come down. Facebook is always working to display the ad to the right people within your desired target audiences, and it takes some time for their algorithms to get it right. If the cost doesn’t come down, there is likely a problem with the targeting or with your content.
- In ads manager, toggle the “Columns” section to see more insights and learn more about ad engagement.
- Pay attention to the focus of the ad. If the metrics being reported don’t match up, try a new strategy. For instance, let’s say you make an ad that is supposed to get people to click through to the website, but for some reason people are only “liking” and commenting on the post rather than clicking through it. Think critically. Was your call to action clear? Is it hard to tell that the post is a link?
- When setting up an ad with a static image, you can add multiple images and Facebook will create separate ads with each visual. You can go back and see which ones are working better by looking at the ad set. Turn off the ones that aren’t delivering well and you will have a more cost-effective campaign.
And This is Just the Beginning
At JB Media Group, we have found that time and time again some of the lowest possible costs for customer acquisition or for brand promotion can come from Facebook’s advertising tools. When properly used and strategically applied, these various tools can deliver truly excellent results. We are excited to help you get the most out of Facebook advertising with blog posts such as this one, as well as through strategy and campaign support with our agency. We also offer training programs at the JB Media Institute. Stay tuned. I’ll make a superhero advertiser out of you yet.
About the Author:
Edwin John Leskin is a social media marketing consultant, entrepreneur, event producer, and writer living in Asheville, North Carolina.