How to Use Facebook Ads Effectively

FacebookCropAnyone who’s spent five minutes on Facebook during the last few years can see advertising is becoming a much more prevalent part of the Facebook experience. The social networking behemoth is monetizing, and that means it needs to bring in advertising dollars.

These days it’s nearly impossible for even the most active businesses to achieve success on Facebook with a purely organic model. To truly maximize the social media channel it’s becoming increasingly necessary to buy paid advertising.

But if you don’t do so strategically, it’s easy to sink a lot of money into Facebook without seeing much return on investment. Social media as a whole has a notoriously low return on investment (ROI), and many businesses are afraid to even stick a toe in the water.

Cost effective results on Facebook are possible with effort and careful analysis. Here are our tips for getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to buying Facebook ads:

Targeting Is Key

If the three rules of real estate are location, location, location, the three rules of paid digital advertising are targeting, targeting, targeting.

What sets Facebook apart from pretty much every other channel out there is the sheer volume of information it has about its individual users, the audience of your ads. If you don’t take advantage of this information to precisely target who sees your ads you are wasting your money.

When you create an ad, Facebook gives you the option to create a custom audience. This stage of the process is roughly analogous to selecting keywords in Google AdWords, and a similar amount of care should go into your selection and cultivation of your Facebook audience.

Just as in AdWords the most successful keywords are often those that are most narrowed down to an exact match term, so too in Facebook will the most successful audience be the most targeted. Facebook gives you the option of narrowly targeting your ads to its users by location, age, gender and interests, among other criteria.

Once you’ve narrowed down your audience, you can then develop ad text specifically relevant to them. In this way the audience functions much like an ad group in AdWords. Keep experimenting with different audiences and different ad text until you find the combinations that work best for your business.

Facebook also gives you the option of creating custom audiences by using specific email addresses, phone numbers and Facebook IDs, as well as other information. This allows you to reach specific groups of people you know are interested in your business, such as previous customers or people who have signed up for your email newsletter.

Take Advantage of Lookalike Audiences

Facebook has begun testing a feature called Lookalike Audiences, which is potentially a revolutionary new way to target people similar to your existing audience.

Facebook takes the same information you uploaded for custom audiences and creates a list of other people with similar profiles for you to zero in on.

In assembling this lookalike profiles, Facebook uses basic demographic information as well as more specific information, such as what they like. In this way, Facebook is able to assemble a audience that closely resembles the people who are already your customers.

So far Lookalike Audiences is still in beta, but those who have used it are reporting a lower cost per acquisition than traditional targeting. It’s definitely an option to explore for those who desire to spend their money wisely.

Don’t Waste Money on Acquiring Likes

Something to avoid when it comes to advertising on Facebook is paying money to promote a Facebook page. It can cost quite a bit, and the benefits are dubious at best.

Check out this video, posted by Veritasium, for an awesome explanation of Facebook frauds and everything that’s wrong with paying to promote a page.

In short, there really is no way to promote a page without getting inundated with spammy likes. Even if you don’t use a “like farm,” and pay to promote your page with legitimate Facebook ads, your page will still be flooded with dubious likes from developing countries. That’s because like farms need to like lots of different pages, even when they aren’t paid, to disguise their illegal paid activity from Facebook.

Not only are most of the likes people are paying for not legitimate, but they make it harder to reach and engage with people who genuinely like your page. Many businesses then end up paying Facebook again for ads targeted at those people.

At best the practices surround advertising pages are ineffective, at worst they are bordering on corrupt. As a general rule of thumb it’s best to avoid promoting pages at all and send people directly to your site, where you have greater control over what happens and will likely generate a larger ROI as well.

For an example of a Facebook ad campaign that was spectacularly successful, check out this New York Times article on Little Passports, one of Acceleration Partners’s clients. With the help of Facebook ads they managed to triple their customer base in six months. That’s the kind of power Facebook ads can have if approached strategically.

Photo via Sean MacEntee on Flickr.

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