For years, Facebook was disdainful of calls to monetize its hundreds of millions of users, focusing instead on adding features and building critical mass. But today, as a public company, Facebook has been adding advertising options at a furious pace. Not to be cynical, but the emerging Facebook value proposition to businesses looks something like this:
- Build your page on Facebook (free)
- Pay to build your fan base
- Pay to engage with your fan base
- Pay to engage your existing customers when they are on Facebook
Given the pace of change, this chapter is meant to explore the major advertising opportunities on Facebook today, help you understand aspects of targeting and best practices that won’t change, and give you a frame of reference to assess the new units that will inevitably be introduced in coming months.
Managing Your Facebook Ads
Before we dig into the ad offerings, let me point out that Facebook supports a number of different levels of engagement for its advertisers, depending on the size of their ad budget, the sophistication of the tools required, and willingness to do self-service. Facebook is ramping up ad opportunities very quickly, and its sales and support staff are challenged to keep up. That’s likely one reason why, when it launched Facebook Exchange remarketing, the company selected several partner agencies to help sell the program, get clients on board, and execute campaigns.
On Facebook, “Marketplace” is a collective term that describes a variety of adoptions that appear in the right-hand column of most Facebook pages under the heading “Sponsored.” Some variations of these ads can appear within the newsfeed as well.
You start by choosing something to advertise:
- External URLs, e.g., YourDomain.com
- Facebook pages you admin, e.g., Acme Widget
- Facebook applications
- Places, e.g., Blue Plate Diner, My town, KS
- Events, polls, wall posts, videos, photos, or other “Facebook Objects”
With Marketplace ads, Facebook allows advertisers to send clicks to an external URL, which launches in a new window. Unfortunately, the bias of both Facebook and its users seems decided to favor remaining within the Facebook experience and seldom venturing off to other websites. Or, as Ben Pickering, CEO of the Vancouver-based Facebook development firm Strutted puts it, “In general, advertising on Facebook is more effective at driving behavior on Facebook.” 1
Facebook Object Ads
It can be a bit frustrating to pay Mark Zuckerberg and company simply to move members from one place to another within Facebook.com. But if you promote events, or have high-engagement apps like sweepstakes, giveaways, newsletter signups, or games, Facebook Marketplace ads and Sponsored Stories can be an affordable way to drive qualified leads—leads who later will visit your website and convert to customers.
Page Post Ads
You can also gain likes and promote engagement with specific content elements posted to your brand’s Facebook wall. Anything that you can post, you can promote in a Facebook page post ad:
On Facebook, when people connect with a page, app, or event, it creates a “story” that their friends may see in their newsfeeds. When these stories are about your Facebook objects, you can pay to promote the stories so they gain greater reach—and more people will see them when their friends have engaged with you. Sponsored stories can be about:
- “Likes” of a page
- Engagement on a page such as likes, shares, or comments on a post, votes on a question, and check-ins at a place
- Joins an event
- Installs uses or plays of an app or game
- Likes or shares of an external website or link
Sponsored Stories can appear in either of two locations: in the right-hand column or within the newsfeed of your fans. In the right-hand column, they appear under a “Sponsored Stories” header. When in the newsfeed, Sponsored Stories bear a “Featured” link, which, when clicked, displays the explanation, “You are seeing this because you like Acme Widget. A sponsor paid to feature it here.”
It’s a win when fans “like” your brand page. But don’t expect them to come back for a visit. Research has found about 90% of users who “like” a brand on Facebook never return to view or engage with your wall. That means the newsfeed is your only lifeline to your fans. But if you have 10,000 fans, and you post religiously several times a day, how many of them actually see what you’re posting?
A mere 16%, according to commodore, and Facebook itself. Many posts are filtered out of the newsfeed in a deliberate move by Facebook architects to deliver a more manageable user experience. Posts that do get through are often missed by users.
Your targeting options will differ somewhat depending on what ad unit you’re using. But here are some guidelines for the targeting tools to consider: choose the location, gender, age, likes, interests, relationship status, workplace, and education of your target audience. If you are the admin of a Facebook page, event, or app, you can also target your ad to people who are already connected to you.