Facebook: You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

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A few months ago I was looking at an account’s stats and my jaw literally dropped. I know I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I was! The account’s Facebook campaign had outperformed its Google Adwords campaign. The Facebook account had spent less than half as much as the Google account, and while the Google account acquired more impressions and clicks, the Facebook account had a higher click-through-rate, more conversions, a higher conversion rate and the CPL was about 1/3 the Adwords CPL.

The account’s Facebook campaign has been running for a few months now. It has not outperformed the Adwords account since that first month, however it has definitely kept pace, and the CPL has been substantially lower every month. I understand this is one account and one account’s performance, but the data is worth looking at.

The purpose of this post is to help convince you that launching a Facebook campaign might be one of the best things you do for an account. I know it’s hard to break out of the two-party search engine system (which, they’re fighting right now, so it might be a great time to shift some of your focus to Facebook!), but it seems that Facebook really can be a high-value advertising platform. However, I can only lead you to water; I can’t make you drink. Let’s look at some statistics.

Social Media Statistics

According to eMarketer.com:

  • 42% of adults and 55% of youth want to engage with their favorite brands through social applications
  • 86% of marketers expect to create social media assets before the end of the year
  • Estimated $3.08 billion for social advertising, up 55% over last year, making social media ad spend 10.8% of the total spent online

Considering the above statistics, it isn’t surprising that overall US social network ad revenues are projected to continually increase through 2012, according to eMarketer.

One eMarketer.com report in particular projects that there will be a 678% increase in Facebook ad revenues worldwide from 2009-2012.

If you visit the Facebook pressroom, you’ll find that:

  • Facebook has more than 500 million active users
  • Per month, people spend more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook
  • There are more than 900 million objects that people interact with (for example, events or groups)
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared every month.
  • There are over 70 translations available on Facebook
  • Every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook via external websites
  • Over 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook, including many of conScore’s top sites
  • More than 200 million active users are currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices

Facebook Marketing Commentary

Frank Reed with Marketing Pilgrim interviewed Dan and Alison Zarrella, authors of The Facebook Marketing Book. Alison is a social media consultant and Dan is a social media scientist. The following are some key points from their interview:

  • It is a ‘must’ for marketers to be on Facebook. If your competitors are on Facebook, you have to keep up; if they’re not, it’s a chance for you to jump in first and set yourself apart.
  • “Facebook is indexed for search, so search marketing and social media marketing really go well together.”
  • Facebook is free—you just need to invest time and some skills.
  • Facebook will continue to be a significant part of marketing strategies, and this is especially good for small businesses that can’t compete against big-budget, big-name brands

More Facebook Campaign Success

Our account isn’t the only one that has seen positive results from a Facebook campaign. SearchEngineWatch.com author Craig Macdonald also saw some impressive results when he tested a Facebook campaign. Even after they increased the budget 10-fold, they received 10-fold results. Macdonald notes:

Erik Whaley with Search Engine Journal also tested a Facebook campaign. He used the same creative for Facebook, Google search and Google display. He targeted the same cities and used the same daily budget. After one month, Facebook had a CPL of $2.91, Google search a CPL of $7.27 and Google display was the most expensive at $7.34. The Facebook campaign received 1,588 conversions, where Google search brought in 253 and Google display 101. CPC was also notably lower and clicks and impressions were substantially higher: 13,159,184 impressions in Facebook; 563,566 for Google search; 95,858 for Google display; 4,952 clicks for Facebook; 1,133 clicks for Google search and 283 clicks for Google display. The only metric that was lower for Facebook was CTR, which probably largely had to do with the greater disparity between impressions and clicks for the Facebook account.

PPC Benefits of Facebook Advertising

So far, we’ve looked at statistics about social media and Facebook specifically. We’ve reviewed three Facebook campaigns from different marketing companies that have seen notable success. I’ve been leading you to water, and I’ll keep leading with a list of benefits of advertising on Facebook:

  • You can capture a target audience and market to them repeatedly
  • You can likely generate local business leads during slow periods
  • With Facebook’s demographic targeting, you can increase your CTR and lower your CPC
  • With Facebook’s granular targeting options, it’s easy for a niche product or service to very narrowly target their ad audience
  • Facebook receives more page views than Google, and Facebook ads usually receive more impressions (which we saw in all three examples I have covered in this post)

Facebook Campaign “Should” and “Shouldn’ts”

If you’re ready to go ahead and drink the water, go for it! Jen wrote an excellent post with step-by-step instructions on how to create targeted Facebook ads. However, there are definitely some things you should and should not do when running a Facebook campaign.

You Should:

  • Create multiple ads, test them and find the best possible CTR
  • Try including a city qualifier in the ad title
  • Be sure you have a good landing page, as this will increase conversion chances
  • Keep track of CTR and incorporate new ads when you see your CTR drop. You especially need to do this when you’re targeting a small group because users will get tired of seeing the same ad again and again (…and again….and again…).
  • Experiment with different keywords to increase relevance to your users and reduce the overall user pool to make it more targeted
  • It’s probably best to run your ads on CPC bidding for a while. This is Facebook’s default bidding option; you can switch high CTR ads to CPM after it has run for some time.
  • Start with a small daily budget until you’re comfortable and know what kind of traffic you’re generating.

You Shouldn’t:

  • Target too many interests with the same ad
  • Use the wrong bidding model
  • Use bad pictures
  • Test too few ads: get enough in the mix
  • Try to do too much: decide what metric you want to focus on so you can properly interpret your data.
  • Use long copy: keep it short, eye-catching and compelling.

All in all, Facebook can be a very profitable marketing platform. As the Zarrella’s noted in their interview, Facebook is free—all you have to invest is time and a few skills. The water of Facebook is there, but whether or not you drink it is up to you!

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