Are Facebook best used as a form of Direct Response, Pay-Per-Click advertising?

If you’re really only targeting people in the market for your product RIGHT NOW, is Facebook the right place to reach them?

Frankly, no. If you want to reach people actively in the market right now, the best platform remains search. Hey, there’s a reason Google is a bazillion dollar empire — it’s ‘cause they can deliver up ads to people actively searching to buy X.

Facebook for all it’s targeting just doesn’t work that way.  And, in some ways, that’s a good thing.

Because the problem with waiting to advertise until the very moment someone needs what you sell, is that you’re ads and offers are then slugging it out with every other competitor on the market for the business of a person who has no preference or emotional reaction to your company.

But if you reach people BEFORE they need what you sell, you get the opportunity to make them think of you first and feel the best about you, when it eventually comes time for them to need/buy what you sell.

This has always been the rationale behind branding efforts made through mass media.  You may not be in the market for Vodka today or even next week or next month. But after repeated exposure to Absolute ads in your magazines, you’re that much more likely to reach for the familiarly shaped bottle when you DO find yourself stocking up at the liquor store.

That’s how Absolute went from selling 20,000 cases of vodka a year in 1981 — the year they started their justly famous ad campaign — to selling 11.8 million cases in 2008.

The problem with mass media, of course, is that it’s expensive. An also that it reaches the masses.  That’s a double whammy if you’re a smaller company selling a relatively niche product or service. The ads cost too much to begin with, and the vast majority of the people who see or hear them aren’t interested in your product.

Facebook Ads, on the other hand, are cheap, and extraordinarily targetable.  So if you had something like, oh, a nifty device that could turn an iPhone into a credit card swipe machine and allow small business owners to painlessly start accepting credit card payments, well, you might just decide that a little Facebook branding would be perfect.

First, you could target the ads to freelancers and small business owners. Second, you could get them familiar with the concept and with your company BEFORE they’re actively in the market for what you sell.

So while you certainly could — and should — measure the effectiveness of your ads in terms of clicks, you would be wise to also understand the cumulative branding effect of those same ads.

How do I know this?

Because my wife’s successful and growing photography business now needs a way to accept credit card payments, and my first reaction wasn’t to type in “credit card payment processor” or some such into Google.

I typed in “Square Credit Card Reader.”  And even though Google gave me other results and options other than Square, they were the company I was most familiar with and felt the best about.

They’re the company that got our business. Not from a direct response click on their ads, but from cumulative familiarity from Facebook Ads like this one: