Jury’s out on Facebook advertising

Friday, May 25, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 21

Business owners and marketers around the globe are clamoring to assess the viability of Facebook advertising. After all, Facebook has amassed over 900 million active users in eight short years, making it easy to see what all of the fuss is about.

So, does it belong in your advertising plan or not? The channel is so new, there is simply not enough historical data to make an informed decision. Sure, there are anecdotes, such as the wedding photographer who generated $40K in incremental revenue from a $600 Facebook advertising buy. But they are just that, stories. The concept isn’t proven. Will users, who utilize Facebook to socialize with others, be open to brand promotion? For now, the collective jury is still out.

Fortunately, because Facebook advertising is still in its infancy, you can jump in and give it a test drive without significant investment. When compared to a more mature online media buy such as Google Adwords, the cost per click can be quite low. There’s little risk in giving it a whirl. So, when designing your Facebook campaign, keep these best practices in mind.

Consider targeting your ads by gender, age, geographic location, education, interests and keywords. Facebook’s segmentation opportunities are tremendous.

With search engine marketing, you know the timing of your message is ideal, because it is appearing as your prospect is typing a keyword into the search engine. They have a need in that moment. That’s not the case with Facebook, which is why you’ll want to target the delivery of your ad to the day of week and time of day when consumers are most likely to be receptive to what you’re selling.

With Facebook advertising, you’re communicating with prospects when they’re catching up with friends and not searching for what you’re offering, so your ad must interrupt what they’re doing and make them take notice. So, from a creative perspective, your design and message must be attention grabbing.

Establish your budget. Facebook allows you to choose a maximum cost per impression or click as well as a total campaign budget. The system “buys” your spots based on availability allocated first to the highest bidders. It works in a fashion similar to eBay in that regard.

Test two ad designs against one another at the same time to assess their effectiveness. Or test the same ad against two different target audiences. Just be sure to change only one variable – such as the offer, design or target market – per test to ensure the validity of the results.

If you have a simple message or offer to communicate and your target audience uses Facebook, consider testing advertising on the site as a possible addition to a more comprehensive advertising strategy. You’ll generate significant impressions for little investment while enjoying significant control over the audience that sees your message.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com, with offices in Memphis and Nashville. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).