How Do I Start Advertising on Facebook?

Bryan Connally
Internet Marketing Specialist

2009 was a big year for Facebook. In May, comScore reported 70.2 million US unique visits for Facebook (up 97% year over year) passing Myspace .com for the first time. Later the same year, UK based analytics firm Hitwise tweeted that on December 29th Facebook had more unique visits than This effectively made the most visited site in the US for several consecutive days. While marketers are still debating social media best practices, no one can deny that Facebook is becoming a more important marketing medium every day.

How do start advertising on Facebook?
Of all of the ways you can choose to start advertising on Facebook, PPC is probably both the quickest and the easiest. To begin you will need to decide whether you want your ads to link to your company web page or something on Facebook (like a Page, Application, Group, or Event). Much of this depends on your business goals (lead generation, sales, etc.), but more on that later. Next, you will need a compelling 110px X 80px image for your advertisement. Once you have uploaded the image, written the ad copy, and setup your account (with billing info, etc.) you can literally be up and running in as little as a few hours. The thing that takes the longest time is usually waiting for Facebook to approve your advertisement.

How is PPC Different on Facebook?
Deciding to undertake PPC on Facebook is not exactly the same as doing PPC on more traditional channels like Google, Yahoo, and Bing/MSN. While in theory it is structured very similarly, in application it can be very different. One of the biggest differences tends to really change the way you architect your campaigns. On Facebook, keywords take a back seat to more general, albeit powerful, targeting options. While you can target your audience by location as with other channels, you can also target by relationship status, interests, education, workplace, sex, age, and language. You can still target via keywords, however, manipulating these categories is really the primary method of segmenting your audience. Remember, users do not search on Facebook.

Is Facebook advertising right for you?
Determining if Facebook is right for you is really a question about business goals. Facebook is best for branding, public relations, building buzz, and keeping your customers engaged with your company. It is not really designed to be a lead generation or order driving channel. However, that is not to say that Facebook is incapable of driving incremental revenue, only that it is not as simple as ‘segment, click, and convert’.

Unlike banner advertising, which is really a push method, and PPC advertisements, which are really more of a pull method of advertising, Facebook PPC is a little bit of both. The demographic targeting really allows you to target your viewers with such precision that you can craft very personal messages, but you still have no idea what stage of buying cycle or frame of mind they are in. Instead, you are making inferences about their wants and needs based on demographic and psychographic information.

So how do you drive incremental revenue via Facebook? If you have a fan page or a group for your company on Facebook, you’re half way there. If you update your page frequently (or even if you just have your site RSS feed post to your Facebook) driving fans via Facebook PPC can be a very effective use of your advertising dollars. Not only do your fans keep informed about company news but we find they often convert at later dates. As your fan page or group reaches a kind of a critical mass it can add an additional stream of revenue that can provide a nice boost to your company’s bottom line.

What Facebook needs to do better
While Facebook as a network is already very advanced especially for users and social networking, the interface and tools available for advertisers are still very much in their infancy. There are several things that Facebook PPC needs to fix before it can expect really compete for serious advertising dollars.

First, Facebook (unlike its more traditional PPC rivals) has no pixel technology to track conversions. Therefore if you decide to advertise on Facebook and direct users to an outside site, you have no way to seeing within the Facebook interface which advertisements or campaigns led to sales and conversions. While you can ascertain the general performance of the channel so long as you set everything up correctly in your analytics package and track things carefully it is hard to evaluate the performance of more granular aspects of your campaigns like ad copy and offers.

Second, Facebook’s reporting capabilities still have a long way to go. As of right now, the reporting is often delayed by 24 hours or more and even then the data does not exist in the account forever. Instead the most you can see is the last couple of months. If you are not diligent about exporting your reports and keeping them organized on your desktop your data will eventually be gone.

At the end of the day Facebook is like every other new channel and medium. While it is a game changer, it also has certain strengths and weaknesses that first need to be understood and then leveraged. Only in doing this can companies successfully integrate it into their overall marketing initiatives. If you are thinking about experimenting with Facebook now is definitely the time to get started. I fully expect Facebook to become a more and more important medium in this coming year.

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